A busy restaurant in Columbus Ohio that used SEO

How to Do SEO if You Are a Mom and Pop Restaurant

By Daclaud Lee, SEO Consultant and AI Prompt Engineer. 

Why Does Your Restaurant Need SEO?

Whether you are a mom and pop restaurant or you’re an ambitious young person who wants to open up a restaurant, you are going to need customers. The best way to get more customers to your restaurant is through Google Search SEO. 

Social Media only works for for existing customers, and loyalty is important, but you want new customers who have never heard of your restaurant before. The only way to get new customers is to get your website ranked for keywords relevant to what your customer wants to eat. 

After you read this guide for SEO for mom and pop restaurants, you can take a look at some of The Best SEO Strategies for Restaurants to get a more in depth idea on how to do SEO.

Get Ranked for The Type of Cuisine Your Serve

The first thing you want to do is set up your category in your Google Business Profile.  Setting your Google Business Profile category is crucial for accurately describing your business and improving its visibility in local search results. Here’s how you can set your Google Business Profile category:

(I am going to have Chat GPT write this part since I don’t want to spend time looking for this information on Google’s official documentation). 

  1. Sign in to Google My Business: Go to the Google My Business website (https://www.google.com/business/) and sign in with your Google account.

  2. Select Your Business: If you have multiple locations, select the specific business you want to manage.

  3. Go to the Info Tab: Once you’re in the dashboard for your business, navigate to the “Info” tab on the left-hand side menu.

  4. Edit Profile: Click on the pencil icon next to the “Category” section.

  5. Choose Primary Category: Start typing to select the primary category that best describes your business. Google will provide suggestions as you type. Choose the most relevant category from the dropdown list.

  6. Add Additional Categories: You can add additional categories to further specify your business. Click “Add another category” and select relevant options from the dropdown list. Google allows you to select up to 9 additional categories.

  7. Save Changes: Once you’ve selected all relevant categories, click “Apply” to save your changes.

  8. Review and Confirm: Review your category selections to ensure they accurately represent your business. Categories should describe what your business offers rather than promotional phrases.

  9. Monitor and Update: Periodically review your category selections to ensure they still accurately reflect your business as it evolves. You can update your categories at any time by following the same steps.

Partner With Restaurant Ordering Apps and Delivery Services 

Partnering with restaurant ordering apps will help you with your SEO because their platform also serves as a search engine. 

Therefore, if your restaurant offers delivery with Door Dash, then you will be found by anyone within a set number of miles (you control this within your Door Dash account). In spite of the high commissions you have to pay out to Door Dash, this may be a great marketing and promotional strategy to get your name out there to potential customers who live outside of your immediate area. 

Do you want to know what online ordering systems are best for your restaurant?

Getting Backlinks For Your Restaurant’s Website

Backlinks for a brick and mortar location like a restaurant is not really that important (I would put it at a 2/10 in importance). Why? Because you already have a Google Business Profile. But it’s still something you can do. Here is an guide that tells you How to Get Backlinks For Your Restaurant.

Understanding How People Search for Restaurants

If you have a Chinese restaurant, then people are most likely going to be searching for “General Tso’s Chicken near me”. Make sure your website is optimized for that keyword (or whatever keyword you have on your menu.

How Do People Search for Something to Eat?

People search for something to eat by typing in what they want to eat. Unless you already know of a good restaurant, then you will probably be doing searches for the type of food you want to eat such as “General Tso’s Chicken near me”.

In order to rank for this keyword, you want to make sure that you have a page on your website about General Tso’s Chicken. 

Optimize Your Website By Creating a Page for Every Food Item

Optimize your restaurant website by creating individual pages for every food item on your menu. This approach not only enhances your online presence but also provides detailed information that customers seek. Each page should include a captivating description highlighting the dish’s ingredients, flavors, and preparation methods.

Additionally, ensure each item is accompanied by really nice photos that showcase its visual appeal and tempt potential diners. This strategy not only improves search engine visibility but also entices visitors to explore your menu further, ultimately driving more conversions and increasing customer satisfaction

Where to Source Pictures for Your Menu Items?

There are three ways to do this. We will start with the hardest and most resource intensive way first.

You can do this the old fashioned way with actual photos of your food, but I imagine that this will take forever and might turn into a nightmare of a never ending project (especially if you have an extensive menu). 

Another way is to use stock photos, but the problem is that these photos may not always look like the food that you serve. 

The third way is the best and that is to have AI create the photos for you!

Using Midjourney and AI Prompts for Your Menu

You can use AI image generators like Midjourney (which is free to use). Just use a prompt like “General Tso’s Chicken with only red and green bellpeppers and  red chili peppers” Or however you make it. The results would look like this image below.

General Tso's Chicken in Columbus, Ohio

Why Doesn’t My AI Generated Image Match My Entree?

But WAIT, that looks NOTHING like the General Tso’s chicken that I serve at my restaurant. I don’t use scallions or sesame seeds, nor do I use that type of plate. If that is the case, then you will need a more specific prompt. Don’t panic. We can fix that! You just need to use a more specific prompt. 

Using More Specific AI Prompts for Your Menu

NEW Midjourney Prompt: “General Tso’s Chicken with only red and green bellpeppers and red chili peppers. No sesame seeds and no scallions. On a plain white oval plate.”

General Tso's Chicken in Columbus, Ohio

The new prompt tells Midjourney to remove the sesame seeds and the bell peppers and to place the General Tso’s Chicken on a generic white plate (that my restaurant happens to use). 

Ad a Page on Your Website That Talks About The Dish

Now that you have your images, you will need to add a page onto your website that talks about the dish. Getting ranked for the dish in your area can either be easy or hard, depending on the competition. If your competitors are doing the same thing as you, then you will have to add more content to the page. You can write the content by describing the dish (the way you prepare it) and if that doesn’t work and you aren’t ranked high enough for “General Tso’s Chicken in Columbus, Ohio”, then you will need to add more content to the page. 

Do this by going into the history and origins  of the dish and what makes your special. Then add something about Columbus, Ohio to the page. 

How To Use Chat GPT to Add More Content to Your Menu Items?

Even if you’re not a writer, you can still use AI software like Chat GPT to create content for you. For example, I want to add a section to my General Tso’s page about the history of General Tso’s chicken in Columbus, Ohio.

Here is my Chat GPT prompt: Write a paragraph about the history of General Tso’s Chicken in Columbus, Ohio

And here is what it gave me:

“General Tso’s Chicken, a popular dish in Columbus, Ohio, has a fascinating history rooted in Chinese-American cuisine. Named after General Tso Tsung-tang of the Qing dynasty, this iconic dish is renowned for its crispy chicken pieces coated in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce. Although its exact origins are debated, it is believed to have been created in the United States by Chinese immigrants in the mid-20th century, adapting traditional Hunanese flavors to suit American palates. Today, General Tso’s Chicken remains a beloved menu staple in Chinese restaurants across Columbus, embodying a blend of cultural heritage and culinary innovation that continues to delight diners of all backgrounds.”

For a more detailed explanation, read: How to Use AI to Improve Your Website.

Offer Catering and Delivery To Improve SEO

As a mom and pop or independently owned restaurant, you may not have the corporate and franchise resources of having multiple locations. So getting known outside of your immediate area might be a challenge. Let’s take a look at a workaround this. 

Have a Landing Page for Every City You Want to Provide Catering and Delivery to

So let’s say, I am the top ranked Chinese restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, but now I want people in Dublin, Worthington and maybe even Marysville to know about my restaurant. The only way to do this is to have a landing page for every city. 

But Isn’t That Deceptive Because I Don’t Actually Have a Location There?

It is if you don’t provide the proper context. In order to get ranked outside of your location, you want to have a page titled “Chinese Food Catering in Dublin, Ohio” or Chinese Food Delivery in Marysville, Ohio” and then add a link to your delivery partner’s website as a call to action. Genius level thinking right? Do you want to talk about your SEO Strategy?

A door dash driver doing a delivery

Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Make Sure You Are Active on Google Business Profile

Customers will most likely find you first on your Google Business Profile. Therefore it is necessary to attach this email to your phone and make sure you are getting any notifications. This is especially essential when a customer gives you a review. Make sure to respond to the review no matter if it was positive or negative. 

Basic Tips to Optimize Your Google Business Profile

I asked Chat GPT to answer this just because I didn’t want to spend hours manually researching this. All of this is standard information that you can find on Google’s documentation, so it’s probably already out there anyways. 

  • Complete Your Profile: Ensure all sections of your profile are filled out completely and accurately. Include your business name, address, phone number (NAP), website URL, business hours, and relevant categories.

  • Verify Your Business: Verify your business with Google to establish credibility and unlock all features. Verification can typically be done by receiving a postcard at your business address or via phone or email for some businesses.

  • Add Photos: Upload high-quality photos of your business, products, services, and team members. Photos help customers understand what to expect and can improve engagement.

  • Write a Compelling Description: Craft a concise and informative business description that highlights your unique selling points, services offered, and what sets you apart from competitors.

  • Choose Relevant Categories: Select the most relevant categories that describe your business accurately. This helps Google understand your business and match it to relevant search queries.

  • Collect and Respond to Reviews: Encourage customers to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile. Respond promptly to reviews, both positive and negative, to show engagement and build trust with potential customers.

  • Post Regular Updates: Use the Posts feature to share updates, promotions, events, and other relevant information. Posts appear directly in your profile and can improve visibility and engagement.

  • Monitor Insights: Use Google’s Insights to understand how customers find and interact with your business. Monitor metrics such as search queries, views, and actions taken on your profile.

  • Optimize for Local SEO: Ensure your NAP details are consistent across all online platforms. Encourage citations and backlinks from reputable local directories and websites.

  • Use Messaging and Booking Features: Enable messaging to allow customers to communicate with you directly through your profile. Utilize the booking button if applicable to streamline appointment scheduling.

Reviews With Keywords Will Benefit Your SEO

What the customer writes will have effect on how your restaurant appears in Google Rankings. 

For example if a customer writes a review like this:

“This is the best Chinese restaurant in Columbus! I ordered the General Tso’s Chicken with an egg roll and it was absolutely AMAZING! The place is a hidden gem and it is my go to place for Chinese food! Highly recommended!”

In the above had at least 4 keywords mentioned in the review.  The more people who talk about how amazing a particular entree was, the better you will rank for that entree as a keyword. 

You can respond by saying:

I am glad you enjoyed our General Tso’s Chicken! Be sure to try our Orange Chicken or Sesame Chicken next time as they are very similar! We can even give you a free sample of our Crab Rangoon if you are willing to try it out!

With this response, you’ve added 4 additional keywords to your Google Business Profile results! 

How to Respond To Negative Reviews

I had Chat GPT write the bullet points, while I added the example below. Let’s say for example, a customer.

  1. Stay Calm and Professional: Begin your response with a calm and professional tone. Address the reviewer respectfully, regardless of the tone of their review.

  2. Acknowledge the Issue: Acknowledge the customer’s concerns and express empathy for their experience. Let them know that you appreciate their feedback and take their concerns seriously.

  3. Apologize and Take Responsibility: Apologize for the negative experience they had, even if you believe the situation was not entirely your fault. Taking responsibility shows that you care about customer satisfaction.

  4. Offer a Solution or Explanation: Depending on the situation, offer a solution to address their concern or explain any misunderstandings. Provide clear and factual information to clarify the situation if needed.

  5. Invite Offline Communication: Encourage the reviewer to contact you offline to discuss the issue further. Provide a phone number or email address where they can reach you directly.

  6. Keep it Concise and Professional: Keep your response concise and to the point. Avoid getting defensive or arguing with the reviewer publicly. Remember, your response is visible to potential customers.

  7. Monitor and Follow Up: After responding, monitor the review to see if the customer replies. If they do reach out offline, follow up promptly to resolve the issue.

  8. Highlight Positive Aspects: If possible, highlight any positive aspects of their feedback or mention improvements you’ve made based on their input.

Example Response:

“Thank you for sharing your feedback about our General Tso’s Chicken. We apologize for the experience you had with us. We strive to provide excellent service, and we regret that we fell short in this instance. Please contact us at [phone number/email] so we can discuss this further and make things right. Your satisfaction is important to us. Thank you.”

I think Chat GPT came up with a very good strategy. However, it wasn’t able to think outside of the context that you give it, so I added the part about General Tso’s Chicken since this also gives us another keyword to add to our numbers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether the review was positive or negative. Even a negative review that contains a keyword will be counted. 

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