Everybody has their favourite place to eat. It might be that cafe on the corner that offers one thing but cooks it to perfection. Or that little gem you find on holiday where mama’s cuisine tastes so good you end up eating there every night.

Although a lot is said about how offline businesses can learn from their online competitors by being nimble, experimental and by making data-driven decisions, nothing is really said about how digital can learn from bricks and mortar. Any step towards the traditional is seen as retrograde.

In this third entry of our Teaching Via Analogies series, we look at three things that any online business – whether purely internet or an online part of a traditional company – should think about restaurants when devising their online strategy.

As a bonus at the end, we’ll also show how implementing these three principles will get you in Google’s good books, leading to better Search Engine Rankings and AdWords’ Quality Score.

By now, you’ll know that we love using analogies to teach at Convertd. They make the unfamiliar familiar and make new concepts memorable. We’ve used fishing, imperialism, football and airports to teach digital marketing concepts and techniques. Our most popular blog introduces our land-grabbing formula for the exceptional keyword planning.

And we’re not the only ones that love a good analogy.

George Orwell in his seminal essay on the English language spends a lot of time on the power of metaphors and explains how a newly invented one ‘assists thought by evoking a visual image’. We’ve already written about how Chicago slaughterhouses impacted Henry Ford’s mechanised production line and the place of metaphors in Steve Jobs’ product launches.

So what are these three principles that online businesses can borrow from the offline world that will help get more and keep more customers?

Google Quality Score
Say what you serve and then serve what you say

 Sounds pretty simple. Tell the world what you do. Do it. And repeat.

But it’s astonishing how many businesses don’t do this or get it wrong.

They say they do things that they don’t. They fear narrowing focus will narrow appeal. They think people want a one-stop but they don’t. Customers want a businesses to provide what they need or want and then do an amazing job in providing it.

A clear focus gives the business a specialism and means it can maximise the limited digital real estate it has to promote itself with a unified message. Any business has limited space to tell the world about what it does. The Website, Press Releases, Social Media pages, Online ads, and the Search Engine Optimisation toolbox (the anchor text, title and image tags, URLs etc) need clarity and precision.

A company that does all things to all men will compete with specialists and end up being all things to no men.

Moreover, online consumers are impatient. Graham Cooke from the web optimisation firm Qubit argues that unlike brick and mortar marketplaces, online competition is literally just one click away. If you are not offering what you say or you are offering too much, customers will bounce – leave your site without visiting another page – and there’s a chance they won’t return even if they want what you do sell.

Great restaurants have focus. An extreme example is Le Relais de Venise that only offers (according to their site) a ‘green salad with walnuts dressed with mustard vinaigrette followed by steak frites, served with a secret recipe sauce, in buzzy, convivial surroundings’. But focus wins as people see they have a specialism which breeds confidence and they then get served what they say.

So what do your digital signs say? Are you serving what you say you serve?

 If not, simplify, specialise and focus. You won’t be disappointed.

 * BONUS: Read to the end to get some information on why serving what you say gets you in Google’s good books with higher Search Engine Rankings and better Quality Score.

Easy to sit, easy to order and easy to pay.

A good restaurant is not just about the food. Experience matters almost as much as the taste.

As a diner, we want to easily get to a table, be sat in comfortable surroundings and receive great service. Waiters need to be attentive and know the menu including the daily specials. If it’s three courses, they should recommend dishes based on their compatibility. Similar counsel should be applied to the wine list. And one should not be kept waiting either to place an order or to pay.

That’s quite a bit to get right to make a great dining experience.

The same applies to a great online experience. If it’s complicated to find what you want, order and pay, customers will not complete their purchase. In-page customer support applications such as Zendesk, which act like virtual attentive waiters able to answer questions in real time, can drastically improve the customer experience and increase transactions.

Digital assets also need to be mobile and tablet optimised. They need to cater for the language of the viewer so that all virtual diners can enjoy passage through a business. When I worked at Google, it was astonishing to see the impacts of small design or content tweaks on different international viewers. Localising webpages so they speak the language of the its viewer and then experimenting with free shipping offers and personalised deals often improved conversion rates by more than 10%.

The parallels are clear: just like great restaurants, online businesses should concentrate on the experience and not just the product.

Word of mouth means word to mouth

Great restaurants are recommended by friends of diners. This is powerful stuff as the social proof of having someone you trust vouch for a particular dish, location or experience can make all the difference in deciding which restaurant to go to. It produces trust and credibility in an establishment.

Gastronomical endorsements have existed for hundreds of years. A visitor to Victorian London, would find recommendations for ‘Joe’s in Finch-land, Cornhill’ for a ‘first-rate chop or steak’, or ‘for admirable boiled beef, there is Williams, in the Old Bailey’; or for ‘a rapid meal, well cooked, there is the Thiee Herrings, Bellyard, Temple-bar’. Sound like a Dickensian McDonalds.

So recommendations have always mattered. Word of mouth does literally translate to word to mouth.

Online businesses are the same. There are two things to make sure of here. Firstly your product or service needs to be good enough to be recommended and have content to boot. A good strategy is to publish original content about your product or service so that people have things to share about your business with their friends. Two great examples of businesses that really understand the power of original content are GoPro and Penguin Random House.

GoPro, the makers of hi-tech personal video cameras, produce stunning videos of surfers, skydivers, wildlife conservationists that demonstrates the high quality of their camera but also the high octane environment that is part of their brand. Penguin Random House have cleverly adapted to the digital world by create original content like these Pinterest boards that captivate its growing online audience.

 Secondly you need to put the infrastructure in place to facilitate sharing and viral distribution. Addthis or Sharethis offer buttons that are very easy to implement and will get people sharing across social networks. Similarly, Digital Animal’s technology enables a business to develop advocacy by understanding and rewarding its customers to drive business value.

So getting word of mouth is powerful as it provides social proof, which drives customer acquisition and retention. It also helps get you in Google’s good books. Let’s cover that now.

Bonus: Getting into Google’s goodbooks

Following these principles will get you more customers. You’ll also stand a good chance of keeping more customers, too. And the bonus is that you will get into Google’s good books, too. Promoting all three principles in your business will also result in better Search Engine Rankings and higher Quality Score (if you’re using Google AdWords).

Google Search is the world’s most popular search engine. It is therefore important that your business gets itself in front of people who are searching for your product or service. There are two ways of doing this: getting high search engine rankings (sometimes called organic or non-paid listings) which requires strong Search Engine Optimisation (SEO for short). Or through a strong Search Engine Marketing strategy which requires a good knowledge of Google AdWords.

Let’s take each in turn.

Search Engine Optimisation

Google’s mission statement is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. This means Google wants to make your information (your business) available to people online (the ‘accessible’ part), but it also wants to make that information (your business) relevant to its users (the ‘useful’ part). Google puts the user first and will show what it believes to be the most relevant and accurate search results for a particular Search Query. Therefore as a business, you want to appear at the top of the organic search results every time somebody does a relevant search on Google.

Quality Score in Google AdWords

Google also displays adverts on its Google Search Engine Results page. If you do a search, you will see three ads at the top and nine ads down the right hand side. These are Google AdWords ads. As a business, you can bid to appear against relevant search queries and pay each time someone clicks on your ad. Therefore you want to appear in the top ad slots when somebody is searching for your product or service on Google. But what most people don’t realise is that it’s not just your Cost Per Click (bid) that determines this AdRank, but also your Quality Score – which is a fancy way of saying relevancy.

So if I search for ‘Zimbabwe holiday ideas’ (I am going there for my brother’s wedding), Google will display what it believes are the most relevant websites and digital resources about Zimbabwean tourist destinations.

Therefore in both Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing, relevancy is king.

I have already written about relevancy and prioritisation in keyword planning, but want to focus here on how the three principles mapped out above increase your relevance on Google Search and thus your Search Engine Rankings and AdWords Quality Score.

Restaurant Principle Search Engine Rankings AdWords Quality Score
Serve what you say Better Title Tags, description tags, image tags, anchor texts, in-site internal links. Closer match between Search Query and Ad Text, Sitelinks, Location Extensions mean higher Click Through Rates, Relevant landing pages.
Great user experience Low bounce rates, high average time on site, fast page loads, mobile compatibility. Landing page relevance, Google Analytics data.
Word of mouth Original content, in-bound links. Customer reviews (Feefo and Trustpilot).


Serving what you say

Clearly saying what you serve and then serving what you say across all your digital assets with a focus on the parts of your digital assets that Google values in its indexing will improve your Search Engine Rankings. That means optimising your Title Tags, Description Tag, Image Tags, Anchor Texts, in-site linking. Do forensic keyword planning and then optimise the little pieces of real estate that are available to you as a business.

When it comes to your Google AdWords campaigns, making sure you are choosing the right keywords that then match your Ad Text which then matches your landing page will do wonders for your Quality Score. Having tightly themed Ad Groups based on keyword and Match Type and then being pathologically focussed on improving your Click Through Rates will lead to better Quality Scores and consequently cheaper clicks.

Great user experience

Making it easy for users to find, enquire, select and pay across desktop, tablet and mobile help your SEO rankings as the PageRank algorithm includes Google Analytics metrics, like low bounce rates, high average time on site, fast page loads in its calculation. More and more in-page data is also used to calculate Quality Score. For instance, if an ad links to a landing page that is irrelevant to a Search Query, it will either not show or be penalised with a lower Quality Score.

Word of mouth

Creating content that encourages sharing and then having the infrastructure to allow people to share improves Search Engine Rankings for two reasons: the Google bots that crawl and index the web love original content, plus sharing generates authentic in-bound links. In terms of Google AdWords, having the ability for customer to leave reviews (a form of word of mouth) on platforms like Feefo and Trustpilot are included in Google Ads which increase Click Through Rate and therefore Quality Score.

So next time you’re enjoying your favourite food at your favourite restaurant, think about these three things. Then make sure you apply them to your business. You won’t regret it. And Google will love you more.