Best Pizza Lists — SEO and the Accolade Snowball Effect
Having your pizzeria gain online visibility that turns into great press through accolades that eventually becomes profit takes many steps. Winning awards sounds like fun, but it’s not by accident. Here’s how to garner more visibility and traction for your business.
1. SEO ( Search Engine Optimization)
First and foremost, optimize your SEO. That term is overused, but SEO is easy to achieve when your website is set up correctly. That means the first few words of your website need to say “pizza,” your town’s name, and any other keywords that someone might search for you on Google. To know what people are searching for on Google, check the search analytics of your website on Google my Business, and you’ll see what terms are being used in your area or concerning your restaurant. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and responsive. Ensure the photos are updated and crisp, which means no stock photos or cliche photos you’ve seen too many times before.
Make sure it’s a website that accurately represents you, including photos of you, photos of the way your food really looks, and updated menus. Google scans all these websites often, so when they see the website is updated often, it gives it more potential to be viewed at the top of Google.
2. Google My Business
Another easy way to enhance SEO is by claiming your Google My Business page and ensuring your name, address, phone number and all information is correct, and you put photos in there to feed the beast that is Google. Do this for all review sites and all other social media platforms and ensure your information is correct.
Then make sure you have great photos across all these sites; if not schedule a pro to come and shoot one.
In line with feeding the beast of Google, respond to all online reviews, not just the bad ones. Review responses tell the search engine that you really do operate and run your active store. Additionally, respond professionally to their reviews and handle negative reviews constructively on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Facebook.
4. Then: The snowball effect of accolades
To gain awards and accolades, here is my snowball effect method. First and foremost, have good food. Consistently deliver greatness with a unique sales proposition that no one else is doing in your community. Great ingredients with a staff that cares and genuinely have a solid and consistent experience to ensure your review score is high.
Once you have a solid product, engage with your community. Become an active member in everything you can, whether it’s the Chamber of Commerce, sports teams or charitable events. Be familiar with those who live and operate near your pizzeria. Be a face they know and trust. Once they all dig you, you can go after the local awards, like every small town’s Best Of Award. No matter how big a restaurant is, they all start with local awards and notoriety like this.
Go after these awards aggressively, but never stuff a ballot or betray your integrity to get an award. Once you have a legit award, market the heck out of it. Pabst Blue Ribbon is still riding high off a winning the “America’s Best” award at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, 130 years later, they’re still using that accolade on their label.
6. After local, go national.
As local awards are coming in, seek national awards. The easiest path to fast-track national attention is a great showing at the International Pizza Challenge at Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. Then with that prestigious claim to fame of even participating in such a competition, you can go back to your town and advertise that. To market that, you can send a press release of where you placed, DM the local news to do a story on you and post about it on your feeds. If you place badly, you can still talk about the experience of competing, and smaller markets will run with that story.
If you’re not getting the press to come out, convince influencers and food critics to check you out. Encourage them to post on their feeds, as they might already have a large organic following in your community, and all the while, showcase any achievement you’ve accomplished no matter how small because it will snowball into bigger ones if you keep consistently serving solid food in an inviting environment sold by people who dig what they do.
7. Network with others like you.
After that, I advise networking in this industry to make professional friends, learn about what they’re doing in their community, mimic what you like, and avoid what you think doesn’t work. It’s a never-ending cycle.
8. Unsolicited Awards
Our most notable achievements I didn’t ask for. They found us when a food writer or clickbait intern scoured the internet and determined us to be the best in our area.
National “Best Of” awards typically are not written by people who have physically eaten at your restaurant. But, by having the best reputation online based on real experiences over time, we end up in these prestigious articles. That is the culmination of the snowball effect of good SEO becoming great consistent reviews that earn more customers and thereby more visibility into more prominent awards.
These things are doable by everyone in our industry. Pulling it off takes excellent determination, time, awareness, and effort.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch