If you run a hospitality business such as a restaurant, bakery, or café, how much time or money do you put into SEO – if you even know what ‘SEO’ is?
If that term is already confusing you, don’t worry. The fact is, until recently, SEO wasn’t taken very seriously. Particularly in a sector like hospitality where businesses are hugely busy and time-starved! For many such operators, marketing might be largely offline, rather than an online tactic. You might run some email marketing from an email database, and have a business social media account you keep updated with news and offers, and that’s about it for your ‘online’ marketing activity?
Well, in this blog, we’re going to look at why online marketing and SEO are increasingly important for brick-and-mortar hospitality businesses like yours. As well as looking at how you can improve your firm’s search engine rankings (google etc), so that you can attract more of the right people to your business.
So… what is SEO?
Those three letters SEO stand for ‘search engine optimisation’. This basically involves improving your website’s visibility on search engines like google. For example, when you google something, you tend to click on the top couple of options right? Well SEO can help with that so that when a customer searches for products or services related to your business, your brand pops up!
These days, people don’t tend to depend on the old-fashioned phone book – or even necessarily always ‘word of mouth’ – to search for, and find, businesses like yours.
Why should your hospitality firm care about SEO?
OK, you might be thinking; it would be great to rank higher in Google for “Italian restaurant in Shoreditch”. But if your business primarily caters to people who walk through your restaurant’s doors in person, and you seem to get a decent number of those, is SEO that important?
The short answer is yes, including brick-and-mortar businesses like yours. High SEO rankings for relevant terms (things like ‘restaurant’ or your location) help you attract people to your website, which can increase brand awareness. More people may choose to dine in with you or place online orders with the business.
Your hospitality firm might presently be ‘getting by’ without much of an SEO strategy. But if you are looking to grow your business or maybe you’re worried about challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis, then good SEO can really increase your businesses visibility.
So, let’s take it back to the beginning, with a look at the absolute basics of SEO that can help improve your business’s search rankings.
You might know it as ‘Google My Business’ (it’s previous name) but it’s basically the same thing. It’s a free service that allows you to create a profile that will effectively serve as your hospitality firm’s ‘storefront’ on Google, providing essential details like your business location, address, opening and closing times, and much more.
With Google processing more than 3.5 billion searches every day as of January 2022, you can be sure that a lot of people will be searching for local businesses like yours, right now.
Establishing and optimising your Google Business Profile with accurate and up-to-date information will enable you to place your restaurant, coffee shop, or similar hospitality firm ‘front and centre’ for online searchers.
If you’re only just getting started with SEO, you probably won’t have the clearest sense of what you want to achieve from it and that’s okay, we can help!
But we’re mentioning this point because knowing your objectives for your brand’s SEO will influence everything else you do with your SEO strategy. It will help you avoid wasting time and money trying methods or tools that aren’t right for your business.
So, have a think about what those objectives might be. Will you be aiming to increase awareness of your business above all else, with the aim of attracting greater numbers of local people to your brick-and-mortar premises? Or maybe you want to bolster revenue from online orders made via your website or app?
Whatever objectives you set for your SEO, remember to focus on those things that will help make a real difference to your business’s survival and growth – for example, by helping to increase sales and enquiries from potential customers.
You probably already have some level of awareness of what your obvious rivals are doing.
After all, you’re likely already doing what you can to make your restaurant, bakery, or other hospitality business stand out from similar firms. Whether that involves you emphasising your great value, excellent-quality food, or something else entirely.
Keeping a close watch on your competitors is also really important for SEO. You might look at their website and consider how fast-loading and easy it is to use. Or you may look at your competitor’s blog and consider whether they’re writing about subjects you should be writing about.
Or have you identified a gap in the market, that is your rival is not doing with their SEO, that your own business could do? Such as appealing to a certain demographic in its online content. Again, this is one more thing that will help shape your hospitality firm’s approach to SEO.
By “keywords”, we’re referring to those words or phrases that a target customer of your business might type into Google or another search engine. Once you have identified some suitable keywords, you could then start working these into your website, to help give it a stronger ranking for these terms.
The “sweet spot” is finding keywords that your target customers genuinely search for, but which aren’t being competed for by too many obvious rivals of your hospitality firm online. That’s where tools like the Google Ads Keyword Planner and Semrush can really help in narrowing down the keywords you should optimise for with your brand’s SEO.
As we touched on earlier in this piece, SEO is a highly technical field, and a complex one. But there’s another way of looking at that: there’s a lot of data that you can sift through with SEO, which in turn, can identify great opportunities to tweak your strategy to help maximise results.
This is why it’s well worth becoming familiar with analytical tools, such as Google Analytics, at an early stage of your firm’s relationship with SEO.
Having an idea about what key terms are sending customers to your website as well as what pages they land on, will really help guide your SEO approach.
So, even if you aren’t ready to do a huge amount with Google Analytics yet, it’s well worth making yourself familiar with it now.
Now that you know about some of the basics of SEO, what’s next? Well, if you’re serious about achieving growth for your hospitality firm with the help of SEO, you need the right people by your side. Set up a call with one of our own SEO experts here at Slerp today, and we will help you start taking those all-important first steps.