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Ignore Local SEO At Your Own Peril: The Ultimate Guide To Local SEO For NYC Restaurants

by | May 3, 2019

Ultimate Guide To Local SEO For NYC Restaurants


As the age of digitization evolves, restaurants must find new ways to increase their digital footprint. Today, 51% of diners order food online at least once a week. For most restaurants, finding a way to direct these consumers to a personalized online portal is critical to healthy revenues in the digital storm, especially when 3rd party Uber-style platforms continue to cannibalize profit margins. That said, creating an effective online ordering portal in a market as competitive as New York City is a challenge in itself. So, if you’re in the market for new agile methodologies to leapfrog over your Big Apple competitors, check out our ultimate guide to local SEO for NYC restaurants below.

Why NYC Restaurants Are Unique

For NYC restaurant SEO, the answer isn’t as easy as following generic advice from “Top 10 Killer SEO Strategy” blog posts. Restaurants exist in a very niche space, and the way they drive traffic differs completely from that of an eCommerce brand.

In New York City, novelty (or even niche) can be the key to success. Consider the rise in experiential dining: customers increasingly look for restaurants that appeal to all of the senses. There’s The House Of Wax in Brooklyn, which features life-sized wax-work sculptures and death masks of famous (and infamous) celebrities. Meanwhile, customers share dining space with out-of-this-world characters like Tobias the Werewolf or Dreadmina the Vampire at the Jekyll & Hyde Club. Accordingly, something unusual occurs every 10 minutes at this spooky Manhattan restaurant. By necessity, NYC restaurants tend to set the world standard for experiential dining!

Understanding Local SEO

In plain language, local SEO is just SEO that’s been optimized for local searches. SEO (which stands for search engine optimization) is the combination of strategies, tools, and processes that go into helping your website rank on Google. Everyone wants to be Numero Uno on Google — that’s the goal of every business on earth.

However, one of the most common mistakes we see with restaurants is that they’re utilizing SEO strategies for broad rankings. Don’t get us wrong: equal emphasis should be placed on ranking well for general Google results. Nonetheless, a restaurant’s core clientele invariably relies on local searches.

The people who are searching for your restaurant already know what they’re looking for — you. However, customers searching for “chicken restaurant near me” are looking for ideas. These are the diners you want to attract (which is 61% of diners looking for food). Why? They’re in a state of flux but inclined to try something new. You want those diners to arrive at your restaurant and consume your delicious food. When they do, you’ll want to have the right systems in place to entice them back again and again.

All things considered, local SEO is how you get into those “chicken restaurants near me” results, and it’s how you’ll continue to thrive in the hyper-competitive NYC restaurant industry.

How Local SEO For Restaurants Works On Google

The bulk of this post is going to be focused on Google. Why? Because Google dominates 87% of the global search engine market. Basically, Google constitutes the Goliath of search engines, and it’s by far the most important place to focus in order to master local SEO for NYC restaurants.

If you search “chicken restaurants near me” on Google, you’ll see two lists of results.

The first is the local pack grouping. This is prime search engine real estate and where you want your restaurant to show up. These results show your restaurant’s ratings, reviews, hours, and location. Below the local pack listings, you get organic search results. Between the two, about 33% of clicks go to the local pack, while 40% goes to the organic listings. This means they’re both critical in terms of local SEO.

Making it onto the local pack listings or organic result rankings will net you the majority of your local NYC customers. Therefore, we’ll start by taking a look at that beautiful little local pack.

What Is Google’s Local Pack Listings?

Google’s local pack listing (playfully dubbed the “snack pack”) is a SERP (search engine ranking page) section showing a map and a group of 3 local businesses.

Note that the local pack listing originally included 7 businesses. Presently, you have to be on top of your game to make the 3- pack list.

The actual strategy for making it onto the local pack listing nearly mimics that for organic SEO. Although many blog posts say otherwise, the results speak for themselves. The main difference between the two is that you have to be on Google My Business to get into the local pack.

We don’t need to remind you that NYC is a hyper-competitive market. So, you’ll need to dig yourself into the trenches and prepare for a long-haul campaign. Also, these strategies aren’t necessarily forms of “growth hacking.” We’re simply going to share the basics for helping your restaurant dominate the local NYC SEO pack listings.

The Core Local SEO Strategies For Restaurants

There are three primary avenues for generating local SEO “juice.”

  1. Your website
  2. Local directories
  3. Social media

Let’s dive into each of these and talk about how you can use them to leapfrog over your competitors in the local search listings.

Optimizing Your Restaurant Website For Local SEO

Optimizing your website for local SEO requires you to tackle several components.

On-Page Content

To rank for those local searches, you need to have local relevancy baked into your website. This means adding local modifiers to your content and core pages. So, if your restaurant is located in NYC, be specific. It isn’t enough to include the words “New York City” on landing pages. As a matter of fact, your restaurant address and its exact location (region, state, city, and zip code) should prominently feature on your website, as well. This also means that you should use local keywords in both web and blog content.

Here’s another critical tip: create a different page for every restaurant. If you own a chain of restaurants, you want each restaurant to have its own page. In fact, giving each restaurant its own website would be best. Why? Specifically, if your restaurants share the same pages, Google crawlers (programs that scan websites) will get confused, and you’re probably only going to rank for one or two of your restaurants.

The Technical Aspects Of Local SEO For Restaurants

The technical aspects of your restaurant website are all of the components that make it run smoothly. This includes security features, fast loading speeds, mobile-friendly optimization, responsive design, and elements that promote a positive user experience(UX). In other words, anything other than content. If your website has a security issue or poor loading speeds, your rankings are going to suffer.

Here’s how important all of these technical aspects are.

  • A speed delay as minute as 100-milliseconds can drop your conversion rate for diners by 7%!
  • 79% of diners who have technical issues with your website NEVER return.
  • 82% of people will leave a website that’s not secure.
  • Over 50,000 of websites get hacked every single day.
  • Over 60% of users won’t recommend a website to a friend if it isn’t mobile-optimized.
  • Given 15 minutes to consume a website, around 70% of people would rather browse a beautiful, branded website or portal than an ugly one.

Want to bake better technical features into your restaurant website?

Here are a few quick tips to get you started.

  1. Make sure that your website has an SSL certificate. If your website isn’t HTTPS-encrypted, Google will automatically warn users that your site isn’t secure. That’s a death sentence in terms of local search rankings.
  2. If you use WordPress (33% of websites do), then you NEED to procure some WordPress security elements. 90% of all vulnerable websites (that use a CMS) are WordPress websites.
  3. Make sure that your portal is branded for your restaurant. If you’re using 9Fold, this part is already taken care of. However, if you aren’t, you need a branded ordering portal. 70% of consumers would rather order directly from your restaurant than a 3rd-party provider. Additionally, they want your online portal to clearly display your restaurant brand identity.

Key Linking Strategies For Local NYC Restaurant SEO 

Good link building practices are key to local SEO dominance. In fact, ranking on Google is a basic combination of good content and impeccable linking mojo. However, you’ll need to use highly relevant, local links.

What does this entail? This means creating relationships with local sources, linking to those sources, and keeping all of your content locally focused.

Where can you find local links? Here are some stunningly simple resources available to New York City restaurants:

  • Your local NYC papers: ask food columns for a mention
  • Local NYC bloggers: ask food influencers for a relevant mention in blog posts
  • Local NYC events: participate to get a mention on community websites
  • Other local NYC businesses: pair up with complementary businesses to offer advertised discounts
  • Local NYC charities: donate food to get a mention on food bank websites

All in all, the options are limitless in NYC. Start connecting with your local area businesses, and your local link-building structure will seamlessly improve.

Why Your Restaurant Should Be On Google My Business

Without a doubt, your restaurant must appear in local directories in order to improve its Google ranking. This means putting your business on display on Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare. We won’t go into how to register and submit your restaurant for each of these. Instead, we’ll focus on the big one: Google My Business.

Having your restaurant on Google My Business isn’t optional. Without it, your restaurant will be relegated to the bottom of the local pack listing. So, let’s go over how to get your website on Google My Business.

How To Sign Your Restaurant Up For Google My Business

Once you sign up and read Google’s “Guidelines For Representing Your Business on Google” page, you’ll have to fill in some required information.

  • Business Name: Fill in your restaurant’s full name. Do NOT add any local keywords or anything else to this section. Just the name.
  • Category: All things considered, this one’s a little tricky. Avoid inserting “restaurant” (and nothing else) in this section. That’s a common mistake. Instead, include the type of food you serve (e.g., gyros, Italian cuisine, pizza, sandwiches, etc.) and then include “delivery” in the description. So, if you run a pizza delivery joint, reject “delivery restaurant” for “pizza delivery,” instead. That’s what the majority of customers are going to be searching for.
  • Pictures: You’ll want to add high-resolution pictures to this section. However, you’ll also want to monitor uploaded images. Why? You and restaurant employees aren’t the only ones who can add pictures to this section. Users can, as well. So, if someone adds an inaccurate menu option or explicitly rude photos, you’ll want to tackle them immediately. Also, it’s good practice to include a picture of your menu so that customers can get a feel for menu items and prices.
  • NAP data: NAP (or Name, Address, and Phone) data needs to be accurate. Always keep this info up-to-date, especially if you change numbers or add a new number.
  • Reviews: Since over 93% of customers use local reviews to aid in making a purchasing decision, make sure that you respond to both positive and negative reviews. The latter should be responded to in 24 hours if possible.
  • Verification Process. Remember to verify your Google My Business page by requesting a verification postcard at the end of the setup process. Google will send a five-digit code, which you’ll need to enter into your Google My Business page. Without this last step, your restaurant won’t feature as a local listing.

Social Media And Its Surprising Link To Local SEO For Restaurants

The final ingredient to a killer local SEO strategy for your restaurant has to do with social media. We have many posts centered around restaurants using social media. In fact, it’s an important aspect of restaurant digital marketing. However, optimizing social media for local pack listings can be a challenge.

At its heart, social media needs to be approached as a brand. As with any brand, you’ll need to keep a consistent tone and inspire engagement. This means being an active part of your community. So, support local events and talk about other restaurants in NYC. Do you have any insights into these businesses? Remember to stay upbeat and positive in tone and content. Aim to educate your customers.

You’ll want to become a local authority on social media. How this plays into SEO is complicated. Google’s algorithm definitely takes social media into account, but it does so indirectly. All things considered, quality social media content often earns more backlinks. By extension, the extra linking juice boosts local list rankings.

Check out some of our other social media posts for more great SEO strategies for restaurants:

Summarizing Our Ultimate Guide To Local SEO For NYC Restaurants

Let’s do a TLDR (too-long-didn’t read) summary of everything we’ve covered so far:

  • Google has two primary methods of ranking locally — organic search and local pack listings. You’ll want to rank on both.
  • Your local SEO ranking results from a combination of your website’s content, local directory listing, and social media engagement.
  • Make sure that you use local keywords for web content and that you create a unique page for each restaurant (with unique NAP data).
  • Your website should be fast, mobile-friendly, brand-driven, and well designed.
  • Link to other local businesses and local events to increase local visibility.
  • Sign up for a Google My Business listing.
  • Use social media to engage your customers and promote your restaurant.

Considerations For SEO In 2019 And Beyond

In 2020, Google will begin using a key factor in determining local rankings. That factor will be entity authority, which is based upon the level of consumer engagement and brand mentions by consumers. At 9Fold, we’re prepared: our social engagement tools can help in reputation management and by extension, boost your local SEO rankings.

Another key consideration is the hijacking of local business listings. Every day, we come across restaurants with “hijacked” local business listings and online ordering pages. Our customer success team tackles this as part of our on-boarding process so that your customers know where to order.

Once you start pulling in local diners, you’ll need a well designed, easy-to-use, dynamic, and functional online ordering portal. 9Fold delivers an incredibly powerful and simple online ordering portal that’s hyper-branded so that you can focus on what you do best — making delicious food. Don’t let 3rd party apps eat away at your margins. Rank locally and beat your competitors at their game. To learn more about our online delivery solution, contact us today, and we’ll get you started on the road to success.

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