Hong Kong is a place spoiled by the sheer number of restaurants, bars and night clubs. Some come and go, others last for decades. Over the web, they’re also among the most sought after. As search engines offer more facilities for users to access (maps, reviews, etc), the need to be more visible on search engine results has now become as important as ever. Equally important is the website’s ability to provide what visitors are looking for, hence the likelihood of an online booking or a physical visit.
A personal favorite: A Pho 24 beef bowl in Ho Chi Minh.
Since stiff competition will always pose as a challenge to new players (and even to veterans), hopefully the following tips would be considered by restaurants, cocktail bars and clubs considering a website revamp.
Avoid Flash-driven navigation
I think there is this usual affinity of food-related websites for Flash elements. Back in 2004, we built a website for a Moroccan restaurant, and Flash was a popular decision. While Flash may help set the tone as to how a visitor should think about the brand, it may also bring along drawbacks that keep the website in relative obscurity to search engine users. Sure, there are ways to make Flash search engine friendly (and have kept Peninsula high on search results), but most implementations I see don’t follow the methodology. Hence, the less than impressive results. As I’ve often mentioned in other discussions, Flash can be useful within certain sections of the site such as photo gallery, but don’t build navigation links within Flash as it restricts access of search engines within the site.
I need to upgrade my Flash version, eh? You’re telling me Igor.
Include links to food menus in the homepage
Two of the most common reasons people visit a restaurant website is to look for the address and look for the menu. By including both in the homepage may increase bounce rate. But as long as the reason behind it is that visitors found what they’re looking for, that’s fine.
Including links to food menu on the homepage not only teases visitors to have a look further, it also opens up an opportunity for search engines to directly go to a menu page, without passing through traditional pathways such as top-level navigation or footer links. This can be implemented by offering featured menu, soup for the day or daily lunch or dinner promotions.
HTML text version (not scanned JPEG or Flash) menu listing
It’s easier for people to find web pages on search engine results if these pages contain text content instead of embedding them into Flash or image. Therefore, it is recommended to use an HTML text version of menu items, instead of fancy Flash elements. Otherwise search engines won’t be able to read our menu very well.
Photos next to Xi Yan’s menu offer tempting treats. But you’ll find this only after several clicks from homepage
Add URLs and restaurant address on menu PDFs
It’s fine to use PDF version of a menu available for download since Google already supports PDF on its search services. But sometimes restaurants fail to capture an opportunity: they fail to include website address or restaurant address in the menu. When the menu is downloaded to someone’s desktop, it may become untraceable where it came from.
Pho 24 Hong Kong‘s menu PDF does not include physical address or website address
The lack of such information could prompt people to search for it online. If they found our site, then it’s a desired happy ending. If they found a competitor ranked more prominently than our site, it’s one opportunity we allowed to slip away.
Include ‘restaurant coupon’ promotions
One incentive to heading to a restaurant or bar is to offer attractive deals, just like AsiaXpat’s Super Mondays where two for one dinner promotions take place. Similar offers can also be done such as Pepperoni’s Pizza Mondays (HK$10 for New Orleans pizza!) or serial coupons by bakeries or fast food outlets. One reason to use restaurant coupons? The keyword demand for ‘restaurant coupons’ appear to be growing over the years.
Segment menus into different groups
There are different ways to look for something. When it comes to dishes, it could also be the same. Use the name of the dish, its alternate name or ingredients. The nature of long tail phrases exist because of this seemingly endless combination of keywords to locate the same thing. Grouping a similar set of offerings (vegetarian, salads, desserts, drinks) may be helpful through an SEO methodology called siloing.
In a directory silo, relationships between pages are created by grouping like- content pages under a single directory. The names of the pages help to focus the subject matter of the directory. The theme of the directory is tied into the directory structure itself.
When someone searches for Captain Jack Sparrow cocktail drink, we optimize our site so would reach that specific page. If he’s looking for cocktail drinks as a general term, our best bet is the directory page consisting of Captain Jack Sparrow and others like tropical dream, mandarin sunrise, flaming sambuca and others.
Information about founders, chefs and awards
Sometimes a restaurant is popular not just because of the food it serves but also because of the popularity of its founders. If Jamie Oliver opens a new Italian restaurant in Hong Kong, his name definitely adds allure to the restaurant’s presence. Michelin awardees Yung Kee and L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon can certainly flaunt these world-class accolades as a way to attract the discriminating taste of some.
L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon can promote itself through its highly-regarded Michelin awards.
Google Maps profiles
Don’t forget to submit listings on Google Places. This helps optimize our restaurant listings on Google Maps. And if you need to relocate elsewhere, update this profile listing as well.
Place customer testimonials
Although a bit less credible than word of mouth or even a third-party dining review guide, placement of genuine customer feedback helps visitors understand better about the restaurant. If our restaurant may be popular with a certain dish, but its ambiance and service staff is even more impressive, something outsiders are not yet aware of. That builds a case for an enticing restaurant to come to.
Price information is important to visitors especially for newcomers because it gives them idea how much they are going to spend for a visit and be able to make guided decisions on where to have dinner. Others may be more subtle on pricing but that may be part of their positioning. For example, would I like to get a burger at Burger King or Triple O? Since pricing may vary, a small note about its subject to change is a good addition if a price range is not quite appropriate. We don’t want to tell customers that our prices have soared and that the website needs a thorough update.
Clean layout by Triple O makes a case to attract burger lovers, but its Flash homepage may impact on its search engine visibility.
Include a generous number of photos
Search engines don’t only display web pages on search results; a search for ‘foie gras’ might also yield a photo from our foie gras menu page. So the more photos we have, the more opportunities we place ourselves on search results. Of course relevance plays a role: naming of image, labeling of image, alt text of image and text surrounding the image will convey signal to search engines whether the photo is really about foie gras or not.
Implement basic SEO
Basic SEO practices include placement of custom keyword-rich titles and emphasis on keywords within page content, something that’s easy to implement. Yet some restaurant websites fail to do this during the web development stage.
If the restaurant’s name is El Cid, it makes sense to use El Cid as page title and include the restaurant name within the URL structure.
Covering this basic checklist will help search engines understand our sites better and hopefully do us a favor in return.
Simple, clean and straightforward layout by Mix.