The Restaurant SEO Plan for Busy People (Checklist + Video)

Written by:

Adam Guild

Last Updated

October 27, 2023

SEO is the single best way for restaurants to get new customers. So when a restaurant does it wrong — it costs them hundreds of potential customers every year that go to their competitors instead.

After launching thousands of restaurant websites at Owner.com, we've identified the highest impact SEO changes that will drive more traffic to — and direct orders from — your website. 

Here's an example from one of our customers.

Notice how Google is a top source of direct orders, driving 516 customers during this period.

You can use this post as an SEO checklist for your restaurant website.

If you're a busy restaurant owner, don't worry: I've focused on changes you can do yourself, without help from a developer or IT.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Optimizing your restaurant website for search engines increases your traffic, which drives more orders.
  • Local SEO, keyword research, and a great customer experience are essential for better rankings.
  • Track your results: if you're going to spend time and money on SEO, you need a way to see if it's increasing your sales.

Here's a video I made on this topic. There are things in this post that I didn't include in the video, so make sure to check out both:

Let's get started with the checklist.

1. Add “Alt” Text to Menu Images (Quick Win)

When Google finds an image on your website, it looks for alternative (alt) text to help understand what’s in the image. Most restaurants leave their alt text blank, so when Google finds an image on your website, it might not understand what that image is about.

This is a missed restaurant SEO opportunity. If you have alt text on your menu images, when somebody searches Google images for those keywords, your pictures will come up. This can lead to people clicking on those images and visiting your website.

For example, I recently helped Antoinette, one of our customers and the owner of Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant (read her story here.) Whenever someone searches for an item that she has on her menu, Ottavio's is one of the top results!

So, how can you do this for your website? In your website builder or online ordering system, adjust the alt text on all of your menu item pictures to be “best” + the name of the dish + the city you’re in.

Very few restaurants are doing this! This is one of the reasons our customer got those 516 customers from Google; a bunch of them are coming from Google images.

As we know in restaurants, people eat with their eyes so there’s a huge advantage to having your images ranked in Google.

2. Update Your Website Title

Most restaurant websites just have the name of the restaurant as their website title. This is another huge missed opportunity for restaurant SEO.

Instead, your website title should be what your customers type into Google.

Take Antoinette’s restaurant – her goal was to make sure their website came up when people were searching for Italian restaurants in Lakeside, California.

So we changed her title to “Italian Restaurant in Lakeside California” and look what happened:

You'll also want to update the main headings of your website. This was one of the first things we helped Antoinette when we onboarded her to Owner.com. Check out the text right above the order button.

it feels like a small change, but it can significantly impact search rankings for your restaurant website:

3. Make Popular items On Your Menu Searchable

For most restaurant websites, their menu is just a PDF or an image. These restaurants are missing out not only on search traffic, but also on direct order sales.

People often search for a specific dish they're craving, and Google will likely show them restaurants in their area that offer that dish.

Here's an example from another customer, Talkin Tacos (read about their journey), where their website ranks at the top of the results for “birria tacos.”

Their page for birria tacos has an appetizing picture of the dish, a short menu description, as well as reviews for social proof. Here's the important part: since this page is connected to their online ordering, people can order the dish immediately.

Talkin Taco's does this all automatically since they use Owner.com, but you can absolutely do this with any website builder.

Very very few restaurants do this, so when your restaurant does, there’s almost no competition for showing up at the top of Google.

4. Improve Your Google Business Listing

Most businesses are already doing this, but there's usually a few things missing.

This is a key part of your restaurant SEO checklist. Having a complete Google Business Profile is a key step in achieving higher ranks in local search results and drawing in local customers. Make sure your profile include essential information like:

  • Your restaurant’s name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Hours of operation

Maintain consistent business information across all platforms. This is important for restaurants that may have moved locations during the pandemic. Accurate and consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations are vital for ranking higher in local search results.

Most importantly, get your customers to leave reviews, which can boost your rankings and click-through rates. We know that Google will prioritize restaurants with more reviews, so we built this into the Owner.com platform.

By having more information in local listings, keeping your NAP updated, and increasing your reviews, you'll provide a better user experience for searchers using Google, and you'll start to see an increase in traffic.

5. Track Your Progress

One of the hardest things about restaurant SEO is that you often don't know if it's working.

That's why tracking your progress has to be a core part of SEO for your restaurant.

Thankfully, Google has an excellent free tool called Google Search Console, where you can monitor how many clicks you're getting every month. You can also see what search terms your website is starting to rank for.

For example, if you added pages for your popular menu items like I suggested above, that will show up in Google Search Console.

This tool is excellent for finding out how much traffic you're getting from Google. But a common frustration I hear from restaurant owners is that they don’t care how many clicks they're getting; they want more direct sales.

This is especially important if you're doing a lot of online marketing for your restaurant, like social media. You might not know what's working.

As a busy restaurant owner, you don't want guesswork when it comes to your marketing.

Your online ordering system should have stats on where your customers are coming from. Here's how that looks in Owner.com:

Notice how many more sales Google drives versus Instagram -- a testament to the importance of SEO for restaurant websites.

6. Increase Your Page speed

According to this study by HubSpot, 70% of people said that page speed makes or breaks their decision to order online. For every 1 second that the website took to load, the study also showed that it produced 5% fewer people converting into customers. That means if your website takes even just 3 seconds to load, you’re losing 15% of new customers.

The biggest win for page speed for most restaurant websites is to start compressing their images. Pictures are a major part of your website — so compressing them should be a major part of any restaurant SEO plan.

So, the next time you upload images to your website builder, try these tools to make them smaller first:

In many cases, you can cut down the size of your images by at least 50% — doing that across all of your images is going to speed up your website speed, making your customers more likely to stick around, which means Google will keep sending traffic your way.

If you want to see how your website stacks up against other restaurant websites, we built this free tool so you can see where you can improve.

7. Keep Users On Your Website

Let's take a step back and think about how Google works as a business.

Google wants people to keep searching so they can serve them more ads.

And the only reason people will keep coming back is if Google shows them the best site every time.

One way Google judges "best" is by comparing “time on site” — if someone clicks to your website, but then right away goes to another website, Google won’t think your site is "the best." After all, if it was so good, why did someone leave right away?

A lot of restaurant websites make this mistake when they send visitors to order on a third-party platform like DoorDash or ChowNow.

What Google sees: someone searched for “best pizza in Wichita”, they landed on your site (good) but then they clicked a link to go to DoorDash (bad). As a result, Google will put you lower in the rankings, and probably put DoorDash higher.

The solution is to have an online ordering system that keeps the user on your domain. 

Google rewards websites that can keep the user for a long time. Google likes it even more when they complete a purchase on your domain name.

Wrapping Up

As you've just seen, restaurant SEO doesn't have to be complicated. You don't need to be a coder or developer to implement any of these changes.

Ultimately, Google wants to send visitors to the website that has the best user experience. Following the tips in this restaurant SEO plan will help you beat the competition, get more traffic from Google, and increase your direct orders.

Frequently Asked Questions about Restaurant SEO:

How should I do SEO for my new restaurant?

Start by creating a list of keywords that your customers type in Google. Complete your Google Business Profile. Encourage customer reviews to make your website more enticing to click. List your restaurant on review sites and link back to your website. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Lastly, use an online ordering system that keeps users on your website and domain name, since Google rewards websites where visitors make a purchase.

Do restaurants need SEO?

Yes, restaurants need SEO to increase their online presence and be found by potential customers. Local SEO is especially crucial as it helps customers locate the restaurant's physical location. Optimizing your GMB listing is key to success.

How do I get my restaurant to the top of Google search?

To get your restaurant to the top of Google search, own your online presence with a website, create a Google My Business profile, update your title to reflect what your customers are searching for, attract people to your site with items from your restaurant, and use an online ordering platform on your own domain.

How long does it take to see results from an active local SEO campaign?

It depends on how quickly you can act on the advice in this article. Every Owner.com website comes "preinstalled" with all of these SEO best practices, so many customers see results within their first month. Otherwise, it usually takes about 90 days to start seeing results from an active local SEO campaign. 

Take back control of your margins, customer data, and online reputation.

Our all-in-one-platform helps you take back control of your online presence, drive direct sales, save money on fees, and manage everything in one place. Schedule a demo to see the platform in action and discover why our new restaurant partners increase online sales by an average of 270% in their first three months using Owner.com.

Schedule A Demo
Take back control of your margins, customer data, and online reputation.

Our all-in-one-platform helps you take back control of your online presence, drive direct sales, save money on fees, and manage everything in one place. Schedule a demo to see the platform in action and discover why our new restaurant partners increase online sales by an average of 270% in their first three months using Owner.com.

Schedule A Demo
About the author

Adam Guild

Adam Guild is the CEO of Owner, a restaurant marketing platform that gives restaurant owners online superpowers. See Adam’s best restaurant marketing tips here.

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