While any restaurateur (and most businesses for that matter) will likely agree that having a website is a necessity, many will be hard pressed to say the same thing for having an online restaurant marketing strategy. While having a website for your restaurant will give you an online presence, it’s hard to say how that presence will actually contribute to your business’ bottom line if the proper strategy isn’t in place to support it.
mark2marketing believes that far too many restaurants are under-utilizing their digital presences, either through receiving poor advice or simply no advice at all. Here is some simple advice that any restaurateur can take into consideration to strengthen their restaurant’s online marketing strategy:
Don’t Develop Your Restaurant’s Website In Flash
Flash is a great plug-in that has many practical uses, but unfortunately designing restaurant websites isn’t one of them. There are countless technical arguments as to why you shouldn’t, but what the main issues come down to are:
Have you ever arrived at a website, only to see this:
If you do manage to wait through the loading time, you are usually presented with a clunky page that doesn’t conform to standard HTML navigation – creating a disruptive & confusing user experience. While websites designed in Flash can look really appealing from a branding standpoint, if your visitors can’t navigate through your restaurant’s website, they can’t find the information they want – reducing the likelihood of an in-store visit. Functionality trumps design – always.
Most mobile browsers don’t support websites developed in Flash, so users using popular mobile devices such as iPhones & iPads won’t be able to access your restaurant’s website.
While it’s true that some devices (such as Blackberry’s) do support Flash, it still results in a poor user experience – there are enough problems navigating through a Flash-based website on a standard desktop, let alone a 3 inch screen. Even more crucial is that these mobile users are more likely to make an immediate dining decision, so not being able to access your restaurant’s website on their mobile device may be the difference between them eating at your restaurant or your competitor’s.
Flash isn’t inheritably ‘search-friendly’, meaning it’s harder for a website developed in Flash to rank for terms in search engine results vs. HTML (standard) websites. The algorithms (the formulas that determine how websites are ranked in search listings) used by Google & other leading search engines can’t interpret flash code as well as HTML code, meaning your restaurant’s website is at a disadvantage. Considering that search engines are key drivers of free website traffic, often referring new first-time visitors, you need to make your website as search-engine friendly as possible, giving yourself every advantage available.
Develop For Mobile
As we previously touched on, having a mobile compatible website is critical for successfully reaching your target audience. But it’s not just enough to have a mobile compatible restaurant website – your restaurant needs to have a mobile optimized website. The difference between the two is that a mobile optimized website is a version of your website specifically developed to be viewed over mobile platforms, rather than your regular website (which is meant to be viewed over a desktop).
A mobile optimized website is often a scaled down version of your standard website, including the most important info relevant to your target audience (eg. Menu, Location, Hours, Contact Info) formatted specifically for viewing over mobile devices. This results in a faster loading website & a better user experience, so your target audience can get key information about your restaurant, increasing the likelihood of a visit. Mobile visitors are more likely to make an immediate dining decision – by not supporting them you are putting your restaurant at a disadvantage.
Reaching Your Target Audience
Having a functional website that delivers a positive user experience & represents your restaurant is great, but if no one is visiting finding it – it’s pretty useless. Your restaurant website needs to not only attract traffic, but attract qualified traffic – visitors that are actively interested in what your restaurant has to offer, who are more likely to visit your restaurant.
You restaurant’s digital marketing strategy should use a mix of online marketing tactics – ranging from targeted search engine marketing (ads appearing in search engines such as Google for contextual terms, eg. ‘the best steakhouse in Toronto’) to Facebook Advertising, Banner Advertising, Email Marketing & Search Engine Optimization. You restaurant’s online marketing strategy should leverage the right balance of these tactics that best supports your restaurant’s goals & marketing budget. Whatever tactic(s) you do use in your restaurant’s online marketing traffic, it is critical that they are integrated with an analytics platform to allow you to monitor, evaluate & optimize their effectiveness. (Read more on the Importance of Analytics)
Functionality & Feature Set
How does your website contribute to your bottom line? Having the right feature set & supported functionalities is the difference between your website being an ‘online brochure’ or an active business asset. Direct commerce features such as online reservation systems & gift-card purchasing enables your restaurant website to directly contribute to your bottom line, while soft features such as 3rd party reviews, online video & Facebook integration help increase the reach & perception of your website. Knowing what functionality & feature set to include in your website is critical to your restaurant’s online marketing strategy.
To learn mark2marketing meal.time’s restaurant marketing strategies & how we can help your restaurant, please feel free to contact us today!