Are You Clickable?

Internet access at home is now a reality for 75 percent of Americans, reports Nielsen/NetRatings. Many are using the web to find restaurants: 40 percent of consumers surveyed by the National Restaurant Association say they've searched the Internet for information on restaurants they've never visited. Location and visibility are important for your restaurant's online advertising, just as they are for your physical establishment. Now there's an appetizing new way to make it easy for potential customers to find you when they search for a restaurant online.

Imagine you're planning for New Year's Eve. You want to wrap up the year with a full house, and you've got a special menu in mind. How would you like to reach hungry customers looking for restaurants in your area for New Year's Eve through a highly visible, informative, credible resource available day or night? An online ad campaign can be up and running the next day. And the amount you pay depends on the number of consumers who request information about your restaurant.

Pay-per-click advertising is now available to attract business for New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and other times throughout the year. It puts your information online in front of consumers who are ready to eat, gives you the flexibility to vary your advertising throughout the year and allows you to control how much you spend. You can even access immediate feedback to learn how well it's working. A variety of search engines now offer a payperclick option. The first online directory to offer it is Verizon SuperPages.com.

Here's how it works:

  • Start by creating an attention-getting description of your restaurant. Include links on your ad to a business profile, your website, telephone number and email address.
  • Select the categories that best describe your operation, such as "restaurant," "Chinese food," "catering" or "banquet facilities."
  • Select the geographic area you want to target: city, metro, state or national.
  • Determine what you are willing to pay for a qualified lead and a maximum bid amount for each click.
  • Decide on a monthly maximum budget. If you bid $1 per click, for example, and received 20 clicks in one month, you would pay $20.

Traffic Is Key
On a typical day, 66 million Americans go online, according to the Pew Internet Project. Millions of people are online planning trips, reserving tables for special occasions and looking for a place to eat right away. Some 44 percent of online buyers are performing more local searches today than they did one year ago, according to a Kelsey Group-BixRate online survey.

Verizon's SuperPages.com handled close to 920 million searches in 2003, including more than 13 million restaurant searches. In 86 percent of those searches, the visitors contacted an advertiser, and about 53 percent completed a business transaction. Moreover, upwards of 40 percent of those visitors were more likely than the general population to have moved to a new city or state within the past six months. The average visitor had a household income of $79,700 and is much more likely to purchase products and services online than the average Internet user.

One of the big advantages of online yellow pages is that you are using a directed search engine specifically designed to connect buyers with sellers. Consumers don't have to wade through the definition of Chianti or the history of Italy to find an Italian restaurant that serves wine. People are used to searching the categories in the print yellow pages, so you are not likely to waste money on irrelevant clicks.

Approximately half of the respondents to an NRA technology survey reported having a website. Two-thirds said they attempt to build traffic for their sites in a variety of ways, including promotion of the address on menus or business cards, newsletters, store signs and on customer comment cards. You're not likely to attract much new business with these types of promotions. Spending money on a website without being part of an online directory is like opening a business without hanging a sign out front.

The pay-per-click model allows local restaurants— even those with small advertising budgets—to compete with national chains. A restaurant operator looking to build business can target a city or metro area or go for a larger area to grow and attract tourists and visitors who, according to the NRA, make up one-fourth of restaurant sales.

Spending money on a website without being part of an online directory
is like opening a business without hanging a sign out front.

Pay-per-click offers national chains the ability to tailor advertising campaigns to meet both national and local needs. You can promote national brand messaging and drive business to a website. At the same time, you can run local campaigns to promote seasonal specials or new menu introductions on a city-by-city or state-by-state basis. You might also advertise a new promotion in one locale before expanding it across the entire system.

Features to Consider
A number of major search engines offer a payperclick or pay-for-performance program, and new ones will enter the market. To help you find a program that will give the best return on investment and meet your specific needs, ask the sales rep the following questions:

  • Does the site attract your potential customers? How many people visit? Are these people who are ready to buy?
  • What determines your placement? Do searchers check dozens of listings before getting to yours, or is there a section reserved for local business ads?
  • What are the fees, and how are you charged? Do you pay every time a visitor clicks on a different one of your links or only once per person?
  • Is the engine flexible enough to allow you to change your information quickly and easily?
  • What type of support is provided? Is a full service option available if you want it?
  • What are the options for making your ad easy to find? Are there predefined keyword categories that make sense for your business and the consumer?
  • Can you choose between the dynamic nature of payper-click to bid on more favorable positions that will coincide with the cyclical nature of your business versus paying a fixed fee to position your ad in the same place year round?

On a typical day, 66 million Americans go online,
according to the Pew Internet Project.

Whether you're Internet savvy or not, there's a simple, effective way to use PPC without having to rely on a family member or friend. Bianca Noble, product manager for Verizon SuperPages.com, offers the following tips:

First, decide whether you want self-service or full service. Advertisers can sign up for PPC, select categories, update information and review how their ad is measuring up 24 hours a day. If you don't have the time or experience to manage your own campaigns, look for a search engine that provides expert advice and management services for a reasonable fee. Superpages.com, for example offers assistance setting up the account; consultation on promotional text, categories, locations, bid amounts and overall budget; access to online results; and ongoing assistance for changes to ads, bids and campaigns—all for a small monthly service fee.

Identify your target audience and consider your geographic reach. You can select a city or choose a metro, state or national listing—or decide to go for several. Some search engines neither categorize by geography nor save specific space for local listings. Look for those that do.

Next, choose one or more categories. If you're going with a non-yellow pages search engine, you'll need to select several key words that will bring up your restaurant-for the consumer and possibly various spellings. If you're advertising on an Internet yellow pages, and your business is a Chinese restaurant, that may be all you need to designate. You could choose "banquet facilities" or "catering" if those also apply.

Keep your information timely, fresh and useful.

Keep track of the value you receive. Ask new customers where they heard about you. Read the reports on your click numbers. The beauty of pay-per-click advertising is the flexibility it allows you in stopping, starting and changing your campaigns. It's a low-risk advertising medium, since you are paying based on the leads generated.

Complement your other advertising. Both in print and online, the "restaurants" heading is the most popular yellow pages category, delivering an average restaurant advertiser 10,900 references a year or almost 30 per day, reports advertising research and consulting firm CRM Associates.

When they're hungry, people want information right away. Pay-per-click is an investment that enables you to manage your advertising and control your budget based on your immediate business needs while you reach the growing number of potential new customers who are shopping for a new dining experience—online.