I’m helping my friend Tom Sciortino promote Wild Sage Bistro online. Wild Sage is one of the best restaurants in Spokane serving an American Bistro fare that is fantastic. The reviews, awards and social chatter support how great the restaurant is, but Tom wants to improve his website and amount of business he gets through his online presence.
I’m going to chronicle the research, steps and results of our program. This post outlines the strategy and game plan for a local, independent restaurant using the internet and mobile to improve online visibility.
Step One – Establish Metrics for Success and Where you are Now
One of the biggest mistakes I see small business owners make is not understanding their key metrics. At the end of the day, you have to have an idea of what works and what doesn’t when you spend resources and the only way to really understand that is to have some some basic measurement in place.
Key metrics that restaurants tend to care about from a marketing perspective include the number of people coming through the door and amount of revenue driven. These are not metrics you can get from your website, however there are several important website metrics that indicate success that drives people to your restaurant and bar. Here are the critical ones to track – more info on how to do this next:
- Total visits – how many times people visit your site. The more times people visit, the more interest in your establishment, the more interest the more reservations.
- Total visits by source – critical for understanding which online sources: Google, Yelp, Facebook, Restaurant Associations, Emails, Paid Search campaigns, etc. drive traffic to your site. As you invest time and/or money in these channels, keeping an eye on how this traffic changes (hopefully improves) is a good indicator of success (or not).
- Total reservations or calls from the website – one tactic I really like is to have a unique phone number on the website and/or a form that generates and email that you can track back to the website.
- Track reservation source – have the front desk note the source of each reservation that comes in – this can be really simple – an then summarize in a spreadsheet by day (and by shift if you want). When a reservation is taken, a quick “we look forward to seeing you – and how did you hear about us?” will help tremendously.
- Total reviews of your restaurant – Positive/Negative/Neutral – word of mouth is critical to the success of independent restaurants. Creating a way to “listen” to what your customers are seeing online is important to managing and building your online reputation.
- Search Engine Rank for Critical Keywords – A high rank in Google for critical keywords such as “Best Restaurant in <your city>”, “<city> restaurants”, Thai Restaurants (or whatever your flavor is) drives site visits and visibility. Understanding where you rank is an important baseline metric.
- Rank in Social Review Sites – Where does your site rank in Trip Advisor for Restaurants in Spokane? Wild Sage is #4 and our goal is to get to #1. Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, Yelp and CitySearch all have reviews and some form of rankings.
There are a ton more metrics you can track which will be covered in an advanced metrics post but these are the good ones to start with. In future posts, I’ll discuss specific tactics to improve those metrics.
Here are the resources to capture these metrics:
Google Analytics – a free web analytics program that is full featured and will give you more information than you thought possible. Create a Google Account with an email that you are comfortable using for a multitude of Google products including: Analytics, Webmaster Tools, Google Places, Adwords (pay per click search), Feedburner and more.
BrightLocal.com – you can get a free 30 day trial of local search engine checking for a small group of keywords.
Non-Personalized Search Results – When checking your own ranks in Google, Bing and Yahoo (in the town where your restaurant is) it’s important to de-personalize the search results as engines use your personal search history to fine tune results. So, using the Chrome browser, fire up an incognito session and do the search. In Firefox, start a private browsing session. In Explorer, click on Safety and then InPrivate browsing.
Twitter.com – There are lots of social media tools set-up to help with “listening” for what people are saying about your brand. Using Twitter.com to search for you restaurant name is free and as good as any. Plus you can follow people who are talking about you.
So, there is the first part of this series. Please shoot me any updates, questions or clarifications.
Next Post in the Promoting Local Restaurants Online Series – Step Two – Tune Up Your Website
Philip Hallstrom says
For a business that is just getting started — perhaps they don’t even have Google Analytics setup — how long would you recommend they simply “sit and collect” data to get their initial baseline? Couple of weeks? A month?
Two weeks is ideal, especially if the business has been running for a while. Two weeks gets you two full cycles of weekdays and weekends. For brand new business, since the initial traffic is so low, any marketing push is going to goose your numbers so baselining is tough early on.
Thanks for your great insights, Scott! I think that restaurants should have compelling stories tell online. Customers need to have a reason to listen to you, and I think a lot of managers just talk about what they think is important. To build stories that matter, I think hosting a local fundraiser is a great way. Have people come to your restaurant for one social purpose, and you will win a lot of attraction. Hosting fundraisers is no longer a hassle, because there are websites like groupraise.com that connect you to your community online.
By letting people know online about what you do for the community offline, you will be able to win a lot of loyal customers, who will matter in the long run.
What do you think?
Totally agree Sean. Local businesses, restaurants in particular, are personal connection businesses. The more you feel connected to the chef, owner, environment, other people in the space – the more you will return and TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Stories on how the food is concepted, sourced and prepared is one great way to connect with your audience.
Thanks for the comment!