The restaurant industry is heavily impacted by how people find and view things online through searches, websites, review sites, and social media. Consequently, online visibility is crucial to the success of your restaurant. In this guide, learn how to create online visibility for your business by understanding key facts and strategies you can start using today.
What you need to know about online visibility
Before you can strategize about improving your business visibility online, you need to know the fundamentals of online visibility. The major components of your online presence are your website, Google searches and Google My Business profile; third party review websites; and social media channels.
Here are some effective ways to increase your online visibility, along with some actionable steps that you can take action right away:
Key Strategies to Increase Online Visibility
Strategy #1: Have an awesome website that conveys your brand
A carefully designed website serves as your home base online, so think about the impression you want customers to have when they come across it. Your website should be clean, modern, and well-functioning; it should also include key business information and reflect your restaurant’s brand identity. While it might seem obvious, remember to update any empty pages, menus and operating hours, or dead links on the website. Also, use high-quality photos and videos that entice hungry customers to visit your restaurant.
Your website is an essential component of your brand’s voice and look, making it a crucial aspect of online visibility. Your brand should be easily recognizable and consistent across various mediums and platforms—in real life and online. Your website, social media, and any other associated products should all feature brand imagery that is eye-catching, visually pleasing, and memorable. Many great brands have instant recognition, such as Facebook, Apple and Amazon, and they achieve this through uniqueness, repetition and cohesion.
Strategy #2: Google search and Google My Business
When people search keywords relevant to your business online, your restaurant needs to appear in their search results. This can be accomplished by using Google analytics and other tools for finding the best keywords and phrases, (e.g., “BBQ restaurants near Sacramento”). Then include those keywords throughout your website and other online content to boost your chances of appearing in search results.
Another essential step is to complete all the business information on Google My Business, a tool for local searches—i.e., when customers are looking for restaurants in specific geographical locations. You want them to find your restaurant with complete, up-to-date information in the listing, as inaccurate information can be a turn-off for potential customers.
Strategy #3: Create engaging content
Once you have customers’ attention, the next step is to keep them engaged with fresh content. Whether it's an announcement about a tantalizing new menu item or an update about your business, give the customer a reason to find out more. Once they click through to your website, keep them hooked with interesting content and visually pleasing photography and videos. Even better, they might share it with their friends or post about it on social media.
Engaging content should be relevant to your audience with the idea that it will add value to their lives. For example, you could post about a new menu item that features local or in-season ingredients accompanied by a special promotion—a great way to offer value to your customers through online channels.
Strategy #4: Engage with third-party review sites
Once you establish an online presence, keep growing it by engaging with followers via online review platforms. As a first step, encourage customers to review your business on Google or Yelp in exchange for a free item or coupon. Depending on your market, there might be other third party review sites that are used frequently, such as TripAdvisor. Another key strategy is to make a habit of responding to reviews and queries—especially negative ones!—with a positive, on-brand message.
Strategy #5: Social media management on key channels
Social media is another great way to increase your online presence, and there are numerous ways to engage with potential customers and regulars.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tiktok, and Pinterest are some of the most popular social media platforms. Each of these channels has a particular audience and way of engaging, so there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach for social media engagement. We recommend focusing on a few key channels, such as Facebook and Instagram, rather than trying to have a presence on a multitude of platforms. In one example that proves the power of Instagram for restaurants, Shake Shack is 100 times more popular on Instagram than McDonalds, even though it only has 63 locations compared to McDonald’s 36,000.
Instagram is particularly important for restaurants, since food posts as some of the most popular posts on this visual platform. Who doesn’t love looking at delicious, high-quality photos of food?
Enticing customers with promos to encourage them to tag your restaurant is a fun way to engage with customers—and Millennials and Gen-Z customers practically live on Instagram. Some of their favorite restaurant hashtags are #happyhour, #foodie, #delish, #fave, among others; add your restaurant's name to the mix to create your own branded hashtags.
Another strategy to try is advertising on social media with targeted ads to increase your online visibility. For example, Facebook ads can pinpoint potential fans of your restaurant, allowing you to jumpstart a large following—, albeit at a cost.
Social media engagement involves a thoughtful curation of appropriate posts and content that is targeted to the particular app as well as your target audience. To easily manage all of this, there are social media management apps such as HootSuite that streamline and automate the process.
Plan for a long-term strategy
Using all of the above strategies requires a daily and long-term commitment you can implement and track by establishing a content calendar for your website and social media channels. Many of these tools allow you to analyze results so that you can make adjustments as you learn what works and what doesn’t. We recommend using online visibility analytics tools such as VisibleThread, which analyze the quality and consistency of your branding and clarity of the content; sites like Woorank can test your SEO and how your website is viewed in search engines.
Online visibility is an organic, long-term process that takes time and effort. If effectively managed, your efforts will help expand your customer base exponentially. It might be challenging at first, but with continuous engagement and analysis of your progress, you will see success—the more visible you are online, the more people will see you and all the great things your restaurant has to offer.
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