Transform Your Hospitality Business pt 3: Increasing Online Exposure

This is part 3 in our 3 part series Transform Your Hospitality Business about how to pivot your restaurant, bar, or cafe to survive and thrive during and after the new COVID-19 way of life. In case you missed the first parts, check them out:

Once you’ve set up your online restaurant, boost your sales by improving your online visibility. There are a few different ways that you can do this; some of the most popular ways are to advertise through search, boost posts on your social media accounts, or optimise your website to appear more prominently for search queries.

Paid Social Media

Have you ever noticed that sometimes all it takes is for you to think about something and suddenly it appears on your Facebook feed?

It’s not random – it’s data. Social media platforms collate thousands of data points on every user based on their online behaviour to build a profile of each person. This allows advertisers to target users very specifically with offers that fit their profile/s. Furthermore, advertisers on social media can track who comes to their website and follow these users around on their social media (this is called retargeting, and can also be done through search engine advertising).

If you looked at a blog post about travel to Spain for example, social media platforms may profile you as having the intention to holiday in Spain or the Mediterranean. You may start to see ads for cheap flights to Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, or even slightly wider, including Portugal, Italy and France. If you were scoping out new software, you may start seeing ads from the company you are considering following you around on social media.

This has huge potential for restaurants, cafes, and bars. Combined with the fact that 72% of customers look at Facebook comments and images to make decisions about restaurants, it’s really important to maintain your presence on social media.

Check out this great step-by-step guide to setting up Facebook Ads, or this illustrated guide to setting up Instagram Ads (note: this is also done through Facebook Ads Manager to make life a little easier!) Ensure when setting up your social media campaigns, to limit the region to your geographic area – no point wasting precious ad budget showing ads to people on the other side of the country.

Search Engine Optimisation

Do you ever wonder why certain businesses appear more prominently than others in search engine listings? Do you ever feel frustrated that the businesses listed first are not necessarily the business with the best value, best service, or best food? What’s their secret?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of optimising your website to appease search engines and thus encourage them to rank your website higher. It involves setting up your website to look reputable in the eyes of search engines; as search engines reward sites they deem to be relevant to the searcher (and reputation is a huge factor in this).

It may be one thing to have your website up and running, but if you can get your website on the first page of the Google search results, that can have a massive impact on how much traffic hits your website. A study by Backlinko.com found that 31.7% of all clicks go to the first result.

Image Credit: https://backlinko.com/google-ctr-stats

While the term SEO sounds daunting, there are a few things that can help with raising the profile of your business.

How to Optimise Your Website for Search

If you search for tips on optimising your website you will find hundreds of millions of websites on the topic, with varying quality of information.

Search engines like Google base their assessment of your website’s quality on how relevant your website is to the search query and how good the user experience is of your website. Bear in mind that search engines crawl websites using robots, so they are unable to see images or colours in the same way humans can. This means you may have to spoon-feed information, by ensuring you follow a few best practices for on-page SEO.

On-Page Optimisation

There are several things you can do on your website to ensure that your page is deemed relevant to search queries. Keywords were once the main indicator for this, and you can research relevant keywords to target using Google Ads Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, Google Trends, and AnswerThePublic.

Once you have the keywords and phrases you want to target, create informative and useful content around these keywords. Show people and search bots that you know what you’re talking about and that you run a reliable business. A few things to keep in mind when creating website content:

  • Page title – write a different title for every page and include your most important keywords in this title.
  • Meta description – is a short paragraph that suggests to the search engines what description to give in the search listings. Remember to include these for each page.
  • Alt tag – use these for images to tell robots what the image contains
  • Internal linking – make sure all pages are linked to by other pages. Here is a great guide to internal links.

If you want to really boost your website’s search credibility, check out some basic technical SEO tasks that are worth the time.

Local Search Optimisation

Have you noticed that when you search for anything “near me” or with your location info, the search results will show businesses on a map?

Especially relevant for restaurants, cafes, and hospitality businesses is local search – this is how you can target customers who live locally. It’s reported that 84% of smartphone users will search for food “near me” and over 90% of respondents said they were likely to click on the first set of results.

To rank well for these queries, here are a few basics tasks you can do to help boost your digital presence to those in your vicinity:

  • ensure that your business name, address, and contact details are correct and consistent online (having it in your website footer will ensure it appears on every page, but also having a contact us page is helpful too).
  • claim and verify your business on Google My Business – check out this guide to help optimise your listing.

We recommend taking some time to run through the steps in this guide to really nail your local SEO.

Off-Page SEO/Backlinking

So you have followed the “rules” above and have pumped out a lot of great content, but how do the search engines know that your content is awesome? By other websites linking to yours giving social proof essentially, showing that the content on your website is useful.

In a nutshell, when a website links to another (creating what’s known as a backlink), it’s telling search engines that the website they are linking to has great content. And if this website has great credibility to the search engines, what we like to call “link juice”, they pass this credibility onto the site they link to. Then search engines see this credibility and rank you higher than similar websites without the same quality of links pointing to them. We call the process of trying to acquire these links ‘backlinking’.

Some website owners may already naturally link to you because of your awesome content, but you may need to reach out to other website owners to convince them to link to you. There are also directory listings (be careful with these – if they look spammy, best to avoid), and ensure you include a link to your website from your social media pages.

Paid Search

Want to get even more visibility on the search engine results page for searches of your cuisine in your neighbourhood? Why not try paid search?

Unlike with search engine optimisation, which is a longer-term strategy, once you set up your search ads (and they are approved – generally within 24 hours) you can start appearing at the top of search queries straight away.

Search Ad Structure

When you set up an account on Google Ads (what some of us still lovingly refer to as ‘Adwords’), you will be asked to set up campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and ads. Remember the keyword research mentioned in the on-page optimisations above? These are a great jumping-off point for working out your account structure – group your keywords into themes – tightly knit themes can be grouped as ad groups, while broader themes that encompass these ad groups build out your campaigns.

Once this structure is planned out, you can set up your ads – ensure you think about the keywords you are targeting when writing your ads, to ensure your ad copy is relevant to the searches you are targeting (this will help to boost your quality score as deemed by Google, and reduce the amount it costs for you to appear in searches).

Here is a great step by step guide for restauranteurs who want to try out paid search.

Optimising Your Paid Search Account

Here are a few ways to get more traffic from better quality leads:

  • Negative keywords: if you have a pizza delivery business, you don’t want to appear for searches on how to make pizza or pizza recipes. Think about your keywords and the potential to appear in front of unwanted searches, then add these to your negative keyword list.
    Tip: check your search terms report periodically to ensure that your ads only surface for the searches that you want to appear for (and if you find unwanted searches, be sure to add these words to your negative keyword list).
  • Ad scheduling: have you noticed that your customers spend more on their Friday night takeaway than any other night? Allocate more of your budget to Fridays using rules and ad scheduling. You can also use this to get the most out of seasonal events.
  • Demographic targeting: who are your best customers? These are the people you should be targeting. For example, you noticed that you sell a lot of your family takeaway boxes to parents aged 35-45 years? Target your ads to parents of this age group. In Google Ads you can target your ads by age, gender, income bracket and parental status.

The great thing about digital marketing is that a lot of the resources are online, and if you have trouble understanding there are places where you can ask questions (Help chat within Google Ads, product forums, Reddit, etc).

We hope you enjoyed this series on how to market your hospitality business in times of COVID-19. If you run a restaurant, bar or cafe and have not taken advantage of our free credit for hospitality businesses offer, sign up now for your freebies.