Working your website

An engaging website with a clean design can build your business’ credibility and drive customers through the door. As a pizzeria operator, it’s important to set yourself apart from competitors and showcase your delicious food and services on the Internet. With more than 200 million people around the country using the Internet and social networking becoming more popular than ever, websites have become integral to a business’ success. So the next time you experience a slow day, hop online and freshen up your site with the following Internet marketing tips:

1. Don’t be afraid to brag.

Creating a company blog is a great way to keep your customers in the loop and add a personal touch. On your blog, for example, you can promote various styles of cooking from different regions of Italy with recipes and tips. Keep in mind that a restaurant is a social gathering place; therefore, it’s a good idea to celebrate all holidays and notify customers of your holiday-related specials. And, instead of telling your customers how efficiently you can do your job, show them: Upload images or create multimedia components on your blog or website, such as a video with dialogue and music. Vesuvio Restaurant and Pizzeria (vesuviopizzeria.com) in Santa Clara, California, for example, includes customer testimonials on its site with a photo gallery of events that have taken place at the establishment. Shooting a video of your chef whipping up a delicious pizza is another great idea.

2. Optimize your search results.

Include information in your website title that will get you indexed in Google and put you at the top of local searches. For instance, if you own an organic pizza chain, make sure to have keywords such as “organic” and “pizza” hidden in your title; you can hire an outside source to do this. But before hiring someone to create or revamp your site, be sure to understand your target market and what they want. Use words they can understand, and include information on your site they would want to know

3. Stay image-conscious. 

Your website is a reflection of your business. Consider not only design but also the color scheme, and keep the site simple. Internet users are lazy, and they want their information to be easily accessible. Use the one-click rule: With no more than one click of the mouse, your potential customer should be able to venture off your home page and find exactly what he’s looking for.

4. Broadcast your services.

Most importantly, the content on your website should be as fresh as the ingredients you use in your restaurant. This will be an essential part of driving traffic to your site. Post daily updates of happy hour specials and promotions—even include a calendar of events. Think about what sets you apart from your competition. Also, it’s a good idea to display unique pizza toppings or daily specials on your website and through social media outlets. Make sure you have a place on your website that takes reservations; Facebook is a great tool for this as well. Finally, if something signifi cant is changing within your business, such as the location, broadcast this on your site! Big Joe’s Pizza & Deli (bigjoeskalamazoo.com) in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has done a great job of this; its new location is prominently placed on its home page in bold red letters.

5. Get social media-savvy.

Although networking in person can certainly build relationships, online networking possibilities are endless. It takes work to bring traffic to your website, so link it to as many social networking sites as possible. You can promote yourself through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Make your business a Facebook and Twitter profile where you can display company specifics and interact with local groups. Consider visiting relevant blogs such as Slice (slice.seriouseats.com), where you can comment on posts and engage with pizza aficionados. Also, make sure your website is compatible with mobile phones.

6. Stay up to speed!

Google will penalize a website that takes longer than eight seconds to open. There is nothing wrong with an aesthetically pleasing design, but you don’t want to overdo it with fl ash. Make sure you have the proper technical support so readers aren’t waiting forever for pages and pictures to load. Frequently check external links and make sure they are actually linking the reader to the intended site.

Bottom line: If you decide to hire outside help for your website, it’s important to find a company that has the industry knowledge and marketing background to not only drive traffic to your site but convert site visitors to customers. And once you’ve found the right fit, listen closely to that outside source. Make sure the company knows the end result you seek, but be adaptable and roll with the changes they might recommend.

Ron McArthur is the president of WSI, a leading provider of digital marketing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He can be reached at 888-678-7588 or via email at rmcarthur@wsicorporate.com.