SEO for Restaurants in 2020: 9 Steps to Success (Including a Best Practice Case Study)

SEO for Restaurants

In our recent article Restaurant Marketing Ideas: The Top 31 Ideas to Grow in 2020 we took a look at search engine optimization (SEO). In this article, we take a deeper dive into how a restaurant can start ranking on Google.

Restaurants can use SEO tactics to help their website show up in search results. The higher your ranking, the more likely it is that people will see your business when they use Google.

In this article, we’ll look at nine restaurant SEO tips that you can begin to implement today. Each point is illustrated using the example of how a sushi restaurant in Seattle would try to rank for relevant terms.

Research Which Search Keywords to Target

SEO for restaurants is all about showing up on Google. However, it’s only useful if you appear on relevant pages. To create a good strategy, you need to come up with a list of keywords you want to target. You can then put a plan in place for each of them.

Many of the keywords you want to target will be obvious—they will relate to the type of food you sell and your area.

For example, a sushi restaurant in downtown Seattle will target keywords such as:

  • Sushi restaurant Seattle
  • Sushi restaurant downtown Seattle
  • Restaurant Seattle
  • Best sushi restaurant Seattle

Once you have this initial list, there are ways you can find more search terms.

The easiest is to type one of your keywords into Google. The search engine’s autocomplete feature will then give you tips about relevant terms you could target.

Sushi Restaurant Seattle Autocomplete

If you press enter, you will see some more tips at the bottom of the page in the related searches section.

Sushi Restaurant Seattle Related Searches

Do the same with each of your keywords and make a note of the most relevant ones to target.

SEO for Restaurants: Competitor Research 

Another keyword research strategy is to see what your competitors are ranking for.

You can use the Moz Keyword Explorer Tool to do this. While Moz is quite pricey, you can sign up for a free account which gives you ten free searches per month. This should be enough to find some keywords to target—at least initially.

Shiro’s Sushi is the top-ranking restaurant website for the term “Sushi restaurant Seattle.” It’s ninth overall after sites such as Yelp, Eater, and CNTraveler. Analyzing the restaurant’s domain with the Moz Keyword Explorer tool shows it also ranks highly for many other terms.

At the top of the list are search terms related to the restaurant’s name. These are not much use to us.

Looking further down shows the website also ranks for keywords related to the specific area it is located in, as well as terms about Japanese food. If you were a competing restaurant in the area, these are the terms you could target.

Restaurant SEO Keyword Research

Check the Search Volume

Once you have a list of keywords you need to check the search volume of each one. This will reveal a list of priority terms.

When you search for competitor restaurants in the step above, the third column shows you the estimated monthly volume for each term.

To get information about other keywords you can use the Moz Keyword Research tool to search for the monthly volume of specific keywords.

Moz Keyword Research Sushi Restaurant

If you run out of free searches on Moz and you don’t want to pay for a full subscription, you can use the Google Ads keyword research tool to build your restaurant SEO strategy.

To use the tool head over to Google Ads, sign up for a free account and then click on “Get Search Volume” under the ”Keyword Planner” tool. This will you show you approximately how many searches a keyword gets each month.

The downside with the Google tool is the ranges can be quite large.

Sushi Restaurant Seattle Search Volume

You should now have a list of keywords and the search volume for each one. Using this data, you can decide which terms to prioritize.

Be aware that some hyper-specific keywords with low search volume may be more useful than broader terms with a higher volume. They will also usually be easier to rank for.


Check the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs)

Now you know which keywords you want to target, it’s time to check the SERPs. This will show you the strategy to use to target each keyword.

Traditional SEO strategies see websites creating original content and building links to rank on page one of Google, but this can be a time-consuming process.

Additionally, many restaurant-related searches are dominated by huge sites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, and local or national publications. This makes it hard to rank a small restaurant website for all but the most niche terms.

By optimizing your Google My Business listing or by getting your restaurant on Yelp, your company’s name will show up even for competitive search terms.

First up, let’s look at local SEO.

Local SEO for Restaurants

Local SEO helps your business show up on Google and Google Maps when people search for restaurants in your area—for example, if they search for “Sushi restaurant Seattle,” or “Sushi restaurant near me.”

Local SEO is critical because the results appear above all the other listings. Additionally, you do not need an authoritative website to rank. This makes it possible for an independent business to leap above larger sites on the results page.

The local SEO results are accompanied by a Google Map embed so the user can easily search for other restaurants. You can see how this looks in the screenshot below.

Google Local Pack Restaurant SEO

Optimizing for local SEO is straightforward. You just have to create a Google My Business listing for your website. Here you enter information about your restaurant such as its address, contact details, opening hours, website, photos, and customer reviews.

If your restaurant is in an uncompetitive area, it won’t be long before you start appearing in the SERPs. If there are a lot of restaurants nearby (like in the above screenshot), you’ll have to take steps to optimize your listing.

According to Google, you can do this by:

  • Entering complete data
  • Verifying your location
  • Keeping accurate hours
  • Managing reviews
  • Adding photos

Optimize Your Listings on Aggregator Websites

Aggregator websites also commonly rank highly for keywords related to restaurants.

On the “Best Sushi Restaurant Seattle” results page, Yelp is at number five and six in the search rankings. Other websites that may feature in these results include Tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, and Foursquare.

If you can get your restaurant listed on these platforms, people will see your business even if your website or My Business listing does not rank.

The key is to find out which of these websites are in the search rankings for search terms you want to target and then list your restaurant on these sites.

You can find out more about listing on Tripadvisor by clicking here, and more about listing on Yelp by clicking here. It typically doesn’t take long for your restaurant to get approved.

Like with Google My Business, you should ensure your profile is fully complete and manage your reviews well to get a higher ranking.

Perform Website Outreach

If you notice a publication has a page that ranks for a search term you want to target, it could be worth reaching out and letting them know about your restaurant.

For example, if the publication has an article about the best sushi restaurants there is a chance they will feature you.

Some publications have specific guidelines for restaurants or venues that want to be featured on their site. For example, Time Out New York has a section where you can add a business listing or send in a press release.

For smaller publications, it may just be a case of getting in contact with the editor and sending them a press release.

Any links you receive will also help with step eight.

Create Social Media Accounts

Shiros Sushi SERP With Social Media Pages
Social media accounts often show up in the SERPs when people search for your restaurant. This means it’s crucial to have them, especially if your site isn’t up and running yet or if it’s new and doesn’t rank well. Consider making pages for your restaurant on Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter.

Check out our Guide to Restaurant Social Media Marketing in 2020 for a detailed review of the channels and tactics.

Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

In the above tips, we’ve focused on getting your website on search rankings via third parties. However, you should still put in some effort to rank your website for highly related, less competitive terms.

To get your website to rank, you’ll have to take steps to optimize your site for SEO. There are many factors that Google considers when allocating a search ranking. Here are some of the most important ones.

User Intent

Google tries to show the most relevant results for a search term. When choosing which terms to optimize your site for, be sure the page you are trying to rank properly matches user intent.

While a sushi restaurant in Seattle may rank for “Sushi Restaurant Seattle,” it is less likely to rank for “best sushi restaurant Seattle” as people searching for this term will typically be after a critical opinion or roundup of restaurants.

Therefore, you should target the first term rather than the second.

You can see the type of links Google thinks matches user intent for a keyword by searching for the term and clicking on the pages that rank highly.


To let Google know your site is a good match for user intent, you should include the search keywords in the pages you want to rank.

Consider using them in the page title, headings, meta title, introduction, and at least once within the text. You can use a tool like Yoast to guide you on optimization best practices.


Google uses backlinks to decide how authoritative a website is. In theory, websites that people are linking to are more likely to be useful sites.

Getting backlinks is perhaps the hardest part of SEO. For restaurants, a good outreach program is probably the best idea. Consider sending out press releases and building contacts with bloggers and journalists to get them to link to your site.

Page Experience

The experience a user has on your page is becoming increasingly important to SEO. Things like slow load times or not being optimized for mobile will result in your website being penalized and banished further down the rankings.

Google’s Page Speed Insights tool can help you see how fast your page is and what—if anything—is slowing it down. Often the fixes are simple things like reducing the size of images or the number of plugins you use on your site.

As for the user experience, accessing your website on a variety of browsers and devices can help you understand if there are any issues. Consider things like:

  • Is the text easy to read?
  • Are all images displayed in full?
  • Do all website features load as you expect?
  • Can you click on all the right links and buttons?

Monitor Your Results

The final step is to monitor your SEO efforts to check your strategy is paying off. While many paid SEO tools offer monitoring of specific pages and search terms, for most restaurants the following two free Google tools will be enough.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides in-depth data about the people that visit your website and what they do on your site.

Getting it set up is easy and just involves creating an account and then pasting the code on your website. Most website providers make it easy for you to add Google Analytics to your site, although the exact steps you take will vary.

Some of the most important things Google Analytics can show you include:

  • How many people visit your site.
  • How people access your site, and whether they find it via organic search, direct, social media, referral, or ads.
  • Which pages they visit.
  • Where your website visitors are based.

As you build your SEO campaign and efforts, the amount of data you manage will also increase. It can be hard to keep track of the analytics and the large clusters of both structured and unstructured data can appear daunting. This is where the benefit of leveraging big data analytics comes in. Consider shifting from Google Analytics to softwares more equipped to handle large volumes if you feel it is necessary.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console gives you a more in-depth insight into how your site performs on Google. Some of the most important things you can do with it are:

  • Add individual pages to Google so they can be listed.
  • See how many impressions and clicks your website and individual pages get on Google.
  • See which search terms you rank for.
  • Discover site and ranking errors.

Like Google Analytics, setting up Google Search Console is easy with most content management systems. It typically involves signing up to the service then pasting some code onto your site.

Wrapping Up

Ranking on Google is an excellent way to get your restaurant to show up when people are searching for relevant terms.

Getting your local SEO and Google My Business listing set up is the place to start. You can then fill out your profiles on social media and on various aggregators. Once you have done this, you can begin to optimize your website to show up in the search results for highly targeted search results related to your restaurant.