When microsites are all the rage and being touted as the being creative, providing quality information and driving higher engagement with the target audience, how is it possible it can be a nuisance, especially a big one for restaurants.
What are microsites? A microsite or sometimes referred to as minisite is a separate website with one or few pages and a separate URL from it main homepage, that is used to provide information or promote something that is related to the business.
How can microsites be a nuisance?
Perform a online search for the following keywords:
“<your restaurant name>”
“<your restaurant name> <city>”
If the first page search results shows 3rd party microsites and your restaurant website does not come even on the first page, your business’s online presence has been “hijacked”.
In this scenario, even though the restaurant website is the primary online presence, it has been pushed out of the first page by 3rd party microsites. These micro-sites are typically review sites, menu sites, online ordering sites, etc. which directly compete with your own restaurant website for search rankings. The restaurant website is now ranking on second and third pages means it is practically lost that no one can find.
If the restaurant website comes up on the top of search results, that is good. But, check the rest of the listings that come up on first and second page. If any of those listings are transaction sites (e.g.ordering, review, deals, etc), there is the potential of leaking traffic to these microsites that might also be leaking revenues for the business.
While you were not looking, you let this happen..
Typically, restaurants signup for 3rd party marketplaces with the hope of bringing in new business or exposure to the business. These marketplaces offer various services such as:
Ordering platforms such as Grubhub, Eat24, Beyondmenu, MyPizza, etc.
Online reservation platforms such as Opentable, ReservationGenie, etc.
Daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc.
Review sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Zomato, etc.
Additionally, there are menu hosting sites like Allmenus, Singleplatform that pulls the menu automatically one-time and hosts it on their platform.
Finally, local directories like yellowpages, dexmedia, superpages, whitepages and potentially hundreds of directories carry listings of the restaurant.
Here is what happens… You may have seen it but didn’t realize the effects…
EACH OF THESE PLATFORMS BUILD A MICRO-SITE OF YOUR RESTAURANT.
If you add all that up, there are easily multiple dozen micro-sites for your restaurant existing on various online platforms.
Benefits of microsites
Microsites can potentially offer SEO (Search Engine Optimization) benefits. SEO rankings depends on certain parameters to determine what goes on the first page of the online search results. A very important one is the number of sites that link to the restaurant website. So, it’s good if each of these microsites do actually link back to the main restaurant website creating backlinks.
Ideally, we want to have “non-transaction” sites link to your restaurant website that provide good quality backlinks without the risk of leaking traffic or revenues. These sites could be local newspapers, community sites, chamber of commerce, etc.
Problems with microsites
What can be so bad about that? After all if people are visiting microsites that represent my business, what difference does it make?
When customers are looking for your restaurant on the web, they do not see your restaurant website and instead land on other platforms (hosting your restaurant microsite). Apart from the lack of your restaurant branding on these platforms, these locations simply do not provide the experience that you want the customer to have from your restaurant website.
Online presence fragmented
Your online presence is now fragmented and has thus been rendered ineffective. If you provide promotions or want to increase engagement on your website, it is no longer possible.
Customers are looking for information about your business such as menu, hours, etc. This information can get outdated on 3-rd party microsites because it is not actively maintained on these platforms. This results in misinformation or worse yet, customers arguing for example about the 49 cents difference in price for the pizza they saw somewhere on the web.
Since these microsites don’t get updated regularly, any promotions, launches or special events you want to offer to your customers will go completely unnoticed and therefore you miss out on traffic and revenue.
When a user visits your website you want them to have a great experience and as a result become a customer, you can’t really do that on sites you have no control over. The only place you can do that from is your website, so having people find you on other sites is not good for your bottom line.
An important parameter in search engine ranking is the website’s age and authority. A relatively new website is usually not ranked higher by the search engines because it has no online “authority” yet. The marketplace sites we mentioned earlier do have higher online authority therefore are more likely to appear on the first page.
Your restaurant’s website then has to compete in the search results with the other online platforms that have more “page authority” just by the fact they are larger sites with a large audience and older among other factors.
Remember we are discussing a branded search here. With a non-branded search, it gets even harder to rank.
By not appearing on the first page you are missing a huge chunk of the online traffic pie. Whenever your customers look for you, you want them to find your business right away.
When customers are redirected to these microsites, they are presented with listings of other restaurants that could potentially be your competitors further losing traffic.
Furthermore, some of these 3rd party platforms offer paid advertising campaigns which basically offers to remove other restaurant listings from your restaurant microsite. Spending money to not promote other restaurants in your restaurant listing is not a prudent spend in your marketing mix.
Here is the biggest problem that impacts your revenues directly. With online ordering or reservations, the commissions are typically 10-15%. If they are bringing in new customers, that is ideal.
But if customers are anyways looking for your restaurant to order or reserve, but cannot find your website and hence go to 3rd party websites which charge the 10-15% you end up losing money you could have pocketed or used on the business. The weird part is that in addition to the revenue impact, the reason the restaurant website was not found was because are these microsites to begin with.
Take a pause and go grab the reports and pull the numbers from last year. Would you agree that the commissions paid out would be better kept within the business? Of course…
How to mitigate the effects of microsites?
If you find your business is currently affected by the presence of microsites, it is time to put a mitigation plan. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. It requires that you get started with putting into action the following steps:
Claim the Google business page. This is absolutely the first step.
Ensure that you as the business owner has claimed your google business listing and it is linking to the main restaurant website. This helps ranking and your business listing appears on the right hand column of the Google search page, making it easy for your customers to find you.
Once you have the Google My Business account claimed and business information setup correctly, next is fixing the “Menu” link. In many cases, this links to 3rd party menus. There is no option on the Google My Business account to fix this. You would need to contact Google directly and request them to fix it for you. Contact Google support through a call back to make that request on phone.
Offer “native” capabilities on restaurant website such as online ordering or online reservations that are hosted on your restaurant website. Carefully choose a service provider that integrates within your website instead of redirecting to their platform, which again adds to the microsite problem instead of solving it.
Start cleaning up the business online presence. Have a plan to reclaim the first page for branded searches. This will take time and it will not be easy. Seeking advice from a SEO expert is always helpful if you do not have the inhouse resources to perform this task.
Part of cleaning up is shutting down microsites that are not relevant or not helping your business. You would need to contact each of the platforms and make request to shut down the site, which can take days to multiple weeks sometimes.
Do search engine optimization on restaurant website targeting selected keywords that are relevant for your business, or have an expert do it for you.
Track traffic stats using Google analytics. Track how many impressions you are getting and the number of clicks for branded searches. This will indicate your traffic leakage to microsites, that you can monitor and improve.
Protect Online Presence
Being found online is crucial, but more importantly being found on your home turf.
When you try to get a new customer you bring them to your place of business not someone else’s, right?
If people are already looking for your business, make sure they find it.
When using 3rd party marketing place services, carefully evaluate the benefits of bringing in new business versus the risk of fragmentation of your online presence.
Actively monitor and manage your presence. This is not something you do one-time and leave it for years. Setup a quarterly audit that should not take more than 20 minutes.
Now it’s your turn:
Tell us if you have experienced digital hijack and what you did to reclaim you business’s online presence. Leave it in the comments.