Restaurants rank among the most-searched businesses in local online searches. Because of this, Google and other search engines typically look for some specific content and signals for rankings.
For places to eat, the most popular content sought by online shoppers is your menu. Menus are so important for restaurants that the words and phrases used on them should be optimized to enable search engines to spider them and use their content beneficially for ranking.
Yes, making sure to optimize the SEO value of your menu is essential for attracting potential diners online.
There are several common website features that Google and other search engines use as quality signals and quantifiable usability elements in ranking calculations. Where restaurants are concerned, menus are a major piece of content that customers seek and should include items that search engines treat specially for ranking purposes. Here are some tips:
Avoid Flash-only menus: Having a Flash-only site with lots of animation & slick transitions may seem cool, but it poses too many challenges for search engines.
Display prices: Too many sites refuse to display price information on their online menus. That is a poor decision. Even for fine-dining restaurants, failure to display prices can make potential customers seek other options. If your prices change regularly on seasonal items or special dishes, simply add a notice that consumers should call in for latest prices or that online prices may not always be up-to-date.
Avoid small-print in menus: A varied menu requires space to present properly online. Don't reduce the font size just to save space. In both online and offline menus, the fine print on a menu makes for bad user experiences.
Provide menu items in English: Even if you’re a renowned French restaurant, your customers primarily speak English if you’re operating in an American city or English-speaking country. Make the choices clear for them by providing English names for entrees, as well as the French names.
Avoid scanned-image menus: While your print menu may be gorgeous, the design may not translate well in an online format. Scanning images from a printed menu to an online site causes problems with image quality and more. While Google makes text in images indexable via optical character recognition (OCR), posting text-heavy images from a menu might be more than the algorithms can handle. If so, the text will not be made available for a keyword search.
PDF menus are great: Google’s ability to spider PDFs is top-notch, and other search engines can do likewise. A PDF menu is desirable for consumers who want to print them or fax in orders for delivery.
Include your business address, phone number, and website link in PDF menus: Because PDFs often get saved onto other websites, it is essential to have your link embedded within it. Having the address and phone also helps provide reference citations for your business.
Avoid converting scanned menu images into PDFs: For the same reasons mentioned above for scanned images, merely converting a scanned image of a menu into a PDF will not solve the challenges that text-embedded-in-scanned-images create for search engines.
Additional PDF menu optimization tips: For best results, include having ALT text for images, hyperlinking logos, and adding keywords and other items to the document meta-data. PDFs may be optimized like HTML documents, so familiarize yourself with the methodology to maximize your ranking potential.
List daily specials on your menu: Because coupon-related searches are popular, all related searches for discounts, special deals, and other promotions will improve your chances of getting consumers to choose you instead of other restaurants. It is wise to list happy hours, special rates, theater menus, tasting menus, etc.
Limit any special rules, exclusions, and warnings: Abolish “split plate” charges, minimum purchases, and other practices and terminology that is not customer-friendly. If you’re really concerned about losing margin, adjust your prices. Appearing more friendly to consumers will benefit you.
Provide multiple menu pages: There are no space limitations for online menus. Take advantage of that. Providing more detailed information can only help you! Be sure to stress unique features your offer: locally-grown ingredients, organics, special diets, & and more. Also provide specific menu pages for salads, appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts, drinks, poultry, seafood, pasta, beef, lunch, brunch, dinner, and special holiday meals. Enabling all this to be spidered will expand the keyword terms by which interested foodies find your website and your restaurant.
Distribute your menu via online sharing services: Dotmenu is an online service that feeds into Google and many other partners, so adding your menu into their database will increase your distribution.
In today's business culture, ignoring the technical design of menus works to the detriment of a restaurant owner. For maximum impact, your information must be able to be spidered by search engines to give you a leg up on the competition and expand your visibility for customers trying to find you.