Easy-Peasy Google Marketing for Restaurants

Easy-Peasy Google Marketing for Restaurants
May 21, 2020 Adam Stead
In Hospitality, Marketing, Delivery
Google Maps header img

Some ads appear when you’re out and about. On billboards, on cars, but also on your Instagram. In these situations, as a reader of the advert, you’re in the category of “low intention traffic.” You’re not out to buy whatever the ad displayed. So it’s the job of the ad to try to create desire.

The opposite is “high intention traffic”. That’s people who are actively looking to buy from a shop or restaurant like you, but need to decide how to achieve their goal. If someone types “dumplings near me” into a search engine, they’re high intention traffic. They gonna buy some dumplings. 

This blog is going to be about how to make your business visible to that type of person.. The good news is this: you and Google are both on the same side, here – if you’re looking to sell dumplings, and someone is looking to buy them, everybody agrees you should meet. 

But a little bit of cooperation with Google goes a long way. This can get technical, but don’t let that intimidate you – you only need to be better at this than your neighbour!

Understanding the Search Engine Results Page


A good place to start is by looking at a Google search engine results page. There’s a lot going on, and Google is tweaking its search engine results page, shortened to “SERP”, all the time, but there’s three obvious categories which are really basic and relevant to us.

the SERP restaurants

Organic Results

The first is called organic results, the things marked in amber. We’re starting here because this is Google’s main promise to its users – links which could be what they’re looking for. In most Google searches, they take up the main proportion of the page. 

But there’s a problem. We’ll cover most of what gets you “ranked” (displayed) by Google later, but a big part of what they display is to do with size. If Google considers yours an “authoritative” website, you’re more likely to rank higher. Most of the organic results listed in this search query are reviewers on large platforms – London Evening Standard, Time Out, TripAdvisor, Hot Dinner, London.Eater. So our main way of appearing on Google’s organic results will be via those kinds of intermediaries.\

The second is the top of the page, in red – that’s a “pay-per-click” ad which has been bought by Deliveroo. (You can see it says “Ad” in small letters.) Pay-per-click adverts have been bought from Google. The pricing works via a bidding system, so the price of an ad can range a lot per click depending on how popular the search term is and who else is bidding on it. If you’re the only dumplings place in town, bidding on “ dumplings near me” in the local area will be cheap, because there’s nobody to bid against. Here in London, the top bidder is Deliveroo, touting a popular London dumpling chain.

PPC Advertising 

The second is the top of the page, in red – that’s a “pay-per-click” ad which has been bought by Deliveroo. (You can see it says “Ad” in small letters.) Pay-per-click adverts have been bought from Google. The pricing works via a bidding system, so the price of an ad can range a lot per click depending on how popular the search term is and who else is bidding on it. If you’re the only dumplings place in town, bidding on “ dumplings near me” in the local area will be cheap, because there’s nobody to bid against. Here in London, the top bidder is Deliveroo, touting a popular London dumpling chain.

Google Maps 

Google Maps is the biggest part of the display here. This is of a lot of interest to us and it’s where we’ll spend the most time – it’s the only way individual businesses have been successful in appearing on the SERP.

Google Business Listings 

For the successful businesses, Google has shown what’s there in blue – that’s the Google Business Listing of the restaurant. There’s a whole bunch of information there, which has been filled in by the restaurant owners; their opening hours, whether they do delivery or takeaway, and more information like that. 

These are free to set up, so this is where we’re going to start.

What is successful on Google?

What does well on Google

But first, let’s quickly reflect – how well did Google answer my question? There are lots of dumplings restaurants in London – and it’s gone for The Dumpling Shack, Dumpling House, and Dumpling Legend. 


The first thing Google used is location data. Google knows where these businesses are because their address has been confirmed, both by their directory listing and other sources the algorithm has been able to find, such as the restaurants’ websites themselves. It therefore has a high degree of confidence that these are real businesses and they are where they say they are. Again, this is mostly due to a well-maintained Google business listing, which will be the first thing we cover.

Second, it’s found the search term in the title of the restaurant. Matching the search term in your restaurant title, description, or website, helps because Google has a high degree of confidence that these places serve dumplings. It also mentions dumplings in their online menus, which in two out of three cases are in text, which means it can be read by bots.

Finally, these have what we’d refer to as authoritative websites by the standards of restaurants. The main way that Google figures out which websites are authoritative is by hyperlinks, (called “backlinks” in online literature) which lead to your website. These are the same restaurants which feature in the top result – an Evening Standard article called the “best dumplings in London.” In other words, because the London Evening Standard, an authoritative website, has linked to them, that makes them more credible in Google’s view. 

These three factors help across both your organic ranking position and your position in Maps. So the good news is, everything

Step 1: letting Google know you’re real

letting Google know you're real


That means that we need to do everything we can to make the algorithm get sure of itself. 

First, Google the name of your restaurant. It might have a business listing already; perhaps not. If it does, click “claim this”. Next, go to google.com/business/ and sign in or set up an account. Fill out every single section. Every small piece of detail that you’re real will help, and repetition reinforces the details and helps with Google’s assessment of the detail accuracy. 

In the business description, it’s useful to include your most-used keywords a couple of times. (But watch out! “Keyword stuffing” is something the engineers at Google are onto – so use your main search term liberally, but naturally. Don’t just write it over and over.) 

Tagged Images

As part of this process, you’ll upload images of your business. But we can employ a sneaky trick here. One way in which we can help confirm to Google that our address is correct is by tagging the pictures with location data. This sounds complex but is very simple to do – go to geoimgr.com, and upload your photos there. Click “write EXIF Tags” at the bottom of the page, and that will allow you to choose the location on a map. 

This is what’s called “metadata” – it’s a data property of the image which an algorithm can read, telling the algorithm where the photo was taken. A photo of your business tagged in the same place you’ve put as your address? Yes – it sounds like your business is real. 

Detail Reinforcement 

Then we’re going to do some location and detail reinforcement. We’ve told Google our opening hours and our address, but how does it know they’re correct? 

One thing that Google’s crawlers are going to do is to see whether it can find confirmation of those details in other places. If you visit Moz Local you can do a free “presence check”, which just suggests some other places your opening hours and location could be listed. Have you set up a Facebook page? And if you have, does it have the correct details about your opening hours and your location? There’s several places you can list your opening hours and address; do it for all of them. 

Pro tip: be sure to format these in exactly the same way as they appear on your Google Business Account. Google’s bots are getting better at reading shorthand and different formatting all the time – but it’s not worth the risk! 

Other Directories

Then, figure out whether there are other directory listings you can add your business to. Here’s a list of 30 UK directory listing places.  Adding yourself to all 30 might be boring, but it would make you more visible than your competitors as Google would confer site authority and increase its degree of confidence about your business with every placed link. 

We’d also recommend you try to think of any industry-specific directory listings, or location-specific business listings. For example, get set up on iZettle’s restaurant directory, or if you’re a pub, make sure that CAMRA links to your menu. If you’re in Oxford, you could try Oxford’s council’s list of businesses. We’re going to get to site authority by being linked to from such websites in addition to reinforcing that our location is real. 


How much is a review worth?

In addition to a social proof which will encourage people to eat at your internet, reviews will help surface your restaurant in Google in the first place. That’s especially true if you don’t yet have any reviews – once you’ve got a few, Google relaxes a little bit because it can see you’re more likely to be a real business.

Encourage users to review with the promise of a free desert next time they order. Or, encourage a review with entry to a prize raffle. Or invite your friends and family to give you a review. (Google’s pretty good at catching out fake reviews by yourself, so we wouldn’t recommend that – especially if you’re doing it from a device your personal Google account has been used on.) Additionally, just asking people to review you is better than nothing – people are more likely to if they think it will help. 

So, ask people to review you on Google!

More Reviews 

This is also the way that TripAdvisor determines rankings – by recent reviews in addition to a few relevancy and location metrics. TripAdvisor is less fussed than Google about site authority (explained below) and so reviews are a bigger proportion of the overall recommendation process. There’s a huge cohort of people who navigate straight to TripAdvisor when planning their restaurant; and TripAdvisor also regularly ranks 

So, ask people to review you on TripAdvisor!


Step 2: making your website authoritative


“Authority” is overall how trustworthy Google deems a website. It goes much higher than figuring out if you’re real – Google has an internal measure for the level of authority for every page it comes across on the internet. And it’s generally to do with scale. The BBC is more authoritative than a local newspaper; a local newspaper is more authoritative than a Facebook page. Your website needs to be authoritative, and relevant. 

The biggest single way that Google determines which pages are the most authoritative is by examining its backlinks. 

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are hyperlinks which lead to your website. 

If you have a backlink from a high authority website, that will confer authority onto your website. If you’re linked to from a .gov site, for example, that looks really good – you must be credible if the government is linking to you. If you’re linked to from a Facebook page, that confers less authority than if the government does, but it’s still better than no link.  

That’s why directory listings are low-hanging fruit. They’re easy; and they’re usually from pretty authoritative websites, like Bing (Microsoft’s Search Engine) or yelp. Even ten or so directory backlinks will put you above a lot of competitors. But once you’ve exhausted the low-hanging fruit, it’s time to turn our attention to slightly more difficult backlink acquisition strategies.

Backlinks from reviewers

The very best backlink is from a good review in a written publication. If you appear in Independent’s “10 best dumpling places in London”, you have a great shot of appearing in Google’s SERP for the query, “London dumpling restaurants”. If you’re annoyed, having read this blog so far, that I’m telling you to get reviews you already knew you wanted – I’m sorry. Google is designed to imitate life, and it’s true that these are the best things to have. 

But let’s think broadly for a moment. Have you ever done reviewer outreach? And, how many publications do you actually know? There’s probably a deeper and broader pool of interesting reviews going on than you’re aware of; and you don’t have to net a review from Jay Rainer to benefit from a backlink. 

Food writers for smaller publications are great. They’re easier from an outreach perspective. A food reviewer who is starting out, or writing for a supermarket magazine, is much more likely to be flattered by a cold email than Jay Rainer is. That means that your success rate is likely to be much higher. 

It’s also the case that prestigious reviewers read the up-and-coming ones – and you might just pique their interest… 

Backlinks from content writers and reporters

Here’s a secret from a content marketer: most of the content on the internet is not as extensively researched as it could be. And here’s another: content writers, bloggers, and yes, journalists, need help writing their stuff.

What if somebody from BigHospitality needs a comment on some vital development in the world of dumplings? Try cultivating relationships with anybody who writes on your subject. Very often they’re starved for ideas, or they need a comment, and in either case, you can help them out in exchange for a backlink. It might even be worth sending them an unsolicited snack – and see how they react. 

Lots of outreach focuses on this sort of tactic. For example, we recently wrote an article on meal kits – during that process, we looked up different people doing different meal kits as part of the research process. If I fielded an email, today, asking to be added to the list of meal kits – it could make the article richer and therefore, I would. 

Organic backlinks

Backlink success is self-sustaining because people are lazy. Once you get to the top of the Google search results for something, people looking to link for any random reason begin to find your website first. This blog post, for example, keeps referring to the first dumpling place I found on Google – over and over again. 

Producing content for backlinks 

One thing to consider is to actively produce content for the purpose of generating backlinks and boosting your site authority. Welcome to the world of content marketing. 

Now, don’t be fooled: this isn’t easy. It’s really tricky to come up with content that people actually want to link to. Our best entry has been our pint map, which got covered by a bunch of major news outlets. But if you have the interest in doing so, you might want to begin to produce content that you think people would link to – probably which relates to your key competencies, such as your fantastic meal.

So, if you’re keeping a blog of different recipes, it might be worth putting that blog on your own website rather than on a tumblr or medium domain. There’s a lot of appetite for recipe-based content, but you might want to do outreach – letting people who might link to it know that your recipes exist.

SEO tools 

It can be pretty opaque how well you’re doing with this sort of stuff. You might have moved from 200th place to 100th place on Google queries, and from 10th to 1st on others. Your actual web traffic is a lagging indicator of your success in improving and optimising your website, so it’s not like you can see the results immediately if you start appearing in a search niche. 

If you’re embarking on a content strategy which involves actively producing content with outreach, you should choose software to help measure your success. We use ahrefs, but there’s a number of competitors you can also consider. 

SEO software can help you know when you’ve found a new backlink, see what your domain authority is like relative to your competitors, and help you research keyword volume and opportunities.

Step 3: thinking about Search Terms

dumplings in London

But it’s not good enough to just have an authoritative website. In order to be successful, we’re going to have to think about keywords and search terms. 

We don’t need to spend ages on this; and if you don’t have the tools, it’s quite difficult to interpret which are the search terms with the greatest volume. You can check out Google Trends which can give you a sense of which keywords are relatively more popular in search, but you don’t get a sense of the level of difficulty of the search niche or anything like that. For that, you’d need paid software like one of those discussed in the previous section.

You probably won’t have that much control over how your backlinks appear. But if you do, the best backlinks are stretched over the text that you want as your search term. For us, it might be epos systems. For you, it might be dumplings in London. People generally stretch links over the subject of what the page is about.

And even within your website, it’s good to practice internal links. If you have some great page which everybody wants to link to, but you’re not linking to your menu,

Step 4: Pay-Per-Click Advertising 

PPC chadvertising

Finally – once you’ve done all that, we’re ready to think about PPC.

Pay-per-click is Google’s extraordinarily successful product – their main product. Alphabet (Google’s parent company) is the fourth biggest company in the world by market cap, and its biggest and most successful product is PPC.

We’re going to release a longer blog about how to think about marketing budgeting, so for now we’ll just explain the basics. Google encourages you to buy Ads and gives a longer step-by-step process here  which is where you can get started buying, if that makes sense for your business.

As its name suggests, you “pay-per-click” you pay Google for every person that clicks on your add. But it’s not a flat rate.

What really happens is that several competitors bid on search terms – how much would they be prepared to pay for a click. Clicks on really commercial terms like “buy insurance now” are really expensive, and if you Google that you’ll see that Google serves loads of ads because it’s making plenty of money on all of them.

In addition to selling ads to the highest behaviour, Google attempts to enforce quality control through its pricing. Google wants to serve relevant ads, so its bots are scanning the page to try to decipher whether the ad is relevant to the search query. Ads deemed irrelevant to what the person is looking for pay more. It’s also looking at the success of the landing page. Are viewers entering and immediately leaving? Or are they entering and clicking “buy?” If it’s the former, it’s a good chance that it’s not in Google’s interest to have a page which is misleading or which nobody wants to use. So they penalise that.

Stay tuned for a fuller exploration of when you should spend money and take out ads.


What Next?

Next, check out the other blog in this series – Easy-Peasy Facebook & Instagram Marketing for your online restaurant

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