A Brief Keyword and Content Guide for Restaurant Marketing

seo.jpgUsing these SEO tactics will help restaurant websites rank for a larger volume of keywords and develop more original content.

Restaurant marketers and brand managers obsess over variations of the question “Why isn’t my website ranking better?”. As a result, they are blind to the fact it misses the breadth of opportunity that SEO is built to capture.

For example, a brand manager might fixate on ranking for “Boulder Tacos.” They can certainly work to rank for that term, and over time they might actually rank and consider their SEO efforts successful. But think about all the keywords they missed.

It’s like commercial fishing with a spear and a snorkel.

In my experience, it’s best to develop a keyword and subsequent content net based on the following buckets:

1. Branded Terms – If your site was built with any technical prowess, and you’re not locking up branded terms in images and logos, these rankings should come easy. These terms are obviously the name of your restaurant, but should also include variations. Think IMM, IMM Bar, IMM Bar and Grill, IMM Restaurant, IMM Grill, IMM Food, etc. These days, Google is pretty good at contextual search, so don’t feel like you need to include all of these terms together. If your brand guidelines state that your restaurant should only be signaled a specific way in copy, that’s fine. Just be sure to include other keywords in close proximity (same paragraph, page, etc.).

Keyword example: Chili’s.

  1. Local Intent – A lot of restaurant searches have local intent. Have you ever looked for a good restaurant in a new city? Have you ever searched for a good sushi place? The behavior generally involves a combination of “city” + “keyword” or “keyword” + “near me”. A lot of restaurant websites miss the mark here. They focus on the food but less on the community. So, it’s important to have content both about your services, as well as the city and neighborhood you serve (maps, parking directions, address, things nearby, etc.). Obviously, it’s also helpful to have a local listings management platform, especially if you have multiple locations.

Keyword examples: Boulder BBQ, Boulder Steakhouse.

  1. Restaurant Category – It’s important to execute keyword research around what type of restaurant you’re marketing. For example, a BBQ restaurant has a group of closely related keywords: “BBQ,” “barbeque,” “smokehouse,” “pit bbq” or “smoke shack”. Figure out what keywords have the best opportunities and develop content around those keywords. Make sure you’re using related keywords naturally throughout that content.

Keyword examples: Smokehouse, pit bbq, smoke shack, barbeque.

  1. Menu Items – Most restaurants miss ranking opportunities around their menu items, simply because they don’t have enough content for each item. If you have regular menu items, it’s a good idea to give each item a unique page, with images, videos and quality content. If we expand upon our BBQ example, this tactic gives a restaurant a better shot at ranking for terms around ribs, brisket, BBQ pork, etc.

Keyword examples: ribs, brisket, BBQ pork, cornbread

  1. Happy hours/specials – While the competition is generally high around happy hour terms, most restaurant websites don’t have dedicated content. Instead, there might be outdated specials or happy hour times on an hours section of the homepage. If you have a great happy hour, write about it.

Keyword examples: best happy hour, “brand” + happy hour, “city” + happy hour.

  1. Delivery/To-go – It’s not enough to add a note to the top of your website that says you have delivery. Devote a page to it. Answer common questions users might have and do everything you can to keep engagement high.

Keyword examples: “city” + delivery, “brand” + to-go, “category (bbq)” + “delivery”

So, the moral of this story is don’t go keyword fishing with a spear and a snorkel. Cast a wide net and remain open to variety of flavors.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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Use Your Restaurant Marketing to Stand Out Amongst Competition

Competition.jpgSet your brand apart from your competition by creating commercials that include more than just shots of food.

It’s not hard to miss the recycled ingredients of the usual CDR commercials: sizzling close-ups of slow-mo food porn, diverse groups of hysterical folks having the most fun they’ve had in 25 years and a touch of a super-caffeinated voice actor. But let’s dissect this recipe and look at exactly why it’s hurting CDR. Let’s also examine the standout fast casual star and why CDR should take notes.

To understand the formula, let’s play a quick game called Whose Commercial is This?


It’s a pretty tough game, right? For those keeping score that’s Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback, TGI Fridays and Olive Garden.

And seasoned CDR advertisers could likely spot the subtle differences from these frames. Some might even stress the importance of this type of marketing. We know, for example, that showing images of food increases intent to visit scores. We understand that CDRs need to retain key customer segments, while attracting younger audiences. Ultimately, the challenge is that messaging has to have the widest appeal possible.

But these types of commercials raise a few problems…

For traditional TV marketing, it makes sense for spots to have the widest appeal possible, especially when the primary key performance indicator is reach. But in the world of digital and streaming devices, where surgical targeting is available, these ads make less sense. But over and over, we see TV spots recycled for digital and this is tanking more accountable KPIs like engagement, completion rates and online orders.

Some CDR leaders are beginning to understand the dilemma.

“Over time the category advertising, casual dining advertising in particular, started to blend and look very similar,” said Chili’s SVP/Chief Marketing Officer Krista Gibson in a recent AdAge interview. “Lots of shots of fresh ingredients and lots of shots of food. We just felt like our creative and our campaign wasn’t breaking through.”

As a result, Chili’s recently differentiated their hero campaign “Fresh is Happening Now” for “Chilin’ Since ’75,” a campaign that rides the feel-good wave of the ‘70s and moves away from food glamour shots.

Chipotle takes it a step further – their commercials don’t feature food at all. For the most part, they lean heavily on animation rather than film, and their digital content is built for digital only – not an overweight Frankenstein TV spot trying to fit into a well-targeted digital campaign.

Set your brand apart from competition by creating commercials that include more than just shots of food.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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How Can Small and Regional Restaurant Marketers Compete With Big Chains

Teenage friends having fun at the coffee shopHow a smaller restaurant can market in ways that are smarter, nimbler and break through the clutter of national chains.

In the cutthroat world of food service, there are so many factors in which you must compete: food quality, service, atmosphere, price, location and more. In many of these, the small restaurant group owner can compete with the big guys. They can control the quality of their dishes, the training of their staff, the look and feel of their restaurant and the value they provide.

However, there are two key areas where the small chain doesn’t stand a chance against the big guys – the sheer volume of menu innovations and sales promotions – both keys to getting butts in seats.

The bottom line is that the big chains are simply better funded and better structured to get the word out and implement both.

But how can a small group compete product by product and promo by promo? They can’t, so don’t.

Keep your menu innovations and promotions fewer and more considered. Being small may have its drawbacks, but it also has tremendous advantages. For one, it allows you to take full advantage of local culture and local agriculture.

Local Menu Innovations

For food innovations, it’s fairly obvious – take advantage of local crops and the times in which they’re freshest. For instance, a small chain of a half dozen full service restaurants in Colorado focuses its menu innovation around harvest time – in the late summer. They add items that include Rocky Ford melons from the eastern plains, Palisade peaches from the western slope and Olathe corn from the southwest.

These are opportunities that a Chili’s, TGI Fridays or Applebee’s could never compete with. It gives a small chain not only an opportunity to offer something completely different, it also reinforces the local nature in customers’ hearts. It reminds them that you are part of the community.

Meaningful Promotions

Your promotions can work in very much the same way. Recognize and celebrate the local flavor and culture in ways a chain cannot.

Run these promotions only a few times a year to make sure you can fully support them through both paid and unpaid media. And with both promotions and innovations, keep them consistent from year to year – it’s not about volume, it’s about building a relationship with your customers based on traditions and memories – like the Harvest Days promotion mentioned above, or an MLB Opening Day promotion that happens every Spring.

So perhaps forego Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, National Sewing Machine Day, Old Rock Day and Static Electricity Day (you get the picture). Instead focus on holidays and times of year that are meaningful, memorable and, most of all, ownable.

So, it’s true that small restaurants can, indeed, compete with national chains. But they must do it on their terms and only with a sustained, consistent effort that leverages their natural and cultural advantages.

About Gina Lee De Freitas

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
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