On the 28th February Google announced that you could browse the menu of a large number of your restaurants straight from Google, eliminating clicks and potentially reducing clicks to restaurant sites themselves.
Reports of Google testing restaurant menus in Google search reported in early February, with Google giving the standard “just testing, nothing to see here, move along” response that we marketers are so used to.
Thanks in part to one of the latest additions to the Google menagerie, Hummingbird, it would seem any queries containing a restaurant name + menu related keywords will bring up a menu directly in Google results for what is currently a small number of restaurants.
What Impact Could It Have?
This kind of summary information delivery is already being used in cards from to show users everything from the weather, to movies, conversions and flights within Google, another effort to helping to improve the user experience, but what other impacts will it have?
At present this feature is only being seen in the US, and there is not a huge amount of information available.
- Where they are getting the data from?
‘Unnamed’ partner apparently, although there are whispers of strong links with the information on AllMenus.com.
- When it will roll out to other countries?
Unknown, but I like to think it will be relatively soon.
- How far reaching it will be?
As yet unknown, but it’s likely that anybody who is anybody is going to want to get their menu on here.
- Won’t this mean the restaurant sites get less traffic?
Most likely, yes. What impact this will have on the site itself and how it ranks will become clear in time. The menu page is likely to be one of the most visited on a restaurant, and indeed many pub pages.
What Does the Future Hold?
Of course it is very early days and the fact that most of this information is unavailable is hardly surprising. As Google improves this new feature, far more information will come to light.
I’m hopeful this will become a quick and useful reference for users, as many sites have poor online menus, usually slow and cumbersome, still using Flash, hard to see on mobile, and often out of date. Equally a large number in menus here in the UK appear as PDFS and content is often image only.
To the conspiracy theory part of my mind, it seems that the big players are likely to be the ones to win this game. Especially in an industry like food and drink, you will find a large number of smaller outlets who are not using digital effectively and are likely to suffer in time. This is likely to leave a much smaller number businesses, though those remaining will be huge, bloated corporations dominating the digital landscape.
Some of those who struggle or aren’t appearing where they’d like to be, for example those who are not yet part of the Knowledge Graph, may turn to PPC to make up for this deficit, and Google wins again.
What Can We Do?
With the limited amount of information available it’s hard to make recommendations. But form what we’ve seen here are a few ideas and bits of house-keeping to keep you on top of the game:
- Look after your site
Quelle surprise, a well maintained site that follows Google’s guidelines, updates regularly, provides great content etc is likely to perform better than those that do not. It goes without saying to make sure all your menus are marked up and kept completely up to date!
- Use Schema Mark Up
In the words of Google, “schema.org is a collaboration by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! to improve the web by creating a structured data markup schema supported by major search engines. On-page markup helps search engines understand the information on webpages and provide richer results. A shared markup vocabulary makes it easier for webmasters to decide on a markup schema and get maximum benefit for their efforts.”
You can find out everything you need to know about using Schema over at Schema.org
- Use Data Highlighter
If you do not have access to site code or the time to make changes, Data Highlighter is a useful alternative for creating structured data. You can find out everything you need to know about data highlighter here.
- Maximise Your Local SEO Efforts
Putting in the effort on local SEO is going to help position your company and give Google clear and concise information about who you are and what you do. Make sure your information is clearly marked u the way they want to see it, get yourself a few reviews, add social, and you give yourself a better chance of ranking well.
You can find everything you need to know about local SEO in The complete guide to Local SEO by Andy Williams.
- Be Clever With Meta Data
Use your Meta data to best effect with clear, non-spammy titles, enticing descriptions, and well-structured header tags.
- Create an App
You may even wish to consider creating an app if it suits your business model. This avoids Google all together and giving users a direct line, online, to your business. This will of course incur a cost but can significantly increase engagement and brand loyalty.
At the moment most all we can do is speculate about the effect this update will have on the restaurant industry. I wonder if it might extend to takeaways and pubs in the future? Maybe even to coffee houses and cafes. What do you think?