Friday, December 2, 2011

SEO for restaurants, takeaways and other food businesses

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the way of promoting your site in search engines such as Google. It all comes down to the simple question - how high are you on the search results page for a specific search term? For example, if you run an Indian restaurant based in Brighton someone may find you entering the term 'chicken tikka masala in brighton'. The problem is, that as of today there are 42,100 results for that search term. These are sorted by relevance and broken down into 4,210 pages. But who bothers to even look at the second page, right?

So here are couple of tips on how to improve your ranking.

Put your menu online and I am not talking about PDF's. Experience shows that PDF documents, however indexed by major search engines, are not highly valued. That means much lower ranking comparing to web pages. So make an effort to put it right and recreate your menu in html as a regular web page!

As you already have all your tasty dishes listed online work on your URL scheme. URL is editable web address that appears in small box on top of your browser window. Ideally this should include words from your menu categories and names of your dishes (if you have pages describing single products in detail). This suggests google that those words are important.

Another way to emphasize importance of words from your menu is to use HTML H tags. H in html stands for Header and there are seven of them, from H1 to H7, with H1 being the most important. Don't be modest and on every page take advantage of H1 to make a powerful title. Google and Bing both are paying attention to H tags. For example a great title for a web page listing all your noodle dishes would be.... surprise, surprise.... <H1>Noodle dishes</H1> with less important title tags enclosing your product names, such as <H2>Chicken noodle soup</H2>.

So let's assume you are high on the search results page for that 'chicken tikka masala in brighton' search. Now you should focus on the presentation of the search result itselfHow to convince hungry searcher to click on your link on the search results page instead of visiting your competitor's website? You may help your luck with relevant title and description.

Title (above in red) has to be GOOD. If you followed those 3 simple rules above, the 'tikka masala in brighton' search should show one of your menu pages, most likely the one with tikka masala listed on it. But hey, you can controll the title of that page, don't you? There is a <TITLE> tag that lets you put a short tagline (up to 70 characters) for each page. And it should be something that describes content of that page. So a title <TITLE>Tasty Tikka's from My Lovely Takeaway in Brighton BN2</TITLE>, for a page with tikka dishes listed on it, is a good choice.

Don't be tempted to title all your web pages with your business name. It doesn't help searchers in any way. If they are looking for something to eat, they want to know that you have it. Unless they already eaten from you they don't care what name you are trading under. It is important to include where you are. For bigger towns additionally include postcode - if customers fancy to collect their food themselves they want to know that it is within a reasonable distance.

There are people who spent many hours researching how other people pick up specific sites from search results. It turns out that the way something is written is important as much as the text itself. Most people scan through web results - meaning they are speed reading it. It is not very accurate and only some words get noticed. Research shows that it is much easier to notice something if first letter is a Capital Letter.

Slightly less important is the description meta tag (above in blue) <meta name="description" content=""> that is located in <HEAD> section of the web page along with already mentioned <TITLE> tag. If the words in it are relevant to the search term it will be displayed, if not, google will pick up some more relevant piece of text from the web page. Limit it to 160 characters describing in detail what is the page about. The searcher may be lucky and see consistent sentence instead of a page snippet selected automatically by google, often starting and ending in the middle of the sentence.

As important as category and dish pages is the address. Put it on each web page as it will improve your rankings for all searchers that are looking for food in specific location (and obviously most does).

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