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Winning the internet: how to improve your search rankings

Easy ways to help customers find your restaurant in local searches.
Winning the internet: how to improve your search rankings

Consumers are searching the Internet for information in every location imaginable, on every device, at every point of the purchase process. About half of consumers search for restaurant locations or directions specifically on their smartphone or tablet, according to a 2013 report by the National Restaurant Association. But are they finding your business?

It’s a question Tallahassee, Fla.-based Madison Social sought to answer when it opened its location in the city’s new College Town district last year. “One thing I don’t think many [operators] understand is how consumers search for their business,” says Managing Partner Matt Thompson.

After typing in some likely search terms for his own restaurant, Thompson quickly realized that boosting local search results would be necessary to help potential guests discover the restaurant more quickly and easily—and that he’d need to better tailor the language of those search results to suit the concept.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, making sure your online information is updated and accurate can go a long way toward ensuring customers can find you. With that in mind, here are four tips for search engine optimization (or SEO) operators can use to improve their rankings.

1. Search yourself

Madison Social’s Thompson regularly pops terms like “Tallahassee brunch” and “Tallahassee happy hour” into search engines to see where his concept ranks in the results. Start with what your restaurant offers, he says, and what people are searching for around those terms, including specific pockets of your city. Tools such as Google Analytics can reveal what keywords consumers currently are using to find your site.

2. Choose your words carefully

Next, use the terms you want searchers to associate with your concept in page titles, site content, tags and metadata, being careful to avoid overuse (or “keyword stuffing,” a tactic search engines shun). At first, Madison Social used “college town” in its  descriptions, page titles and tags because of its location. But Thompson  realized that doing so turned off key potential customers. “Students are only 30 percent of the business,” he says, so he pulled the term.

3. Get listed

Matt Olsen, senior manager of digital marketing for Firehouse Subs (where franchisees are responsible for boosting their own local search results) says to tell Google you’re valid and important by claiming your listings on sites such as YellowPages, Bing, Yelp and TripAdvisor. Aggregators also can further push your location across search engines; it may take time for them to pick up the info, “but it’s worth the wait,” Olsen says. “Just make sure everything you post is consistent.”

4. Stay up to date

It helps results, Olsen says. Add new photos, menus and links to your site, and revisit your Yelp and TripAdvisor listings to make updates and follow up on  reviews.

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