Local SEO Guide for Bars: 5 Steps to Boost Your Google Rankings

/Local SEO Guide for Bars: 5 Steps to Boost Your Google Rankings
Local SEO Guide for Bars: 5 Steps to Boost Your Google Rankings

Bars face a real challenge in trying to draw in new customers. While it is true that word of mouth can build your reputation, many people find new watering holes through simple Google searches. If you aren’t in the first spot or two, you are likely to be overlooked. To bring in as many customers as possible, you must find your way to the head of the rankings.

We will walk you step by step through our proven process to lift your company to that all-important first spot. Before we get started, though, let’s take a look at why local SEO is so vital for bars.

3 Reasons Bars Should Invest in Local SEO

The Yellow Pages Are Dead. Long Live Google:

Until not too long ago, a bar could simply take out an ad in the Yellow Pages and wait for new patrons to show up. Today, however, fully 97% of people search for local businesses online, and Google is the undisputed search leader.

Free Traffic:

Although it is quickly changing, advertising remains one of the largest expenditures for many small businesses. If you boost your Google rankings, you will enjoy a steady stream of free traffic that you can easily convert into paying customers.

Swift Results:

On average, national and international companies must wait for 6 to 12 months to see much movement in their rankings from a new SEO campaign. As a bar, though, you have a big advantage. You are competing only with nearby bars, not those located half a country or half a world away. And many of your competitors are not taking advantage of local SEO. With a targeted campaign, you could easily reach the first page of Google local listings in as little as 30 days!

Step 1: Pick Your Keywords

Step 1 starts with a simple list of keywords that match your services. For example, you might try “bar”, “pub”, “English pub”, “local bar”, and “new bar”. When your list is fairly complete, sign up for a free Google AdWords account.

You do not need to create or fund an ad campaign, but you need the AdWords account to access the free Google Keyword Planner tool. This tool allows you to input your chosen keywords to discover how much traffic they get. It also suggests additional related keywords that you might not have thought of.

Now you are ready to narrow down your final list of keywords. All keywords fall loosely into 2 categories:

  • Buying Intent: Buying intent keywords mean that a prospect is imminently ready for your services. For example, a search for “gay bar downtown Miami” suggests that the person is imminently ready for drinking and dancing.

    Place your primary focus on buying intent keywords, as these drive the fastest results. Feature them on your homepage, and develop your service pages around them.

  • Research Intent: Research intent keywords signal that a prospect is “just looking.” He might want to visit a bar in your town someday, but not now. For example, someone searching for “does Tampa have piano bars” may be gathering information for a future trip.

    Make these keywords a lower priority, since they do not drive fast conversions. Hold onto them, though, as there are highly useful for FAQs and blog posts. These posts introduce you to prospects who might remember you when they are looking for a bar in your area.

Step 2: Optimize Your Keywords

When you have finalized your keyword list, you are ready to optimize for them in 2 spots—your Google My Business page and your website. Here’s how:

Google My Business

Think of your Google My Business page as a mini-website that appears in Google’s “Map” section. It increases your overall online presence, and provides a quick snapshot of your company. It can also give you a quick rankings boost, as it is much easier for a Google My Business page than for a website to achieve high rankings.

For the best results, make sure these elements are accurate and complete:

  • Verification: The first step is to simply claim your page and submit it to the Google verification process. When this is complete, you will see a checkmark and the word “Verified” next to your business name.
  • NAP: Your business NAP (name, address, and phone number) must be both accurate and consistent across all web appearances. Reassure Google that yours is a local business by listing a local phone number instead of an 800 number.
  • Categories: Google requires all categories to focus on services instead of results. Besides Bar, you might try Pub, Cocktail Bar, or Sports Bar, if any of those reflect your bar’s style. Try to think of 3 to 5 categories.
  • Description: The description is simply a quick overview of your company that ends with a call to action. Keep it between 100 and 200 words long and use a format similar to: {Name of Bar} offers {unique signature cocktails, or similar} in {Your City}. {Provide some information about your bar and/or why your regulars love you.} Call {Phone Number} today for free VIP access on your first visit.
  • Hours: Double check that your hours of operation are current, and are identical across all of your web listings.
  • Images: Images can dramatically raise customer engagement, and show prospects what they are missing. Add a few photos of your VIP room, your staff, or your crowded dance floor. Your images must have a sharp focus, be sized between 10KB and 5MB, and have a minimum resolution of 720px x 720px. We also recommend replacing the generic Google My Business background image with a branded image.

Website Optimization

First, optimize your “core” pages (your homepage and service pages) for your buying intent keywords. Afterwards, you can optimize your “content” pages (FAQs and blog posts) for your research intent keywords. Here is what to do:

  • Homepage: The title tag is reminiscent of a book’s chapter title, and is the single most important element on your homepage. Aim for 50 to 65 characters in length and a format similar to: Bar in {Your City} | {Name of Your Bar}.

    The next element is the meta description, a 100 to 150-character overview of your main services that ends with a call to action. Try to approximate this format: {Name of Bar} offers quality {bottle service and craft beers, or similar} in {Your City}. Call {Phone Number} today for free VIP access on your first visit.!

    The visible headline, or H1, needs to be concise yet descriptive, and must include your primary category. This format works well: {Bar} in {City, State}.

    Finally, consider your page copy. It should be descriptive, clearly written, and tightly edited. At approximately 500 to 1000 words in your length, give some background information about your company, briefly present your core services, and close with a strong call to action. Incorporate your primary keyword as it naturally fits.

  • Service Pages: Develop a keyword-optimized page for each core service. Optimize these service pages identically to the homepage, making sure to substitute in the relevant keyword.

Step 3: Gather Citations and Links

With the overall bones of your SEO campaign in place, you can develop your citations and links. These improve your online reach and help to increase your Google rankings.

  • Citations: A citation is simply a listing of your business NAP (name, address, and phone number) in an online directory. You can choose general national directories (yellowpages.com and Facebook), general local directories (Chamber of Commerce website), and targeted directories of bars and pubs. Your NAP must be identical in every listing.

    Note that while many directories are free, some accept only paid listings. Before you invest, take a peek at Google Analytics. Do not pay for a site that does not drive traffic and conversions.

  • Links: Inbound links from authoritative, credible websites are essential to reach the highest Google rankings. Focus on relationship-building, both online and in person, with companies that offer complementary services. When a relationship has been secured, ask to trade links. You can use a tool such as the Moz Open Site Explorer to see where other local bars are finding their links.

Step 4: Ask for Reviews

Customer reviews play two key roles in any local SEO campaign: they convince prospects to try your services, and they reassure Google that your business is legitimate. While all review sites are important, the swiftest rankings boost will come from Google My Business reviews. Send an email to your satisfied customers with a link to your Google My Business profile, and ask them directly to write a review. Doing this regularly will give you a steady flow of new reviews.

Step 5: Track Your Results

You can only determine if your local SEO campaign is getting results, and identify those areas that need a bit of help, if you track your results. You can use many different methods to analyze your data, but these 3 core metrics are the most important:

  • Rankings: Google’s search results are customized based on the user’s previous browsing behaviors. To learn your true Google rankings, you must use a tool. An excellent free tool is the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools). Ask your webmaster to install it, and check your results at least once each month.

    If you want to dig more fully into your rankings, consider switching to a paid rank tracking tool. We particularly like the one offered by RankRanger.com. It can track your Google My Business page as well as your webpages, and will provide automatically updated ranking data from all of your SEO campaigns.

  • Traffic: Google Analytics is arguably the best way to track the visitors to your website, known as your traffic. You can view your total traffic, the traffic for each individual webpage, and the percentage of traffic that reaches you through Google search. Check your report every month, and keep an eye out for any long-term trends.
  • Conversions: A conversion is any specific behavior that you want your prospects to perform. For a bar, this might be contacting you for free VIP service on the prospect’s initial visit. Google Analytics lets you track both web and phone conversions, learn which of your services drives the most conversions, and even find out which of your webpages have the highest and lowest conversion rates.

Ready to Get Started?

Now you understand why a comprehensive local SEO campaign is so important in driving more potential customers to your bar. Make your way through the steps in order, and fully complete each one before starting the next. Here is a recap of the 5 steps:

  1.    Keyword research
  2.    Keyword optimization
  3.    Citations and Links
  4.    Reviews
  5.    Tracking

Want Help with SEO?

At Main Street ROI, we specialize in helping bars attract more local customers through Google. If you’d like help with your SEO, contact us for a free quote.

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