Guide to SEO for restaurants: How large chain restaurants and takeaways can improve their local search ranking across every business location.
Large chain restaurants and takeaways have their work cut out when it comes to local SEO. Aside from managing your search presence at the brand level, you also need to build a local presence for each business location to maximise visibility for people in the nearby area.
In this article, we dive into local SEO best practices for restaurants looking to build a larger customer base across multiple locations.
Google My Business is the most important resource in your local SEO strategy, especially for brands with multiple locations to optimise for. So make sure you put the necessary time into setting up and optimising your Google My Business account so that each location shows up correctly in Google Maps.
Once you’ve got the basics covered, you need to create a location group in Google My Business, which allows you to manage the presence of each branch.
You can do this by logging into Google My Business, navigating to the Manage locations tab and clicking the Create location group button to the top-right of the screen. Once you’ve named and created your location group, you can import all of your business locations by opening the group (located in Manage locations) and clicking on Add location to the right of the display.
Select Import locations on the next screen and you’ll be asked to upload a spreadsheet containing all of your business location data. If you don’t already have a file containing all of this info, you can download a template and a sample spreadsheet to help you do this and you can also click on the ? icon for further help.
If you’ve got more than 10 locations in your group, you can request bulk verification, which makes it easier to manage multiple locations from within Google My Business. Any changes you make to your business locations will automatically show in Google Maps, instead of having to wait for Google to verify every change.
This brings us on to our final point: keep your GMB listings up-to-date for every location. Accuracy and relevancy are hugely important for local rankings and for helping people in your area choose your business over nearby rivals.
With your locations all set up in Google My Business, your focus now is to start driving business from each listing.
It helps to think about how users engage with restaurants and takeaways on a platform like Google Maps and make use of all of the features available to you through GMB, providing as many touchpoints as possible for locals to place an order, pick up the phone or walk through your door.
Pay particular attention to the following.
Of course, you need to make sure all of these contain relevant information for each location and this is fairly obvious with opening times and phone numbers. However, the same applies to any table or order booking functionality you have on your website – make it obvious when users land on the page that they need to select their nearest branch.
Google wants to verify that your business locations are legitimate and worthy of recommending to its users. One of its favourite methods is to look for links to your business locations, including directory websites, review sites, your social media accounts and other locations.
However, the first place Google is going to check is your website so make sure all of the relevant information for each business location is present on your website and consider creating dedicated landing pages for each location, complete with all of the info used in your GMB listing.
Moving away from your website, Facebook is a good place to start by making sure you have matching locations in Facebook Business Manager with the exact same details as your GMB locations.
Next, get each business location featured in relevant directory listing websites, starting with the major names and then looking at local directory listings for each business location. Do the same for relevant review platforms like TripAdvisor and Bookatable or delivery apps like Deliveroo and Just Eat.
Reviews are an integral part of local search, allowing potential customers to see how fellow locals have found the experience of dealing with your brand. Needless to say, you want a profile of positive reviews for each location, filled with glowing comments about the quality of your food and service.
Of course, you’re going to end up with the (hopefully) occasional bad comment and we’ve talked about how to deal with negative reviews before.
The key to building and managing reviews when you’ve got multiple locations is to personally engage with the people leaving feedback for each location. Respond to comments, thank people for taking the time to leave feedback and deal with any issues they may have had. Don’t copy-and-paste or automate scripted responses.
As much as it can hurt to receive negative feedback, multiple studies have shown that perfect 5-star review scores are not the most effective at generating leads. It turns out people are cynical and suspect something is up if your reviews look a little too perfect. So embrace a bit of negative feedback, look at it as an opportunity to show locals how well you solve problems for your customers and always be ready to think of ways you can improve.
Businesses in the UK have been slow to adopt Google Posts but they offer a valuable channel for local businesses to engage with people in the nearby area. This is increasingly important as Google’s algorithm favours business proximity, meaning people outside of your immediate area may not see you for generic terms like “restaurant near me” or “takeaway near me”.
With Google Posts, you can build brand awareness across a wider area and engage with locals in a more meaningful way.
You can also use posts to provide customers with important information, such as changes to opening times or other measures in response to changing local Covid-19 restrictions. On a brighter note, you can create posts to promote special offers, weeknight deals or events.
Posts are also a great way to showcase the role your business plays in the local community. For example, if you sponsor or participate in any local events, you can create posts in the build-up to the day itself and then some follow-up posts featuring some of the locals who attended.
Another important channel for engaging with locals is the questions and answers portal in Google Maps. Here, users can ask questions about your business, which appears on your listing. You can also answer these questions directly with your answers also showing for all to see. This allows you to engage with individual people in your local area and address their interests while you may also learn a thing or two about what information people want to know about your business.
Be careful, though: other users can answer these questions, too – so you want to make sure you’re there first to provide the answer on your own terms.
Mitchells & Butlers asked us to help improve local search visibility for its 350+ Toby Carvery and Harvester restaurants. The campaign achieved a 79% increase in table bookings from ‘near-me’ searches, and a 60% increase in bookings via organic search. Read about it here
KFC is a great example of an enterprise-level company recognising the importance of on-going SEO, despite achieving worldwide fame. We have been working with them to create a solid and future-proofed SEO foundation. Read about it here
If you need help managing your local SEO strategy, you can speak to our team of search marketing experts by calling 02392 830281 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sally is an SEO Specialist at Vertical Leap.
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