Where to build your site — and why
There are a lot of platforms where you can build your website, like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Wordpress, and dozens more. I’m going to let you know where I think you should build your site, and why.
But first, we have to get a little bit technical.
Got your coffee? Okay, great.
Let’s talk SEO
It would be impossible to have a coherent conversation about building the best restaurant website if we didn’t also talk about SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
If you are already familiar with SEO, you can skip to the next section. But if this is new to you, I want to give you a wide overhead view of what SEO is, and why it’s important.
Search Engine Optimization is the way that you tell search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) what your website is about. Whether you’re starting your site from scratch or want to get more visitors, there are steps you can take toward a more useful and effective website.
Now, exactly how you do that can get very complicated. There are people whose entire job is SEO, and they’re very, very good at it.
You already have a full-time job, and I’m not suggesting you add another one to your resume. But there are some broad strokes terms and concepts that you should understand.
First, it’s important to note that the “rules” surrounding SEO are a bit murky.
Google (the #1 search engine by far with 88% of the market share) has never released a definitive list of all their SEO ranking factors.
Ranking factors are the criteria that a search engine uses to rank results for a certain search term. If I search for “sushi in Chicago,” Google’s ranking factors will determine which websites pop up in my search results.
The ranking factors we know about are often confirmed through industry research or trial and error. Some SEO experts estimate that there are about 200 different ranking factors.
To make it more complicated, not all ranking factors are created equal. Certain factors are weighted much more heavily than others.
PLUS, the ranking factors and their relative importance change all the time.
All this is why SEO can be a full-time job.
When planning your website, there are certain technical and “on-page” SEO techniques that you’ll need to understand.
“On-page” SEO refers to content on your website like your site content, keywords, and alt text, which we’ll discuss later. In contrast, “off-page” SEO refers to backlinks — links to your site from other websites.
Since this blog post is focused on how to build your website, we’re not going to talk about off-page SEO here. To read a bit about backlinks, check out #5: Dominate SEO on this blog post.
There are a lot of moving parts to consider with SEO. But one of the most important things to remember is that in general, a better user experience is better for SEO.
Many people make the mistake of just optimizing their site for what they think Google wants. But what the search engine really wants is to provide a good search experience for the user.
So you never want to optimize for the search engine at the expense of the user. That’s a theme that’s going to pop up again and again as we walk through building your website.
SEO and website platforms
So what does all this have to do with where to build your website?
It comes down to this: not all website builders have good SEO tools. SEO tools are checklists that integrate into your site, making it easy to optimize each page for certain keywords.
If you’re not an SEO expert (and I assume, since you’re reading this, you’re not), these tools will be incredibly valuable as you add pages to your site.
This is why I suggest you use Wordpress to create your restaurant website. It’s what we use here at Placepull.
Wordpress has over 50,000 available plugins that can add different functions to your site. And many of those plugins can help you to improve your search engine rankings.
Try Yoast SEO to start. It’s one of the best-regarded SEO tools available on Wordpress.
If you already have a site on Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, or somewhere else, that’s okay. It may just require a little extra legwork for you to fully optimize your website.
Now that we’ve talked about where to build your site, let’s dig into how to organize your site and a few technical considerations.
Website setup and organization
Before we get to the fun stuff like design, pictures, and content, we have to discuss some usability issues. Remember, a great user experience makes a better overall website.
Select the right domain name
The first thing you’ll need for your website is a domain name, aka a URL.
This may seem like no big deal, but you’d be surprised how important a simple, easy to remember domain name is.
The reason is “direct traffic.” To put it simply, direct traffic consists of visitors to your website when they didn’t follow any links to get there.
That means they didn’t Google you and didn’t click on a link from Yelp or Facebook. Instead, they probably typed “www.yourrestaurant.com” into the browser bar.
Why should you care how they got to your website? Because direct traffic is actually a big ranking factor.
In fact, SEMRush, a major company in the SEO-sphere, said direct traffic is the #1 SEO ranking factor.
Now, there is some debate whether that’s true or not. But even if it’s not #1, it’s definitely high on the list.
So you need to make sure your URL is simple and memorable.
- .com is the best extension, vs. .net or .org. Over half of all websites use the .com extension, meaning it’s what most users will default to.
- Avoid special characters, dashes, and numbers. Users won’t remember them.
- Keywords are good. We’ll talk more about this later, but if you can include a keyword in your URL, that’s a big bonus.
If Shake Shack’s URL was something like www.shakeshackisgreat.com, it would be much harder to remember and their direct traffic would drop.
If your restaurant name is already taken, you can add your city name to create a unique URL for your restaurant website.
For example, www.pizzahouse.com is the URL of a Michigan-based pizza parlor. If you had a different Pizza House in New York, you could be www.pizzahousenyc.com.
Before finalizing your URL choice, do a quick search of both state and federal trademark records. Make sure your proposed URL isn’t protected by another company or individual.
Use a simple layout and navigation
What are the most important things that people want to see on your restaurant website?
In fact, 70% of the people who look up your restaurant online are just looking for your menu.
Don’t make people work. Put links to your site’s most important content in the most likely place that they’ll look for it — right at the top of the page.
This means your Menu and Location pages should be front and center.
And don’t use clever page names.
For your menu, “Menu” will do just fine. Something like “Grub” or “Chow” may seem fun, but users are looking for the word “Menu.”
For your address and map, a clear navigation title like “Directions,” “Contact,” or “Location” are all good.
Also, people have become accustomed to a company logo being a clickable icon that redirects to the Homepage. This lets you avoid a separate “Home” button, and is intuitive for the user.
It’s also a good idea to make your navigation menu “sticky.” This means it will “stick” to the top of the page as the user scrolls through.
This way, users won’t have to scroll back up to the top when they want to navigate to another page or start an online order.
Finally, resist the temptation to have a “single page” site. These are sites where all of the content is in one long, scrollable page.
While this type of site is good for mobile and creates a simple user experience, it is not good for SEO. These sites contain very little content, and it’s hard to link to relevant content when it’s all on one page.
It’s better to have a few different website pages with an easy to maneuver navigation system.
Design a responsive, mobile-optimized site
These days, over 60% of all Google searches are done on mobile devices, like phones or tablets. You have to create a restaurant website with mobile searches in mind.
What happens when the website that you built on a desktop computer is viewed on a tiny phone screen?
Well if you don’t have a “responsive” site, the user experience will be no bueno.
A responsive website will reorient based on the device it’s being viewed on.
Text will resize, images will move around, and menus will be easily clickable. And there will be enough space between each element for a fingertip.
An unresponsive website design will result in greater site abandonment for mobile users. Frustrated with their inability to read tiny text or find the menu, users will simply give up.
This will hurt your SEO, as it shows search engines that your website isn’t providing a good user experience.
Which site would you rather navigate on your phone?
So how do you get a responsive web design?
That depends on your website platform.
Responsiveness is a common feature of web design these days, so you can get it no matter where your site is built.
Squarespace themes are all automatically designed to be responsive. So if you have a Squarespace site, you should be in good shape.
Wix has some responsive elements, but they also use some “absolute positioning” in their designs. Absolute elements stay the same regardless of the device.
So Wix sites are not fully responsive. This can result in some layout issues.
If you use Wix, you’ll have to use their “mobile view” function while setting up your site to make sure there aren’t layout issues.
And on Wordpress, responsiveness depends on the theme you’ve selected for your site. If you’ve already built your site with a non-responsive theme, use a plugin like WPTouch to make your site responsive.
For any other website builders, simply view your site on desktop and mobile to test it for responsiveness. If you find that your current site is not reorienting itself, search “[website builder] responsive site” to figure out how to fix it.
Consider site speed
Site speed is another one of those pesky ranking factors that Google uses to gauge the usefulness of your website.
A slow website can actually hurt you in two ways — as a direct ranking factor, and by increasing your “bounce rate.”
Your bounce rate is how many people leave your website after visiting only one page.
Bounce rates can be very high, with an internet-wide average of about 40%. And a slow-loading site will make that number even higher.
In fact, around 40% of users will give up on a site that doesn’t load in under 3 seconds. And the slower your site, the higher the bounce rate.
To find your bounce rate, check out your Google Analytics. Your bounce rate will be at the top of the Home screen.
We’ll talk more about Google Analytics in the last section — how to set up your account, and what kind of information you can expect to find.
Now, what exactly do we mean when we talk about “site speed?”
Site speed is the average load speed of several of your website’s pages. In contrast, “page speed” is the loading time of an individual page.
One study says that eCommerce sites can experience a 7% loss in revenue for every 100 millisecond delay in their sites’ loading time. The loss may not be as dramatic for restaurants, but the point remains — people don’t want to wait.
So you need to know how your site stacks up, both on mobile and desktop.
To check, go to Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, and type in your URL. You’ll get a report that shows your site’s load speed on both mobile and desktop.
And, it will give you suggestions for how to improve your site speed. Common speed-killers include big images and videos, or too many widgets and plugins.
You can also see some page speed data in your Google Analytics dashboard. Click “Behavior,” then “Site Speed.”
You’ll find stats like average load time for each site page, and page views by browser.
When trying to improve your page and site speed, remember the 80/20 rule. That means that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.
It’s probably not worth making a website change that will gain you 10 milliseconds of site speed. But if there are two or three simple fixes that can cut seconds from your site’s load time, then those could be worth the work.
Beef up your site security
Would you use a website without a secure, encrypted connection that protects your sensitive information from hackers?
So why would you expect visitors to your website to feel any different?
A valid SSL certificate provides the peace of mind that users want when they’re on your website — and it’s good for SEO, too.
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a data file that you can install to establish an encrypted connection between a web browser and your server. It will protect user information (like credit card numbers) when they enter it on your website.
Once you’ve installed an SSL certificate, your website will change from an http site to an https site, and get a handy little lock to show that it’s safe.
Adding an SSL certificate to your site is good for more than just peace of mind. It’s good for your SEO, too.
https sites load significantly faster than http sites. And they are believed to rank higher in Google searches than http sites.
So how do you get an SSL certificate?
Well if you have a Squarespace or Wix site, an SSL certificate is automatically included.
If your Wordpress site doesn’t have an SSL certificate, you can buy one from a provider like GeoTrust. You can also get one through your web hosting service, like GoDaddy or BlueHost.
Then you can add a plugin like Really Simple SSL to your website. It will enable the SSL certificate for you.
If you use a different site provider than one of these, simply search for “add SSL certificate to [site provider]” to find a tutorial.
That wraps up most of the technical stuff. Now, let’s move on to the fun part!
So many decisions to make!
Pictures, menus, press, about us — what should you include? We’re going to dive into all that.
But first, we need to talk about keywords. They’re going to come up quite a bit throughout the rest of this section.
A keyword is an indicator to Google or another search engine what your content is about. It’s one of the pieces of the algorithm puzzle.
“Keyword” is really a misnomer. They should be called “keyphrases,” because most keywords are longer than a single word.
Short tail keywords are phrases of one to three words, like “pizza delivery.” Long tail keywords are longer, more targeted keywords, like “fastest pizza delivery in Chicago.”
While short tail keywords often have more searches per month, there is also a lot more competition for them.
Long tail keywords have fewer searches, but less competition. So it's easier for your website to rank high for those search terms.
Keywords help search engines to match users to content. If a user searches “best pizza in Beverly Hills,” including that keyword on your site tells Google that your LA-based pizzeria is a good result.
How to Choose Keywords
When selecting keywords for your restaurant’s website, there are several factors to consider.
First, there’s the user’s search intent. What is the purpose of the user’s search?
Most people won’t just type “pizza” into the search bar. They’ll type something more specific, depending on what they’re after.
- Are they trying to get information? They may type “history of pizza.”
- Find a specific website? They may search “pizza hut.”
- Make a purchase? This will be a local search, like “best pizza near me.”
- Learn about a product? Maybe they’ll search for “pizza dough ingredients.”
For restaurants, the searches will usually be proximity and quality-focused. Think search terms like “best sushi in LA” and “BBQ in 78702.”
The next factors to consider are search frequency or volume, and keyword difficulty.
Search frequency is how often people search for a keyword, usually expressed by the month. And keyword difficulty is a reflection of the amount of competition for that search term on a scale of 1 to 100.
The best keywords have high search frequency and a low keyword difficulty.
There are a lot of tools out there that you can use to do keyword research.
Identify one main keyword that you’d like to rank for on your website’s homepage, and one or two supplemental keywords as well.
For a BBQ joint in Houston, TX, the keywords could be:
- Best bbq in houston (primary keyword)
- Best brisket in houston (secondary)
- Houston’s best bbq (secondary)
Then, you’re going to add those keywords to a few strategic places.
Where to Use Keywords
Search engines are sifting through a lot of data to try to understand how your site should connect with users. So logically, they first look in a few key places to identify what your site is all about.
Two of these key places are the title and meta description for each web page.
Your site’s title should have a “title tag” associated with it. This is a little bit of code that tells the search engine that this particular text is the title.
On most site builders including Wordpress and Squarespace, when you add a title to a web page it will automatically get the title tag.
Your title tag should include your main keyword. This will be an indicator to the search engine that your website is a good result for that search term.
Another important place to include your keyword is in the site’s meta description. The meta description is the short snippet that appears below your page title on the search engine results page.
If you don’t choose a meta description for your web page, Google will grab some text from your website and populate that field for you. This is a missed opportunity!
By not writing out your own meta description, you lose out on the chance to include your primary keyword. Plus, your content will be cut off and won’t focus on your restaurant’s best selling points.
For other website builders, simply search “add meta description to [website builder]” to figure out the best way to add your meta description.
Once you’ve added your primary keyword to your title and meta description, you’ll want to include it in a few other places throughout your page content. And you’ll need to add your secondary keywords as well.
How many times to use your keywords will depend on the length of your site’s content. A web page with 5,000 words can organically include a keyword more times than a page with 1,000 words.
Beware of overusing your keywords. “Keyword stuffing,” or overloading your site with a lot of different keywords, is a spammy SEO technique that can lead to a loss in your Google ranking.
If you can’t fit the keyword in a logical, readable place, don’t use it.
Remember, your site needs to provide value to the user! No one wants to read this:
“At Bob’s BBQ, we serve the best BBQ in Houston. Our tender brisket and smoky turkey are world-class. That’s why people say it’s the best BBQ in Houston. On your next visit to Texas, make sure to try the best BBQ in Houston at Bob’s BBQ.”
Finally, remember how we briefly talked about using a keyword in your URL? This can be a helpful ranking factor as well.
Take this restaurant, for example. Named “Best Pizza & Brew,” it makes perfect sense for their URL to be www.bestpizzaandbrew.com.
Any search for “best pizza in San Diego” will bring up their restaurant as a result. This is because of the "best pizza" keyword in the restaurant name and URL.
But including a keyword like this isn’t an easy fit for all restaurants.
Now it’s time to talk about the meat and potatoes of your website — your content.
The most important piece of content on your website will be your restaurant menu. We’ve already discussed making your menu easy to find, but there’s more to consider.
Some restaurants include their menus as a PDF on their websites. It’s easy to do — simply upload the print file that you’ve already made for your physical menus.
Other restaurants type out their menus on their sites. It looks nice and clean.
So which is better?
Without a doubt, you should have an HTML menu typed out, rather than only uploading a PDF.
A written out, coded menu provides a much better user experience for your website visitors. Look at this example:
The pdf on mobile is far too hard to read and will require “pinching in” and scrolling in order to make it legible.
If potential customers are trying to make a dining decision while they’re out and about, do you think they’ll have the patience for that? Unlikely.
By comparison, look at this restaurant menu on mobile:
It’s easy to read, with all the content in one vertically scrollable row.
Beyond the basic usability, a menu encoded on your website has other benefits.
It can be interactive, letting your site visitors jump to different menu sections. They’ll be able to quickly find what they’re looking for, whether that’s main dishes or desserts.
It’s also better for assistive technology. Screen readers will be able to read the content to visually-impaired users. And translators will be able to translate the content for non-English speakers.
If you’d like to include a downloadable PDF as an option, by all means, do it. But it should be a supplement to your main online menu, not a replacement.
Now, how should you go about adding your menu in a clean, responsive format?
Most site builders include “restaurant themes” that feature a layout for your menu. For example, Squarespace has the Basil, Tremont, Pacific, Motto, Hunter, and Blend themes which all include a menu layout.
These layouts make it easy to add your menu as you create your restaurant website.
And if you have a Wordpress site that doesn’t include a menu template, don’t worry. There are plenty of restaurant menu plugins that you can download.
A final note about your online menu — make sure to update it regularly. It’s maddening to set your heart on a dish only to find out that the menu you were looking at online is out of date!
Does a restaurant really need an “about us” page?
After all, we already talked about the reasons most people visit your site — for the menu and location, right?
That’s true. And yet, you should absolutely include an “about us” page.
Restaurant websites tend to be “light” on content. They don’t usually include blogs or articles that can beef up their word counts.
And search engines like pages (and sites) that have plenty of content. Longer doesn’t necessarily equal better, but you want each page to have at least a few hundred words.
Ideally, your pages would have even more content than that. The top ten web page results for just about any keyword average over 2,000 words.
So take advantage of opportunities to add content to their sites.
Just like your site’s home page, your “about us” page should include a couple of keywords that you’d like to rank for.
But make sure they’re different from the keywords that you’ve already used. You want to avoid competing with yourself for rankings.
Good keywords for your “about us” page can include your food style, delivery or catering language, and local terms, like your neighborhood.
As for what the substance of your “about us” page should include, that depends a lot on the restaurant. But it’s a great opportunity to tell your story.
And every restaurant has a story, whether you realize it or not.
To figure out your restaurant’s story, ask yourself these questions:
- When did you know you wanted to open a restaurant?
- Why do you serve your style of food?
- Why is your restaurant located in your city? Were you born there? If not, why did you move there?
- What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
- What do you like about being a restaurateur?
- What are you grateful for?
- What are your business values?
Do some brainstorming around these questions to find your story beats. Write a few paragraphs about your restaurant and what you hope it brings to the neighborhood.
Your “about us” page should have a natural, conversational voice. Imagine you’re telling someone the story face-to-face.
In fact, I suggest you read it out loud to make sure the sentences flow smoothly.
And don’t reach for the thesaurus to look up a bunch of $10 words. Keep it simple and readable
It’s also great to personalize your “about us” page with pictures of the people involved.
It’s true that many of your website visitors won’t read it. But for the ones that do, a genuine “about us” page can help to establish a personal connection and earn your restaurant a new customer.
These days, no one goes anywhere without checking online first. As many as 94% of people will pick a restaurant based on their online reviews.
And 91% of 18 to 34-year-olds report trusting online reviews as much as recommendations from family or friends!
Plus, positive reviews make 68% of people more likely to visit a local business.
What does all this have to do with your website? After all, Yelp and Google reviews don’t live on your website.
Except when they do.
You’ve earned those good reviews. So make them work for you by including some of your best reviews on your website in a Reviews or Testimonials section.
For the website visitors that haven’t visited the review sites yet, you’ll be able to make a good first impression. You can guarantee that the first restaurant reviews that they see are good ones.
And for the website visitors that have already been to the review sites, those good reviews will reinforce the ones they’ve already read.
You can manually select your favorite reviews from sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor. Or, you can install a third-party review widget.
This little bit of code will pull reviews from the sites you specify, and add them to a feed on your website. And you can apply filters to control your content, ensuring that no negative reviews appear on your site.
By using a widget, the newest reviews will always front and center for your potential customers.
Reviews provide validation from unbiased peers. And they hold a lot more weight with customers than brand copy.
Another form of validation is media mentions.
A glowing writeup from your local food writer or your city’s leading food magazine is a huge win, and you should share it!
You can include simple links to the articles...
...or include article content or quotes right on your site.
Adding some quotes to your site is a great way to beef up your content.
You can also include awards here, whether they come from prestigious food publications or simply a local reader’s choice poll.
If you’re already posting your restaurant events on Facebook, you may think you don’t need to have an event calendar on your website, too.
But there are several reasons to list all of your events on your own site.
For starters, not everyone who visits your website will also check your Facebook. They might be awfully disappointed to show up for dinner, just to find that you’re closed for a private event that night.
Plus, it’s another opportunity to market your events, whether they’re onsite or offsite.
If your restaurant ever has live music, special dinners, parties, fundraisers, cooking demos, trivia night, or any other type of special event, an event calendar is a must. Make sure you’re updating it every month!
We’ve talked a lot about written content so far, but we haven’t talked about something equally important — images.
Food is visual, right? We’ve all heard that saying, “People eat with their eyes.”
Going out to eat is an experience that entices all the senses. Unfortunately, you can’t harness smell, taste, or touch over the internet.
But sight? That one’s all yours.
So harness the visuals of your food (and space) to maximum effect when you create your restaurant website.
It’s okay to use cell phone pictures for social media. Modern smartphones are perfectly adequate for Instagram and Facebook images.
But when it comes to your website, it pays to spring for professional photography.
A pro will know the right way to light your photos to make every dish pop. Greens will glisten and sauces will sparkle under the eye of a master photographer.
And when you add those beautiful photos to your website, you can take the opportunity to add your keyword again.
With alternative text, also known as alt text.
Alt text doesn’t show up on your website to the naked eye, but it does appear in your site’s code like this:
The main purpose of alt text is one of accessibility. It describes the function of the image to users who can’t otherwise see it.
It also provides content for a screen reader to read. And it helps search engines to properly index the image.
Alt text should be descriptive of the image. Otherwise, it’s not fulfilling its primary function.
It should also be short — fewer than 125 characters.
Let’s try creating alt text for this image with the keyword “handmade pasta in Nashville”:
“Chef making pasta” is too vague.
“Professional chef making fresh pasta” is better, but is missing the keyword.
Instead, how about this: “Professional chef rolling handmade pasta in Nashville.” It’s accurate and includes the keyword.
And just like in your content, you should avoid keyword stuffing. But if you can organically include your target keyword in a few images’ alt text, it can help your SEO efforts.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules determining how many times you should add your keyword to your alt text. If you have an image-heavy site, you can add the keyword to more than if you only have a handful of pictures.
So you have your beautiful, professional photos up on your website. The alt text is set up and your keyword has been included in a few of your photos.
But what about all the wonderful day-to-day content that you’re sharing on social media? It would be great to include some of that as well.
Well, that’s easy to do!
Many restaurants choose to integrate their Instagram feeds into their websites.
It’s possible to do this with Twitter as well. But the Instagram integration has a much cleaner look and focuses exclusively on your wonderful food pictures.
It’s a great way to share your more spontaneous and laid back moments with your website visitors.
Many website builders have the option to add your Instagram feed built right into the platform. If you have an HTML site, you can use a simple plugin like LightWidget.
Online Reservations and Parties
We all know that phone calls are slowly going the way of the doorbell. They're still usable but relegated to an inconvenience rather than a part of our daily lives.
Since young people are much less likely to pick up their phones to make a call, it’s important to provide online reservations (if you take them). And while you can provide an online form that you manage yourself, an integration with reservation software may provide a better user experience.
Like most things in life, neither service is free. OpenTable charges per reservation, where Resy charges a flat monthly fee.
Whether you integrate with a third-party service or not, make sure your reservation policies are clearly laid out. You should include party size requirements and any limitations on hours or days of the week.
Also include any policies about seating incomplete parties or rules about what outside food you allow, like wine or desserts.
If you are available for private parties, you should also lay out these policies.
Include party size requirements for a private space, as well as service options. For example, some restaurants require large parties to order family-style platters or buffet service, rather than offering plated dinners.
Do you want to encourage full-venue buyouts of your space? If so, you should include some basic details, such as your restaurant’s square footage, max capacity, and any A/V capabilities.
Depending on your restaurant style, you may want to consider offering online ordering.
Delivery-heavy cuisines, in particular, are well-served by having an online ordering system.
Pizza and Chinese food are the heavy-hitters. But these days, online ordering is becoming more common in just about all the different food styles.
Even if you only offer your online ordering for pickup, the convenience of quick takeout can be a selling point for your customers.
Ideally, your online ordering system would sync with your POS system for ease of use. Tickets from your online orders should print on the line, avoiding the need for any FOH interference.
Make sure your online ordering button is easy to see. It should have a place of honor at the top of your website.
Social Media Links
Consumers know that your restaurant website only tells part of the story. To fill in the gaps, they’re going to do some additional research on review sites and on your social media accounts.
Potential customers don’t just want to know what you’re saying about your restaurant. They want to know what other people are saying too.
Your website may claim that your restaurant has a fun, playful atmosphere. But if your Instagram feed isn’t also telling that story, customers may not buy it.
41% of restaurant visitors say they’ve visited a new restaurant based purely on positive social media feedback. So make that extra research easy on them by including links to your social media feeds right on your website.
User photos and comments may provide the social proof that potential customers need to get them to take the next steps.
But remember, if you’re providing such easy access to your social media, you need to make sure your feeds are in tiptop shape. Post your best pictures with great lighting so you’ll really sell your restaurant to anyone still on the fence.
So we’ve discussed all of the elements that people are looking for when you create a restaurant website. But there are some additional design elements that you should consider as well.
Whitespace (the empty space around text and visual elements) provides a necessary break for the eyes. It keeps your website from looking too busy.
Whitespace doesn’t have to actually be white. Also called negative space, it just needs to leave breathing room around your content.
A site without enough whitespace can look cluttered and overwhelming. By spacing out your website elements, you’ll create a more sophisticated looking restaurant website.
It can be tempting to have fun with a variety of fonts on your website. But be wary of going overboard.
Try to keep your different fonts to around three. More than that will look busy and cluttered.
But you can still keep it visually interesting by playing with font sizes and caps vs. lowercase.
When selecting your fonts, make sure you’re selecting typeface that is easy to read. A flowing script font may be easy for you, but remember that you already know what the content says.
Ask someone who is unfamiliar with your restaurant to take a look at your font choices to make sure they're readable. An inability to decipher your website is a frustrating user experience.
And make sure that your font is large enough that it’s easy to read. Remember that your website needs to be accessible to patrons who may not see as well as yourself.
Finally, make sure that your font has good contrast with the background color.
The easiest color combination from a user perspective is black type on a white background. But you can use a variety of color combinations, as long as there’s enough contrast that your text stands out.
Now that you’ve created your restaurant website, how do you know if it’s getting you the results you’re after?
You’ll need to dig into your website analytics.
Google Analytics can get as complicated as you want them to be. So we’re just going to do a basic overview so you can start to get comfortable with these tools.
Google Analytics is a tool that lets you track and analyze your website’s performance. There are both free and paid versions, but the free version should provide plenty of insight.
Plus, the paid version costs 6-figures annually. Not in the budget for most restaurants.
To get started with Google Analytics, you’ll need to set up an account. You can use your existing Gmail account if you have one, instead of creating a new one.
Then go to Google Analytics and click “Start for Free.”
From here, you’ll create your Analytics account for your restaurant website. You’ll need to enter your account name, website name, website URL, and industry.
After you’ve set up your account, you’ll need to locate your Tracking Code. You’ll have to add this code to your restaurant website in order for it to “talk” to Google Analytics.
Log in to your Analytics account, and click the Admin cog in the bottom left. Make sure your account is selected from the “Account” dropdown menu.
Then under “Property,” select Tracking Info, and then Tracking Code.
Once you have your Tracking Code, it will need to be added to every web page that you want to track. This is made pretty easy by the website builders.
For example, if you have a Squarespace site, you can add your Tracking Code just once and it will apply the code to every page.
On Wordpress, you can use a plugin like MonsterInsights to do the same thing.
Or if you have a web developer, they can get the Tracking Code installed for you.
Once this is complete, you can add additional users to your account if you want to provide Analytics access to others on your team.
Click on the Admin cog in the bottom left, and the click “Account User Management.” From here, you can add users to the account.
Finally, you need to exclude your own web activity from your analytics.
In the beginning, your web traffic will be low, and you will be visiting your site a lot to make sure it’s working properly. If Google Analytics is tracking every time you visit your own website, you’ll get skewed reports.
To exclude yourself from Analytics, click on “Filters” in the Admin menu.
Click “Add New Filters.” Then add a filter name, and select “Predefined” under the filter type.
Select “Exclude” from the Select Filter Type dropdown menu. Then select “traffic from the IP addresses” under the “Select source or destination” dropdown menu.
Next, select “that are equal to” from the “Select Expression” dropdown menu.
Finally, copy your IP address into the IP Address bar. To find your public IP address, simply search “what is my IP address” on Google, and it will pop right up.
Then click “save.”
Now Google Analytics will exclude any web activity from your distinct IP address when compiling the data about your website.
Using Google Analytics
Once your account is all set up, you’ll have access to reports like audience, website visitor acquisition stats, and customer behavior.
The first page on Google Analytics is your Home page. This is where you can see how many users you’ve had recently, what your bounce rate is, and how long each session on your site has been.
You can also see an overview of users by time of day, users by country, and more. But to get more details, you’ll want to dig into the Reports.
The first report category is called “Realtime.” This includes information about your website traffic at the moment you’re looking.
This may be helpful if you have something unique taking place on your site. For example, if you’ve just started pre-sales for your famous Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu, you may want to see how your web traffic is responding.
But in general, the other reports will be more helpful to you.
The Audience tab can show you a ton of useful information about the people who are visiting your website.
You can track the “lifetime value” of users in terms of how long they stay on your site or how much they spend. This is especially helpful if you do online ordering.
You can also dig into the demographics of your website visitors, as well as interests, location, and behavior.
What if your restaurant is in Paris, Tennessee, but you’re getting website visitors from Paris, Texas? You can infer that you may have a location keyword problem on your website.
And if you find that 80% of your website visitors are women, your brand may be resonating more with women than with men. You can keep this in mind when planning future marketing campaigns.
The Acquisition reports tell you how your online visitors have found your restaurant.
Website visitors can find you through a variety of “channels.” These include:
- Direct — when a user puts your website URL directly into the search bar
- Organic Search — when a user searches for “best pizza near me” and then clicks on your website in the search results
- Social — when a user clicks through to your website through a social media profile link
- Paid Search — when a user clicks on a link to your website from a paid Google ad
- Referral — when a user clicks on a link to your website from another website.
By tracking your user acquisitions, you’ll be able to see which channels are the most effective in bringing new users to your website. You can then prioritize these channels for more web traffic.
The Audience reports tell you who is on your website, and the Acquisition reports tell you how they got there. The Behavior reports tell you what they do when they’re on your site.
Why is this helpful?
Well what if you find that a large percentage of your website viewers are visiting your order online page, and then not placing orders?
Maybe your online ordering platform isn’t working properly. Or maybe you just need to rewrite some of your menu descriptions to make them more appealing.
In any case, you can start brainstorming and testing solutions to increase that online ordering rate.
The final major report category is conversions. This is where you can track data related to how many people place orders on your site.
But if you don’t offer online ordering, then there are still some metrics here that you may find helpful.
A “conversion” doesn’t have to equal a sale. It could include signing up for your email list or filling out your online form for more information about private events.
You can also set up Goals for your site based on how often people make a purchase or sign up for your email list.
Once you have goals in place, you can start testing different features that may increase those conversions. You could change your calls to action, or experiment with different food photography.
There is a ton more that you can do with Google Analytics. But a comprehensive explanation would require an article equally as long as this one.
With this basic overview, you can at least get your account set up. Then you can start to explore all of the different features that are included in this free tool.
These days, the best restaurant websites have a blend of traditional components and modern technical tools.
Your menu and photos won’t be enough if you aren’t optimizing your site for search engines and making sure that it’s easy to find.
Your website should tell the guest what to expect when they enter your restaurant. Consider it a digital extension of your physical space.
The design elements should flow from your restaurant design. A bright, modern restaurant should have a bright, modern website.
If you follow the steps outlined in this article, you will have a website that will both provide what users want, and perform well in Google’s search algorithms.
Is there anything that you think a great restaurant website should have that I didn’t include here? Let me know!
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