An American restaurant attempted to attract many new guests using a Google hack. It worked, but not quite as intended. What other restaurants can learn from it.
An Asian restaurant in New York chose the name 'Thai Food Near Me' to benefit from the frequent Google search term 'near me.' The founders hoped that by using this name, they would gain an advantage in Google rankings since the name precisely matched the search phrase (Thai restaurant nearby), as reported by The Verge.
New search function since September 2022
Google introduced a series of new features for Maps, Search, and Shopping in the fall of 2022, as reported by TechCrunch. The majority of these new features were unveiled during the Search On event in September and were subsequently rolled out gradually to users.
Since then, users can use the search to find their favorite dish in a nearby restaurant. For example, 'Truffle Mac and Cheese near me.' Subsequently, Google displays restaurants nearby that have this dish on their menu. Well, if it exists.
Plan succeeded due to backlinks
However, Google evaluates not only based on the name but also according to three main criteria: relevance, distance, and prominence. Relevance arises from the alignment of business data with the search query, while distance refers to the location of the searcher. Prominence is influenced by factors such as reviews and mentions on other websites.
There are already various businesses in the USA using the 'Near Me' naming convention. However, such names are not yet widespread among restaurants in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). A Google search did not yield corresponding results, indicating that such businesses may not adequately meet the criteria mentioned by Google.
So, the hitch is that the search algorithm cannot simply be tricked by the 'near me' name addition. Nevertheless, the restaurant has enormously benefited in terms of SEO. Countless media outlets have reported on the case and linked to the restaurant. This has provided many valuable backlinks, which in turn contributes to a good ranking.
What other restaurants can learn from this case
Trying to outsmart search engine algorithms usually works moderately, often backfiring. Instead, investing in search engine optimization to increase organic visibility is worthwhile.
Here are 5 ways how that can work:
1. Build a strong brand
Guests who remember the restaurant or hotel name often directly input it into the search engine. Therefore, it's essential not to let third-party booking portals take away the limelight in the digital world. For instance, by ensuring all guest communication occurs through platforms like OpenTable, Bookatable, or TripAdvisor. Instead, it's crucial for hospitality businesses to embody their brand throughout digital guest communication, embedding their own brand with a unique look and feel in their communication. Smart restaurant management systems like aleno assist in this.
2. Develop storytelling
It's worth creating not just a culinary offering but ideally an experience that people talk about. Those who manage to craft good storytelling around the food or the hotel not only enhance the memory of the experience but also make word-of-mouth propaganda more successful and impactful. It also increases the chances of regional media and trade magazines covering the story.
3. Keep the website updated
Regular updates on the website send positive signals to Google & Co, indicating activity within the business, thereby improving rankings. Whether it's blog posts, integration of Instagram photos, event announcements with descriptions, and more - content is king. Additionally, it provides material for newsletters. Email marketing remains an excellent means to encourage past guests for a return visit.
4. Gain backlinks
Encourage suppliers, local media, or magazines to feature the business and link back to the website, significantly enhancing its ranking, similar to the case of the Thai restaurant.
5. Use the right keywords
It's crucial to embed keywords on the website that potential guests would use to find it. Thinking it's obvious might be a mistake. Many restaurants might have their name well-anchored on all pages but might only feature their actual offerings, such as 'homemade ravioli with Grandma's pumpkin sauce,' in the menu as a PDF for download. Keywords can include cuisine type, location, special offerings, suppliers, chef names, family names, specialties, etc.
By the way, we also have 9 more SEO tips for restaurants and hotels.