7 SEO Tips for Bars

Implementing proper SEO strategies is imperative for anyone that owns a bar or restaurant. The local pub typically relies on local passersby who want to come in for a beer and wings or watch the game in order to generate consistent revenue on a day-to-day basis. That’s particularly true on weekends. Depending on local customers means focusing as SEO efforts locally and making sure that when people search for a fun place to eat and enjoy an adult beverage, your establishment is the one that pops up first.

The reality is that an estimated 70% of all the clicks for a given keyword go to the first page of organic results. One third of those clicks go to the number one spot. Ranking first is very valuable.

That’s why we’ve collected and curated some of the top as SEO tips for bar owners. Planning a robust marketing strategy in advance while implementing these tips is sure to increase any bar owner’s chances of getting that coveted number one spot. Apply these tips and watch the name of your bar move up the rankings.

Crafting a Thorough SEO Strategy for Bars

Implementing an SEO strategy requires thoughtful planning. Keyword research is certainly a big part of it, but bar owners who only do that and simply slap up advertising on Google’s platforms are only taking care of one part of the whole thing, and that’s advertising, not so much related to getting organic results.

Unless your establishment caters to a specific audience, for example those looking to spend money on premium stake or fine wine, there’s probably a clearly define the distance that the prospective customer is willing to travel in order to get their hands on your beer and chicken wings, or to watch the local professional sports team play.

So that’s the first step in the bar owner’s search engine optimization manual: define what your local targeting area is going to be. Once you know that, your keyword research can begin. Choosing keywords to target is easier if you break them down into three different categories:

  • Generic keywords any bar owner would use.
  • Keywords related to the specific niche your bar serves (i.e. steakhouse, pub or sports bar.)
  • Keywords related to the specific brand name of your establishment (i.e. Heroes Sports Bar, Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 etc…)

General Bar and Restaurant Terms

General terms related to going to a local bar aim to cast a wide net. The average person looking for a place to watch the game just wants a big-screen and decently priced food and drinks which most bars will offer. This keyword strategy may not be good for branding purposes but it’s necessary to chase these terms because people use them. Examples of general bar and restaurant terms that might work for this particular part of the strategy include “New York bar”, “New York restaurant”, “New York pub”. Clearly in this example, the term New York could reference the city or the state. Adding city to the phrase New York might be necessary, but even then it’s still a fairly broad way to search.

For the family owned bar and restaurant that doesn’t have a big brand name and isn’t associated with a large chain, targeting keywords that name a specific area of the city or borough are the best.

Coming up with all of these terms off the top of your head can be difficult. There may be a lot of terms you don’t think of until after you’ve started implementing your strategy. One of the best tools you can use to make sure that you get all of the relevant terms you’re looking for is Google’s free keyword planner. There are many other paid keyword tools that promise to get you the big-money terms that are easiest to rank for, but the free planner is a great start.

Super Targeted Terms for your Bar

Targeting bar hoppers looking for a conveniently located hotspot can be done with generic terms, but what if your bar serves a specific audience? Some bar hoppers want to go to an Irish pub that plays live music, others want to watch the big game. Others still want a high end dining experience with a view of the lake shore.

To come up with these targeted terms it’s important to ask yourself two questions:

  • What unique features does your bar offer that other local competitors don’t? and
  • Who is the ideal customer that comes to eat and drink at your establishment?

Bars and restaurants located close to a body of water or a beautiful view typically charge a higher price. This is because when people go out to eat, they’re not just paying to eat the food, drink the drinks and watch the game. They’re paying for the atmosphere and the ambience, and the fact that they can have exactly what they want delivered on a plate within a reasonable amount of time and they don’t have to do the dishes after the fact.

There’s a saying and marketing that people don’t want you to catch the fish and they don’t want to learn to fish themselves. All they really want is a fish sandwich. How does your bar give your target customer the fish sandwich they really want?

If your customer’s idea of a fish sandwich is being served a delicious vegan meal, you need to know that. If they want a high volume of dirt cheap nachos, you need to cater to that. If they’re looking for a premium steak cooked just the way they like it, it’s your job to serve them.

Noble your customer is and come up with the most specific keywords you can related to what really brings them through your doors. “All you can eat”, Half-priced wings”, “sports bar big screen”, and “best places to watch football” are all niche-specific search terms.

Brand Name Keywords

Brand name keywords are probably the most important buyer keywords any local business owner should target, including you, the local bar owner. Anybody who knows the brand name of your restaurant and thinks about it enough to type it into the Google search bar definitely has a strong intention to show up at your establishment for the big game. You don’t want to overuse branded keywords in your content because Google doesn’t like too much self-promotion. Any website can brag about its own products or services, right?

You definitely want to have content on your website related to your brand name. You do need to use your website to promote a brand. This means engaging in content marketing, like blogging or looking for local publicity so that maybe news websites or popular blogs feature your website and mention your brand.

It also means likely investing paid advertising, like pay-per-click ads via Google or engagement ads on Facebook. You’ll want to spend good money on your branded terms because they indicate a strong intention to show up in person.

Employing a combination of these tactics with the help of a digital marketing agency can really give you the edge over the competition.

List Your Bar in Local Directories

One of the biggest components of successfully ranking a bar in Google is to list the name, address and telephone number of your establishment in top local directories and review websites. This includes Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Bing Places and more.

It’s very important to have your name, address and telephone number listed properly on every single site and directory that you register on so that Google’s search engine crawlers can give you credit for every single link that you have pointing back to your website. Some top directories are free like Google or Bing, others will charge you money for exposure. In the long run both can be worth a lot to your business.

But you don’t have to simply rely on the major directories that list all local businesses and their competitors side-by-side. You can find directories specific to bars. Those will get you traffic too. There may even be directories specific to a local area or just businesses within a certain radius. They may not be as valuable as Google or the Yellow Pages, but they may get you very relevant traffic.

Note: in the world of search engine optimization, a listing of your business’s name, address and telephone number together on a directory site (any directory site) is referred to as a local citation.

Acquiring Customer Reviews

Getting big websites to link back to yours is one of the most important parts of any search engine optimization strategy. A link from a major website like Forbes.com for example might rank a particular blog post on your site right away. Nevertheless, guess posting is something you can get into once your website is optimized and you’re in local directories.

The biggest reason to be in local directories outside of getting a link to your site is the fact that you can accrue customer reviews. All of the sites mentioned in the section above value reviews just as much as they value your name, address and telephone number being listed on the site properly. Not only do these websites value that, customers read reviews. What’s most important about that is the fact that people are more likely to share reviews at places they’ve eaten then they are to leave a review for almost any other type of business. People like to know that when they shopped to an establishment to eat, lots of other raving customers have already co-signed on the idea before they even show up.

One way to get reviews is to run a contest where you give away a gift card to your existing customers. This works especially well if you already have an emailing list or you’re willing to promote the idea of leaving a review somewhere near the entrance of your bar where everyone can see it as they walk in.

It’s obviously important to give people top-notch customer service in the best that your establishment has to offer because you want the best review possible. But it’s not enough to just get good reviews. You need to be able to respond to the negative reviews (and people will leave negative reviews) and turn them in to positive ones. Google in all of these other listing directories reward engagement both on the behalf of people leaving reviews and the business that response to them.

Staying engaged with your customers on these review sites is vitally important and it shows that you care about your brand and the experience you deliver to people coming to your bar.

Create Locally Focused Content

Consistently updating your website and specifically your blogging content will drive traffic in the long run. Especially if you’ve done the keyword research and you know exactly what words you can chase. If you don’t know which words to chase, hiring a digital marketing agency to do the grunt work for you can help. You can have them do the keyword research and create the content or just do the research and write the content yourself.

The point is you need to come up with content that’s locally focused, in the same way that your link building strategy might be focused on getting exposure on local blogs and directory websites. If you think you have the best sports bar in town, create a blog post titled “Why [BLANK] is the best sports bar in New York” for example. That way when people search for the best sports bar in New York, your establishment comes up. Assuming that your blogging consistently and constantly fine-tuning your search engine optimization strategy of course. Creating content and having third party websites link to it is collectively referred to as planning a content marketing strategy.

Optimizing Your Website

We’ve already touched on keyword research and the importance of using them within content on your website. You also want to use them within URLs, title tags, meta descriptions page content, image labels and section headings.

You never want to spend keywords and use them where they are not necessary. You want your content to be readable to the average person while still respecting Google’s algorithm. Encompassing that in putting it together with your brand and marketing strategy is an ongoing task that needs to be fulfilled every single day.

As a small business owner dedicated to running your bar it will be tough to do all of this on your own, but one free tool you can use to help that cause is Google Search Console. It’s a free tool that gives you analytics about the performance of your website and draws your attention to any errors or issues that might impact the way your website is displayed, the way people view the content or the way the website ranks and Google search results.

Hiring a digital marketing company to help you with all of this optimization is strongly recommended, but you can learn the basics on your own.

Use Schema

Using Schema to help Google crawl your website is pretty advanced. Most small business owners including restaurant and bar owners won’t want to do this themselves. Just know that schema is a way of structuring data to provide information about the following kinds of content:

  • Creative work
  • Events
  • Organizations
  • People
  • Places
  • Products

Coding your website with proper schema can be quite technical. Don’t do it yourself, higher professional. That said, if you want to learn the basics, check out Google’s Structured Markup Helper. You can also go to schema.org and look up restaurant specific coding.

Hire a Digital Marketing Agency to Handle your SEO

If you’re going to go through schema, local citations, search engine optimization, paid ads and social media on your own, you’re going to be working around the clock. That’s just to handle your marketing and SEO, never mind actually running your bar and managing your staff.

Take all the tips in this article and hire an agency to implement it all for you. It’ll be worth it in the long run and it’s how you get your bar to the top of Google searches in the most efficient and effective way.

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We are a digital marketing company with a focus on helping our customers achieve great results across several key areas.

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