Back in the day (like 5 years ago) when websites were built, there was a pattern of consumer behavior that existed and that the websites were designed to engage with.  People would “google” a brand to find out more about them and where their locations were.  They would use the brand main webpage to search through the locations and find the one nearest them.  Local facebook pages were the key at that time to gaining traffic looking for nearby options and a great way for restaurants to advertise locally.  Not anymore.

We all know that Google is in the game to win, and always have been.  So when they saw facebook and other social media giants gaining traction with local pages, they set out to stop them by making Google My Business pages a key component to convert local search traffic and drive business.  We all know that what Google wants, Google gets, because they are, well, Google of course.  So instead of fighting anything they do, it’s best to play along and play by their rules.  Start by implementing best practices shared here: https://gatherup.com/blog/google-as-the-new-home-page/ . Then once your GMB pages are looking perfect, optimize or create your local landing pages as the “website” that GMB pages takes people to.

Before your build or optimize your local pages, there are a few key things to make sure are taken care of “under the hood” of your website and your local page template.

  1. Verify your site is indexed (location pages on your sitemap), crawlable, and one canonical version

  2. Mobile Friendly- we will get into this more later as you choose WHAT to include on the local page, but mobile usability is absolutely crucial

  3. Site speed and page speed- Google doesn’t like slow sites

Then, if these location pages already exist, benchmark current data from Google Analytics, e-Commerce and SEO Keyword ranking for top keywords.  That way you will be able to see where you are currently, and where you have improved.

Here are some ways to make sure your local restaurant landing pages are optimized:

URL Matters:

When creating your local landing page URL, the suggested approach is to follow the USPS rules, as well as adding any other local terminology which people might use and would make sense for a URL. City, State.  For instance, if you are a pizza place and your name includes “pizza”, there would be no reason to add “pizza” to the URL.  If it’s not in your name, adding the word pizza might improve the chance that someone local would find you.  Each situation is different, and it’s a pain to change URL’s once they are set up, plus you lose any validity you have gained with Google, so figuring out site structure (and domain if you are just getting started) is critical before you start building.

Meta Data:

Just like you do on your main site, make sure your local page Metadata is optimized for traffic. Page title with location and primary keyword, description that entices people to choose this location, header tag with location and primary keyword. This should all be carefully crafted and thought through as its in essence the “front door” of your local business on Google.

Schema:

Add schema markup to each location page. There are multiple schemas available for Local Businesses that allow essential location information to appear in search results. Schema markup will guarantee Google and other search engines will crawl the location information you provide. Schema markup also offers additional visual impact to searchers, supporting click-through rates.  See https://schema.org/LocalBusiness for more info.  Once implemented, test them here: https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/

Content Is Key:

While we used to focus on landing pages simply being a place for people to bounce through on their way to order, and that is still a key component, the localized content has become key to driving organic local SEO and traffic.  According to Google, 88% of people who conduct local searches on their smartphones visit a related store within a week, so there is big money behind getting people to click on your page.  Now, the obvious approach would be to just put a TON of local content on the page, however, it’s also important to remember that most people are searching from their phones.  Having a clear, concise local landing page experience is important in order to still convert those people to purchasing.  Additional content may be further down the page, but should not affect load speed or mobile browsing experience to a detriment or will be doing more harm than good.

The Must Have’s:

Regardless of what you think you want on your restaurant’s local pages, there are a few that every one of them should have.

    1. Headlines and Sub Headlines with your most desired search terms: There are a number of tools you can use to research what people are searching for when looking for your restaurant. Selecting the right terms within your naming and headlines will immediately give your page traction.  Remember, Google WANTS people to find you, so when you help them do that, you win.

    1. Enough Information to prevent them from visiting your Brand Home Page: This will vary from brand to brand, depending on the recognition and menu type.  However, anytime people are clicking back to find the information they need, instead of forward to order, there are lost opportunities.  Information can come in the form of wording, visuals, or menu links, but the key part is that when landing on your page people know exactly what you provide and how to order it.

    1. Location and Hours (NAP): The two most searched things for restaurants are their address and hours.  These can be updated directly on each local page or, for larger brands, ideally should be an API feed from the ordering host or other place of record.  The local landing page should be the authority on this as far as Google is concerned, so make sure it’s brought in correctly and exactly as listed on Google.  Make sure the local phone number is highly visible, and clickable from mobile devices.

    1. A photo (preferably of the actual location): But at a minimum, of the outside of a typical location.

    1. Dynamic Google Map: Embedding a dynamic Google map will cost you a small amount per month but it’s worth it to provide the user experience

    1. Menu: Some sort of a menu link would be important because, well, you are a restaurant after all, but there are a number of ways to do this.  Link back to a parent menu on the home page, or link to the local ordering page.  It depends on your site structure and general customer journey.

    1. A clear call to action that stays at the top of the page: No explanation needed, this is always key.

    1. About: An SEO optimized Business Description should be contained (but not exactly the same as GMB) on each local landing page. A recent change by google penalizes people for repetitive wording, both in URL structure and on website headlines and tags.  The old game of just repeating the same words thousands of time was, a game, and Google has put a stop to it, so it’s important to be creative and fresh with your local landing page wording and most importantly, geo-targeted.

    1. Social Media Links: Let’s face it, there’s a whole generation that “gets to know you” by popping on your social media feed and checking out the amazing photos of your food.  So unless there’s something to be afraid of on your social media, include links further down on your page, so if people are still scrolling they know where to go if they want to really check you out

    1. The Footer (Junk Drawer): The junk drawer will be the place to link to all the sites on the main webpage that people might be looking for.  They are trained to go there for things like “contact” and “about” and would expect no less from your local landing page.  Once you determine what will exist there, you can then decide if you need those same things on the local page directly, or if the junk drawer is good enough.

Other things to consider for your page:

Each brand has different areas of their main website that really drive traffic.  Utilizing that information plus general brand knowledge of what people are truly looking for when they search for a local store will help you select the right pieces of the puzzle to complete your local page.  In no particular order here are some key pieces to consider:

    • Sign In/Sign Up: If your rewards or e-list is key and people can sign up from a local page, featuring that there or as a pop up would be an option.  If this happens on the order page, skip this from the local page.  Or if its not a huge priority but you want to include info, have it further down the page.

    • Order Options: With the Covid pandemic, this was key to restaurant survival, but the jury is still out whether it will remain a must-have long term. For now, letting people know you have takout, dine-in, curbside and delivery will likely be something you want to include somewhere on the page.

    • Features of the Location: Does your brand have varying features from store to store such as free wi-fi, different menu offerings, or drive-thru service, which would warrant this section (and do you have an easy way to tag which locations have which features.)

    • Featured Menu Items/Promotions: Whether an ongoing customer favorite, or a limited time offering, keeping content fresh is key.  This would vary depending on the set-up of your brand and if promotions are national or not

    • Delivery and Third Party Delivery: This would be a critical brand decision about if you want to promote third party platforms on your local pages.  On one hand, it could drive further conversion.  On the other hand, you make more money when you keep people ordering directly through you

    • Hiring: The level of needs for hiring and your process for getting people to the apply page will determine where this might exist, or not, on your local page.  This is likely to be a question someone might have so at the worst case, including it in your frequently asked questions with the correct answer of where to apply would be a good option

    • Nutrition: If nutrition or allergen information is not included on your ordering page, a link or FAQ for this would be appropriate

    • Contact: Many times when people are searching for a local location, it’s to provide feedback from a recent visit, and often they don’t want to talk to the local manager but someone further up.  Having a corporate contact link or as part of the FAQ could be helpful for your customers

    • Gift Cards: If gift cards are a big thing, each landing page might want to include a link to order them online

    • Fundraising: Many restaurants have extensive fundraising programs and embedding local language about fundraising could bring people directly to your page when they are searching for options

    • Nearby Locations (or view other locations): While Google is pretty smart, it doesn’t always get people exactly where they need to go, so someone may inadvertently land on the wrong store page.  The goal should be to keep them with the brand, either by listing nearby locations at the bottom of the page or a button that says “view other locations”.  Much of this structure will depend on your technological capabilities with GPS.  A simple way to also do this would be a navigation that is pinned right below the CTA buttons, clearly showing guests which location they are at, and how to find other ones.

    • Reviews: This can be a tricky one, but if you feel confident in your local reviews, embedding them or simply sharing 10 most recent amazing ones, can give guests a good reason to actually place that order

    • A Local Blog: Sure, you could push the national blog to the local pages, but Google’s recent changes that penalize redundant content would not make this a smart move.  If you are big, or small, enough to create locally relevant content, this would be a great thing to include.  Perhaps giving the local owner or manager a way to just post simple things about partnerships locally could be an option.  Or if local social media is utilized, this could be embedded in the page also.

When you Google various restaurant chains, you will see a number of various layouts for local pages.  Each chain is unique in its needs and offerings.  In addition, Google’s algorithms and rules change so quickly, there’s a good chance a number of chains have not optimized their local pages in years.  There is much to consider about how long it would take to updated truly localized content, vs. having a set template that, once set up correctly for each location, is only updated on a national level.

One thing is certain; when brands focus on dynamic, locally optimized landing pages for each location and stellar GMB profiles, the local stores win in the Google Restaurant game.

Tara Lindstrom

OneBiteMarketing.com