The Quintessential Marketing Strategy That Most Full-Service Restaurants Ignore


What does "local SEO" really mean?

Restaurants are the No. 1 topic when it comes to local search results—above other categories such as finance, auto parts, medical information, and real estate. Furthermore, according to Nielson, 95 percent of smartphone users search for restaurants, and those local searches drive foot traffic locally. In fact, 90 percent of mobile searchers convert within the day and 64 percent within one hour of their local search query.

For full-service restaurants, the key to gaining the attention of the millions of people who search for local restaurants daily is to implement a local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Local SEO is based on putting businesses in front of searchers at the moment they’re interesting in making a purchasing decision. For full-service restaurants, that means local SEO connects restaurants with hungry searchers at the moment they’re deciding where to eat that night. Restaurants that put this off will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage—according to SEMPCO, 95 percent of companies are increasing or maintaining their SEO budget in 2014.

Moving up in local search engine rankings can make a dramatic difference for full-service restaurants. Consumers predominantly click on the top four search results and then move on, according to Forrester Research, Inc. Restaurants need to rank near the top in order to truly increase traffic and sales. That’s where local SEO comes into play; it’s what helps restaurants move to where consumers can find them.

There are several factors that determine local search results, including directory syndication, local reviews, and on-page signals. On-page optimization is one of the biggest factors in local rankings, accounting for roughly 20 percent. It's also one of the most overlooked by marketers. In order to be successful and well-indexed by search engines, sites need to be optimized with detailed and accurate business contact and location information.

When it comes to breaking down locations online, there are three mains strategies restaurants tend to use, but two of them are flawed and can hurt local SEO efforts. Here is a breakdown of each method and its influence on search engine rankings:

1. iFrame Location Finders

One of the most common mistakes that businesses make with their on-page local SEO strategy is using a location finder that is housed inside of an iFrame.

One way to learn whether a business is using a location finder correctly is to look at the URL. If it stays the same regardless of the location that's clicked on, watch out—it’s not optimized for local SEO. Because every location is housed within a singular URL—instead of being broken out individually—search engines can't index the information correctly. Another issue with iFrames is that because of the limited screen real estate, the information about each location is usually incomplete, which hurts search visibility.

2. Location-Based Content Management Platforms

One step above using an iFrame—but still not fully optimized—is the practice of using a location-based content management platform.

These platforms can make it easy for users to search for locations, but because only the zip code changes in the URL, Google and other search engines can’t index each location separately. Even though the addresses are listed on the left side of the page, no individualized location landing page exists for any of them.

3. Dedicated Landing Pages Housed Under a Primary Domain

The best way to ensure search engines can fully index content is to create individual landing pages for each location. Below is the perfect example of how restaurants should organize their location data digitally to optimize for local SEO.

By have dedicated local pages—each with a unique URL—search results will be optimized, meaning searchers can find pertinent information easily and quickly. Each dedicated page includes the address, hours, a link to the menu, and even driving directions. When combined with paid advertising and social media marketing, restaurants will find a huge benefit to making available such detailed information about each of their locations.

Win With Local Search Optimization

Brands that invest in local SEO can measure its effects on search results and sales from hungry people looking for a local bit to eat. Remember each landing page should include the following:

  • Contact information that is accurate and consistent across all channels.

  • Detailed information including hours of operation, address, and phone numbers.

  • Structured data, which helps with search indexation.

By using dedicated landing pages that are optimized to the fullest, restaurants relying on local and repeat customers will have the best chance to increase revenue through improving their search engine rankings.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

Thomas Stern

Thomas Stern is senior vice president of client services for ZOG Digital, a leading search and social marketing company. Stern has provided results-driven strategy for numerous digital marketing campaigns, working with brands such as Allstate, Whirlpool, Amtrak, Verifone, and National Geographic. ZOG Digital’s discovery marketing solutions include search engine optimization, social media marketing, paid advertising, and design and development. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @ZOGDigital.

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