Following on from last month’s article on website design for booking conversions, this month I’ll be explaining how to ensure your website is as visible as possible to search engines. Marketing has evolved over the last decade as Search Engines such as Google enable you to place your business directly in front of people who are actively looking for what you provide. This is a very direct approach and is a highly cost effective way to communicate with your potential customers.
SEO Vs SEM
Search Engine Optimisation or SEO are the techniques that can be used to enhance where you appear in the organic search results. These are the main results that appear when you perform a search on Google. Also appearing on Google search results on the right hand side of the page are little adverts relevant to your search query. These are paid adverts, referred to as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) and I’ll discuss these in next month’s Eat Out.
It’s All About Keywords
Keywords are the key, if you’ll pardon the pun, to SEO. The first step in any optimisation campaign is to work out the search terms that you would like to be found for. Don’t be greedy, just list the top ten words most relevant to what you do, such as your location, the type of food & products you sell and any special events you cater for. These are the words that you will incorporate into your website to try and ensure you appear near the top of the list of results for.
Be Important to Google
All Google is ever trying to do with search results is to provide the most relevant results for any given search term, or keywords, at the top, in order of importance. Search Optimisation techniques are used to help Google consider your site to be the best result. Google assesses websites by sending little pieces of crawler software through the internet, called Spiders (Spiders searching the Web, geddit?). These Spiders look through your website and report back to Google with information about your site. Spiders can read text on your site (clever little critters), follow links through, to and from your website and examine your headings and titles. The more it finds the keyword search terms that are relevant to you, the higher you will be ranked for those terms.
But be warned, clever though they are, Spiders do have their limitations. One of the largest barriers to Search Spiders is Flash animation, which some websites are built in. Though Flash can produce good special effects, Spiders can’t read it or follow it, so any content in Flash such as text and navigation links can’t be assessed, so won’t help your search results.
Feed The Spiders
The art of SEO rests with making sure the Search Spiders keep coming across the keywords that you wish to be found with. Use these keywords in your page description (the title you see at the top of your browser), your various on-page headings, in your internal link names and in your copy text. Be careful not to over-use them in your copy, it must still sound natural, just peppered with your top keywords. Feed the Search Spiders with your Keywords and they’ll run back to Google with a glowing report!
The other main assessment criteria that the Search Engines consider is how well connected your site is to other websites. If you seem to have lots of friends and are well linked to many other sites then Google thinks you’re pretty important, and ranks you higher. This is particularly effective if the websites that link to you are relevant to your site, for example restaurant review sites, news sites, local restaurant information pages and the like are all good for restaurant SEO. The larger your network of connections, the more the Spiders are going to come across you, so it’s worth spending the time building links with other good websites. An effective technique is to write blogs and articles which then link back to your site, for example you could post a recipe on a local newspaper website if they agree to link back to your restaurant’s site.
It’s a worthwhile exercise to look at your current website with these techniques in mind. How frequently do your ideal keywords appear? Do you have lots of links pointing to you? Is your website clear and easy to use? Follow the suggestions here and you’ll quickly become easier to find on search engines which will certainly lead to more bookings.
First published in Eat Out Magazine Feb 2010