Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the strategy of using tactics to get your website to rank as high as possible in Google’s search results. Appearing higher on the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs) can generate more traffic for your website and, ultimately, more footfall in your business.
Local SEO (as opposed to national) requires a more robust geographical approach, using local phrases and keywords and the correct set-up of Google My Business to target customers in your specific location.
So, let’s dive deep into why Local SEO is vital for your hospitality business and walk through the steps you can take to master your SEO strategy on Google.
Why is local SEO for hospitality important?
Most consumers turn to their mobile or desktop devices to search for local services, whether that be a hairdresser or your bar or restaurant. If your business is featured at the top of that search page, you have an advantage over your competitors and are more visible to those actively looking for your services.
The key to achieving that high ranking in search is understanding local SEO and deploying a number of strategies to make you more visible within the online community.
Let’s look at some simple areas you can focus on in the online space:
- Google MyBusiness (GMB)
GMB is the cornerstone of local SEO because it feeds the search engine results pages in various ways. This listing will pop up when a user searches for your business and features key business information, reviews, and photos. Keeping this accurately filled out and responding to reviews will make your online presence trusted, credible and prominent. Plus, it will ensure your appearance in other areas of Google, such as the Google Local Map Pack (see below).
- Google Local Pack / Map Pack
The Local Pack is a section that comes up in Google search featuring the top three local businesses for your geographical area and search term on a map e.g. pubs in Watford. These business listings include basic information including name, address and phone number. The Local Pack usually appears above organic search results so catches the eye immediately. You need to have populated your Google My Business profile before you can appear in maps.
- Google Maps
When people search for a business within Google Maps e.g. Miller and Carter in Sutton Coldfield, local results are shown as markers on the map and populated with information including address, customer reviews, contact information and ratings. Once again, you need to have populated your Google My Business profile before you can appear in maps.
Optimising your Google My Business listing
For the functions discussed above to work to your advantage, it’s vital that your Google Business listing is filled out correctly, uniformly and updated regularly. Imagine searching for a local restaurant and making your way there to discover that it’s not open or is closed for a refurb – the customer may then leave a negative review, which will be referred to by others using the same search terms.
Let’s walk through the optimisation process step-by-step and get your Google Business listing working for you!
- Create or claim your Google My Business profile.
- Add your business name, address and telephone number and ensure it’s consistent with your other online platforms, including your website and social channels.
- Choose a business category and keep it as relevant as possible. If you have a Mexican restaurant, opt for that category rather than just “restaurant’. If you offer delivery, then add this category as well.
- Add your opening hours and keep them updated where relevant, e.g. Christmas / bank holidays.
- Add a description of your services. For example, define the type of food you offer to provide clarity for customers (and Google), e.g. Mediterranean-inspired. Use relevant local keywords, but keep the text short and simple. Avoid keyword stuffing or your listing will be penalised by Google’s algorithm.
- Add high-quality imagery and video to your listing to help set your business apart from your competitors.
- Add tags that are relevant and will help customers find you.
- Ask your customers to leave reviews and respond promptly to new reviews, whether positive or negative. Over time, these will help your business develop credibility.
For even more information on getting your Google My Business up and running, you can access Google’s official GMB guide.
Generating online reviews
Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re searching for an Italian restaurant in the centre of Brighton. You search on Google Maps, and two businesses come up – one has a couple of 3-star reviews and a handful of poor images, while the other has almost 200 4-star reviews and a visually attractive listing. Which one are you going to visit?
That’s the crux of generating customer reviews on your Google listing. Furthermore, a business with many reviews mentioning the keywords you’re searching for will push it higher in SERPs.
Here are a few ideas for generating online reviews
- Ask the regulars
Don’t be afraid to ask your regular customers to leave a review for you. If they’re already invested in your business, they will likely be happy to leave a positive review.
- Add a Customer Reviews link to your booking email
If you have a booking system that sends an email to confirm a booking, add a link in the email asking your customers to leave an honest review. You can generate a link within your Google Business profile that directs users straight to the reviews section.
- Request reviews via social media
Again, use your social media channels to ask your followers to provide a review of your business. Use the link mentioned above to make the process as simple as possible for them.
- Showcase existing reviews to attract more
A simple screenshot of some of your latest customer reviews posted on social media will naturally put the idea in the minds of your followers and increase your chance of getting more.
- Create ‘leave us a review’ cards within your business
Print up some cards to leave within your business and include a simple link or QR code to make the process as easy as possible.
What about negative reviews?
You’ve got yourself a bunch of online reviews, but some of them mention negative points or experiences. There’s no need to panic, and you definitely shouldn’t remove it. Instead, respond calmly and honestly and show your future customers that you are a friendly and welcoming business that doesn’t lash out. Respond promptly, but take the time to investigate the issue and apologise if the fault lies with you.
Your business should respond to all reviews, positive or negative – even if it’s to say a quick ‘Thank you, and we hope to see you again soon’.
To conclude – what are the benefits of mastering local SEO for hospitality?
Optimising your business for Google Search is an ongoing process with many different elements to consider. You might wonder if the time you need to invest is worth it but consider how it can uplevel your trade and income.
- Increased online visibility
Quite simply, you are putting your business in the eyeline of those who are actively searching for it.
- Increased footfall
Naturally, showing our business in the best light to those searching locally for your services will result in higher footfall inside your premises.
- Great-value, targeted marketing
Compared to traditional advertising, working on local SEO is cost-effective, with a narrow focus on people already seeking you out.
- Advantage over your competitors
If there are 5 pubs or restaurants in your immediate area and your business is actively working on SEO, then you are one step ahead of those who aren’t doing the work.
- Increased credibility
Offering correct information, replying to reviews and updating photography will help build trust and credibility amongst the online audience.
- Benefit of reporting and analytics
You can gain valuable insights into how your business is performing online by monitoring your analytics. You’ll also identify where you can improve and what customers are looking for. We’ll get into this topic as our local SEO blog series continues.
Need some help with your local SEO?…
We understand that many businesses are time-poor, so if you need assistance getting on top of your SEO strategies, let’s get together and let our experts put the work in for you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to hear from you!