You’ve perfected your recipes. You’ve found beautiful packaging. You’ve built a website. The customers are just going to start flowing in, right? Well, they might — friends and family are always great customers for new, independent food businesses. To build a sustainable food business, though, you’ll need to find customers outside of your personal network.
One way to accomplish this is by optimizing your business’ appearance in online search. SEO can seem like a black box — something that only developers and marketing experts know. While there is a lot of terminology that you can get caught up in, there are also plenty of easy fixes that you can make to ensure that your business is getting in front of the right audience. We’ve compiled a list of seven easy ways to improve SEO for your food business below.
Remember when you were setting up your website, and you skipped over all of the nitty gritty SEO details because you were eager to jump into picking a template design? Well, I’m here to remind you that you should go back and make sure that all of your website’s meta tags are up to date with your business name and details.
According to Wordstream, “Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a page's content; the meta tags don't appear on the page itself, but only in the page's source code. Meta tags are essentially little content descriptors that help tell search engines what a web page is about.”
In other words, they help search engines understand what your website is all about. When Google (or any search engine) knows what your pages are about, it’s more likely to present your site to searchers.
So you’ve got a fancy ecommerce site for your food business. Customers can browse your menu, add items to your cart, use coupons, and check out on your website. That’s all great news, but what about everything else?
If you’re serious about driving traffic to your website, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How will you get in front of them? If your customers are looking for a cake maker in Indianapolis or a local pizza maker in Phoenix, one way to give your business more chances to get in front of customers is through content. Write a blog that includes a few keywords that you think customers would use to find you. If you’re a baker, maybe that would be “local wedding cakes in Indianapolis” or “best brownies in New Orleans.”
Create blogs, share helpful tools, build resources for others, or start sharing educational content around the topics that you want to show up for.
If you were in your customers’ shoes, how would you find your business? Just like in the previous point, you need to think like your customers. What are the specific needs that your business fulfills, and how can you connect those to the search terms that your customers are typing into Google?
There are a few different pieces of the search term puzzle. You might want to focus on product-specific terms, like “brown butter chocolate chip cookie,” or you might want to think about geographic terms, like “homemade cookies in Los Angeles.”
Think about the geographic area that you want to own (it might be a neighborhood, a county, a city, or an entire state). Then, if you’re feeling advanced, do some research on what keywords and phrases your audience uses. You can use a tool like Moz or SEMrush to do this research.
Own your local search profile. There are a plethora of local search tools and tips out there, but when you’re just getting started, it’s okay to start small.
Local search is all about using geographical constraints to make sure that you’re reaching the people close to your business. Local directories, social media sites, and other resources can influence your local search results, which is why it’s important to make sure that your business name, address, website, and phone number are accurate across the internet.
Google is the dominant local search tool, but Facebook and Yelp follow closely behind them. At a minimum, make sure that your business’ profile on each of these sites is updated regularly.
Whether you’re an active Yelper or someone who prefers not to share reviews publicly, reviews are huge for local businesses. Not only do they help build trust in the eyes of your customers, they also can improve the click rates to your website. When potential customers see that you’re a five-star business, they might feel more inclined to shop with you.
When you complete a customer’s order, ask them to leave a good review for you on your Facebook page, Yelp page, or your Google My Business profile. Make sure to respond to reviews as well, thanking them for the time they took to write a review.
Some cottage food operators or independent food business owners even offer their customers perks for writing reviews. Consider launching a social media campaign to encourage reviews in exchange for a free or reduced cost item from your food business’ website.
Google has confirmed that links and quality content have an impact on a website’s SEO. One way to start building links across the internet is by consistently sharing your website online. If you’re on social media, make sure that your food website’s link is a part of your profile. If you’re a part of a forum or message board, share your link there.
Mentions in the media or on other makers’ blogs can also help boost your website’s link profile. It’s important to focus on quality links over quantity — don’t get spammy trying to increase the number of links to your site.
The more consistent you are with your online presence, the better. One of the easiest ways to consistently share content and get your business name out there is with social media. In the kitchen working on this week’s orders? Snap a picture and post it to your business’ Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram profile. Did someone tag your food business in a post? Share it with a link that other customers can use to order from you. Social media doesn’t have to be a huge time investment, but being active (or scheduling posts ahead of time) can impact how you show up in search results.
Remember, SEO is a long game — you likely won’t see results overnight. By setting your business up for search success today, you’re improving the chances that your business will be successful in the future.
Want to learn more about search engine optimization for small food businesses? Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO has tons of resources and information on how to start improving your SEO.