While acronyms like BOH, FOH and 86, are quite familiar to restaurant owners, there’s one acronym that is a household name in other industries but has restaurateurs still somewhat in the weeds: SEO.
Search engine optimization, according to Whatis.com, is an area of website development that seeks to improve the way content is ranked by search engines in organic search results. Good SEO means, plainly stated, that if someone Googles “celiac-friendly restaurants in Boston,” and you’d like to be known for your options that are safe for food allergy sufferers, a link to your website comes up in that first page of search results (that of course isn’t in the ads).
If you think of your restaurant’s website as the front of the house, where patrons can begin to (or continue their experience with) your brand, optimizing the back of the house to deliver those experiences requires good SEO practices. Getting started with basic SEO isn’t difficult. Let’s look at some basic SEO terms, and why you should care about them.
Keywords are the words and phrases that you think consumers would enter into a search engine in order to find your site. The more specific the keyword is – and the less competition for that phrase – the better. When deciding on keywords, it helps to think from the perspective of the searcher, and frame it as a query. For instance, in “where are the celiac-friendly restaurants in Boston’s South End?,” the best keywords to use on your site and in website content are those that are most specific to your offerings, such as “Boston celiac-friendly restaurants.”
NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone number. Making sure these are consistent across the pages of your website sounds simple, but it is crucial. Marketing tech company Blue Corona recommends displaying your company’s name and phone number prominently at the top of your website, as well as at the footer. This is because, the author writes, search engines “take that data into account when they’re deciding which companies to show for geo-targeted searches.” Make sure to the use the full company names, addresses and phone numbers -- no abbreviations.
Meta descriptions and title tags
Think of a meta description as a brief synopsis of the best of that particular webpage. It’s a snippet of up to 155 characters shown in the search results underneath the site link. Search engines show the meta description in results when the searched-for phrase is within that description, according to Moz – hence their importance for SEO. If we’re using “Boston celiac-friendly restaurants” as our keyword phrase, for example, it would be important to put that phrase in the meta description.
A title tag, according to Moz, is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages as the clickable headline. The title tag of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page's content, according to Moz.
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing individual web pages on your site, with the goal of getting a higher rank on search results and getting more relevant traffic, according to Moz. That includes both the content itself and the HTML source code. Search Engine Journal talks about the benefits of implementing best practices of on-page SEO for restaurants: “You need indexing to ensure the search engines know you exist and on-page to ensure proper classification of your content,” the author writes. “Check your robots.txt and XML sitemap and set up Google Search Console to look for errors.”
Meta descriptions and title tags are of course essential for on-page optimization, as are headings, page copy, and image alt attributes. “This sounds like a lot, but start with your most important pages like your home, menu, about and contact pages and go from there as time permits,” the author writes on Search Engine Journal.
It may seem overwhelmingly, but just basic SEO strategy will position you ahead of competitors.