April 29, 2024

How To Get More Backlinks for Your Restaurant or Cafe

It's not easy, but backlinking is the backbone of any good SEO strategy. These are the techniques that have worked for us.

Crowded interior of Chinese restaurant

This is part two of our series on local SEO for cafes, bars, and restaurants, where we cover the tricks and techniques we use to grow our clients’ businesses. Find part one here. More coming soon.

You have a small hospitality business. Say… an Italian restaurant on Lygon Street.

Good news: People love Italian restaurants on Lygon Street. The term “lygon street restaurants” gets almost 3000 searches a month. Add in variations like…

  • “best italian restaurants melbourne”,
  • “carlton restaurants”,
  • “lygon street italian restaurants”

… and you’re looking at just shy of 90,000 monthly searches.

Bad news: There’s about a million other Italian restaurants within three blocks of you and Google has to choose just a handful of them to put in the top spot.

What does it take to get the top spot?

What can you do to make sure Google notices you so you stop languishing on the third page and finally get the traffic your business deserves?

One solution:


What are backlinks and why do you need them?

Google has the same problem as your customers: There’s dozens of businesses that seems just like yours at first glance and they don’t know who to choose. And Google has the same solution as your customers: social proof. It doesn’t know who to trust, so it follows the crowd.

In real life, social proof flows by word of mouth. When someone we trust recommends something, we give it a shot.

In SEO, social proof flows through links. When other websites link to your website, Google “hears” it and gives you a boost in the rankings.

How big is that boost? Well, it depends how much Google trusts the recommendation. That depends on a few things:

  • How popular is the website?
  • How reputable?
  • How many people click the link?
  • How relevant is it your business?

Naturally, the more popular, reputable, and relevant the website is, the bigger the boost you’ll get. That said, every little counts. And if you’re starting from nothing, you should take what you can get.

So without further ado, here’s to get backlinks (from easiest to hardest):

1. Sign up for all the local listings, directories, and citations

These are easiest, cheapest, weakest backlinks you can get. Everyone has them, so you should, too. But don’t expect magic from them.

For most of them, you just need to create an account and fill out your basic business information and you’re good to go.

They’re in order from best to worst, so if your time is limited (who’s isn’t?) then focus on the first seven.

2. Invite local food and travel bloggers to your restaurant

The internet is still chock full of microblogs run by passionate, influential writers. People forget about them since Instagram and TikTok took over the show, but they still get plenty of traffic and frequently rank in the top 10 for local searches.

They can provide high-quality, relevant backlinks and, more importantly, help send targeted traffic and build the community around your business.

Getting these backlinks isn’t quite as simple as creating a profile on a few websites. You’re dealing with human beings now. This is networking. You reach out respectfully, start a conversation, and maybe come to a deal that suits both of you.

Usually, like any influencers, you treat them to your finest service — on the house, of course — and they create content about your business.

On Instagram and TikTok, they usually give you a glowing, over-the-top, fake review.

But bloggers tend to have journalistic integrity. They’ll try it, and they’ll be honest. They are loyal to their audience, not you.

That’s the game. You can play it if you want.

Google is your best friend here. Look for “food bloggers [your location]” and “travel bloggers [your location]” to start. “Best [cuisine] in [location]” is also a great option — just scroll down past all the big sites.

Here are some we found to get you started. We aren’t affiliated for them in any way, and we don't vouch for them. They're simply suggestions.

(If you’re on this list and you don’t want to be, please let us know. We don’t want anyone to get spammed.)

3. Get backlinks by giving backlinks

For some businesses, this is their entire SEO strategy.

Broadsheet, UrbanList, Concrete Playground, Time Out.

They promote the “best” restaurants. Inevitably, those restaurants slap the logos and the links in pride of place on their homepage.

Like so:

Examples of publication links on website 1
Examples of publication links on website 2

If you write a particularly nice article about someone and let them know, they might be inclined to share it with their followers or even link back to it.

It’s a win-win. Just be careful about who you mention.

4. Become a voice in your community

You’re an expert.

Seriously, don’t underestimate yourself.

You might just be a guy/gal who runs a bar/restaurant/cafe. But you’re an expert on your own business and the local economy, and you’re a valued member of the community.

People are looking for opinions from people like you. Journalists especially. They’re hyper-local, and they write about things that matter to your community. Every now and then, they need expert opinions for their pieces and you can provide them — just as long as they credit and link back to you.

There used to be a site called HARO (Help A Reporter Out) that did exactly this: Reporters ask questions, you answer them, if they like your answer they put you in their article. That site is long dead, but we found this replacement:

Barring that, try finding and following/subscribing to all your local papers, reporters, and independent journalists. If they put out a piece about something relevant to your business, email them a personal response. There’s no guarantee that they’ll feature you, but it only takes 20 minutes here and there and the potential upsides are huge. These sorts of publications tend to have highly engaged followers, so they’re a great way to get your name out.

5. Join the ordering, booking, and delivery apps

Another easy one. Just create a profile, upload your menu, and huzzah. Most of them have sales teams that will come take photographs for you to help you go live as fast as possible.

The cons? More apps to manage, and they might not integrate well with your current systems. Some of them also have exclusivity agreements barring you from using other apps. These are the reasons this technique is so far down the list. Regardless, these platforms give strong backlinks so they deserve a place on the list.

You’re probably already on at least one of these, but here are the rest:

  • UberEats
  • MenuLog
  • Doordash
  • Zomato
  • The Fork

Go wild.

Bonus: Earn mentions in the big publications

Much easier said than done.

It’s notoriously difficult to earn a feature on lists like the Australian Good Food Guide, but their backlinks are invaluable — not to mention the sheer number of eyeballs these get.

Most (if not all) of these publications have journalistic policies. Generally, you can’t buy your way onto their lists. But we’ve heard that if you know a guy who knows a guy… Well, people are human.

Some of our clients have used PR companies with varying degrees of success. They’ve hosted events to attract attention, invited specific influential people, and worked their customer service magic.

Ultimately, the best way to get on these lists is simply to have great food. Stack up a mountain of 5* reviews and you’ll be impossible to ignore. The journos will find you, and they will sing your praises.

Here’s a few to look out for:

  • Broadsheet
  • Urban List
  • Time Out
  • Australian Good Food Guide (AGFG)
  • The Age - GoodFood
  • Delicious

Most major newspapers have regular food/culture columns, but these are the ones with the most digital oomph.

There you have it, folks.

Backlinking is a slow game. It’s basically networking in cyberspace. But it’s a critical part of any SEO strategy and if you’re deliberate and persistent with it you’re sure to see results.

Focus on making real connections with the prominent people in your space. Bloggers, journalists, and other websites. Conduct yourself with grace, make great food, and they’re sure to love you.

Let us know how you go.