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Spice Up Your Ads: Building a Robust Restaurant Pay-Per-Click Keyword Strategy

Last Update: Dec 5, 2023 @ 8:13 am

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” 

– Michael E. Porter, Renowned Marketing Strategist


In a world where digital presence and online visibility have become prerequisites for success, restaurants can’t afford to lag. PPC advertising, a digital marketing strategy that generates immediate and measurable results, is particularly valuable. But success hinges on the careful selection and optimization of keywords. This is where a well-devised keyword strategy comes into play.

A strong keyword strategy ensures your restaurant’s PPC campaign resonates with your target audience, accurately reflecting your offerings and brand image. Whether your potential customers are looking for a family-friendly diner, a romantic bistro, or a quick-service taco joint, your keywords should guide them to your door. 

Therefore, understanding and mastering the art of keyword strategy is not just beneficial, but a necessity for restaurants seeking to stand out in today’s saturated digital landscape.

What is a Pay-Per-Click Keyword
PPC Keywords for Restaurants From the Web

What is a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Keyword?

In pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, a keyword is a term for which an advertiser places a bid. When people enter the keyword into a search engine, the advertiser’s ad may appear at the top, bottom, or sidebar.

The “keyword” in PPC advertising is the linchpin that connects advertisers with potential customers. When a keyword is searched for, an advertiser’s ad will display. This makes keywords incredibly important for targeting ads to the right audience.

If you manage a Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas, bidding on terms like “Mexican restaurant in Austin,” “tacos in Austin,” and “best margaritas in Austin” may be a good idea. When a user searches for these terms, your ad might appear in their search results.

PPC keywords aren’t just limited to single words – they can also be phrases or even questions. The goal is to determine which terms prospective buyers would use to find your company’s goods and services online.

The effectiveness of your chosen keywords can significantly impact the success of your PPC campaign. Hence, it’s crucial to conduct thorough keyword research to identify the most relevant and effective keywords. This process involves understanding your target audience’s language and search behaviors, examining the keywords your competitors are using, and utilizing keyword research tools.

However, just choosing the right keywords isn’t enough. You also need to monitor and analyze the performance of your keywords regularly. You may need to add new keywords, remove ineffective ones, or adjust your bids based on how your keywords are performing.

PPC keywords are a vital part of PPC advertising. They can help connect your ads with your target audience, making your advertising campaign more effective and profitable. Understanding how to choose and optimize your PPC keywords can significantly enhance the success of your online advertising efforts.

Key Elements of a PPC Keyword

To unlock the full potential of your PPC campaign, understanding the key elements of a PPC keyword is vital. Let’s dive in to explore the vital components that make a keyword powerful and effective.

1. Relevance

Your PPC keywords must be relevant to your business and the products or services you offer. Users who type in your targeted keywords are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer if your keywords are highly specific.

2. Search Volume

The frequency of keyword searches over time. High search volume keywords can drive more traffic, but they can also be more competitive.

3. Competition

Some keywords are more competitive than others. Highly competitive keywords are often more expensive to bid on. It may be more cost-effective in some situations to go for less competitive long-tail keywords.

4. Intent

The best keywords often align with the searcher’s intent. A restaurant, for instance, would do well to focus on search terms that imply a person is interested in dining options.

5. Geographic Location

If you’re a local business, like a restaurant, incorporating your location into your keywords can help attract local customers.

6. Cost-per-Click (CPC)

This is the cost per click that will be incurred by your ad. Higher CPC keywords can drive up your advertising costs.

7. Keyword Match Types

An exact match, phrase match, or broad match are alternative search options. The match type can affect when and where your ads appear.

8. Negative Keywords

These are words or phrases you don’t want your ad to show up for. If you own a high-end restaurant, you might use “cheap” negatively.

9. Quality Score

This Google-provided metric evaluates the relevance of your keywords, the quality of your landing page, and the possibility that a person will click on your listing. A higher quality score can lead to lower costs and better ad positions.

10. Conversion Potential

Some keywords are more likely to lead to conversions (actions you want users to take, like making a reservation) than others. Think about the ROI you could get from using each keyword.

Your PPC keywords’ success will depend heavily on each of these factors. If you understand these variables, you’ll be better able to choose keywords that will attract visitors, boost sales, and boost your marketing ROI.

Types of PPC Keywords

There are several types of PPC keywords that advertisers use to target their ads more effectively. The main types include:

1. Broad Match Keywords

This is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned. Ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations. For example, if your broad match keyword is “Italian restaurant,” someone searching for “best Italian pasta” might see your ad.

2. Modified Broad Match Keywords

This type is similar to broad match, but it gives you slightly more control. If you put a plus sign (+) in front of any of the terms in your keyword, those terms, or close variations of them, must be present in the search for your ad to show. For example, if your keyword is “+Italian +restaurant,” your ad could show for “best Italian restaurant” but not for “best pizza restaurant.”

3. Phrase Match Keywords

Ads may show on searches that are a phrase, and close variations of that phrase. If your keyword is a phrase match for “Italian restaurant,” your ad could show searches like “best Italian restaurant” but not “Italian style restaurant.”

4. Exact Match Keywords

Ads may show on searches that are an exact term and close variations of that exact term. If your keyword is in brackets, like [Italian restaurant], your ad could show when someone searches for “Italian restaurant” or “Italian restaurants,” but not for “best Italian restaurant.”

5. Negative Keywords

These are terms you want to exclude from triggering your ad. If you own a high-end Italian restaurant, for instance, you might not want to be found for those looking for “cheap” or “fast food” by using negative keywords like that.

It’s essential to understand that these match types can affect the reach of your keywords. Broad match keywords can reach a broad audience, but they might also trigger your ads for irrelevant searches. On the other hand, exact match keywords can provide highly targeted traffic, but they might limit the reach of your ads.

Using a combination of these keyword types, based on your specific business needs and advertising goals, can help you optimize your PPC campaigns. Regularly review and adjust your keyword match types based on your campaign performance to get the best results.

PPC Keyword Tools for Restaurant Marketing

Selecting the right keywords is critical for the success of your PPC campaign, and fortunately, several tools can aid this process. Some examples are:

1. Google Keyword Planner

Google’s own tool is a great starting point for your keyword research. It can generate keyword ideas, provide estimated search volumes, and give you a sense of how competitive various keywords are. Google’s search engine dominance makes its data trustworthy.

2. SEMrush

This is a comprehensive digital marketing tool that includes a powerful keyword research feature. You can use SEMrush to find out which keywords your competitors are ranking for and discover new keyword opportunities. It also provides information about keyword difficulty and cost per click.

3. Moz Keyword Explorer

This tool provides keyword suggestions, monthly search volume, and a difficulty score that predicts how difficult it’ll be for your website to rank on the first page of search results for a particular keyword. Moz also shows a priority score that combines all other metrics to help you focus on the most effective keywords.

4. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is another comprehensive SEO tool. Its keyword research feature, known as “Keywords Explorer,” provides an extensive list of keyword suggestions along with useful metrics like search volume, keyword difficulty, and clicks data.

5. KWFinder

This tool is especially useful for finding long-tail keywords that have a lower level of competition. It provides trend data, search volume, CPC, and level of difficulty in terms of SEO.

6. Answer The Public

This is a different kind of keyword tool. It visualizes search questions and suggests autocomplete searches in an image called a search cloud. This can be great for generating content ideas and finding long-tail keywords.

7. Ubersuggest

Developed by marketing expert Neil Patel, Ubersuggest provides keyword ideas, SEO difficulty, paid difficulty, and average CPC. It also gives content ideas and shows the top web pages ranking for any given keyword.

While these tools provide useful data, remember that the most effective keywords aren’t always the ones with the highest search volume or lowest competition. They’re the keywords that are most relevant to your restaurant and the services you offer. Always consider your unique business needs and goals when choosing your keywords.

Case Study_ Denny's
Denny’s Free Promo Digital Ad From the Web

Case Study: Denny’s

Denny’s, a popular American diner-style restaurant chain, provides a compelling example of an effective keyword strategy in action. Denny’s used Google AdWords to connect with potential customers by targeting keywords related to their offerings and brand identity. A review of their PPC campaigns shows that they have implemented several strategic approaches.

  • Seasonal Keywords: Denny’s uses seasonal keywords to capitalize on certain times of the year. For example, they target keywords like “Christmas brunch” or “New Year’s Day breakfast” during the holiday season.
  • Localized Keywords: Denny’s operates nationwide and understands the importance of reaching local customers. They target location-specific keywords such as “diners in Orlando” or “breakfast in San Francisco”.
  • Menu Item Keywords: Denny’s uses keywords related to their most popular menu items. If you search for “Grand Slam breakfast”, chances are you’ll come across an ad for Denny’s.
  • Competitor Keywords: Denny’s cleverly targets keywords related to their competitors to reach an audience already interested in dining out.
  • Long-tail Keywords: Understanding the value of specificity, Denny’s uses long-tail keywords, like “best all-day breakfast restaurant”, to reach a highly-targeted audience.

The Benefits of Building a Robust Keyword Strategy

Just as a chef carefully selects ingredients for a delicious dish, so must we curate our keywords for a successful ad campaign. Let’s discover how a robust keyword strategy can dramatically enhance your restaurant’s visibility and profitability.

  • Increased Ad Visibility: A robust keyword strategy increases your chances of appearing in relevant searches. Google found that search ads can increase brand awareness by as much as 80%.
  • Targeted Traffic: High-quality traffic can be attracted to your site by employing keywords that your intended audience is actually searching for. HubSpot reports that paid ads are one of the top three generators of on-page conversions.
  • Higher Click-Through Rates (CTR): With well-chosen keywords, your ads will resonate better with searchers, leading to higher CTR. According to Wordstream, the average CTR for a PPC ad is about 2%.
  • Greater Conversion Rates: By attracting more relevant traffic, you increase the likelihood of conversions. Google says a company makes two dollars for every dollar spent on Google Ads.
  • Better Quality Score: Google rewards advertisers with relevant, well-structured campaigns with a higher Quality Score, leading to lower costs per click and better ad positioning.
  • Flexible Marketing Spend: A well-planned keyword strategy can help optimize your PPC budget, ensuring your money is spent on searches that are likely to convert.
  • Competitive Advantage: By bidding on keywords your competitors haven’t capitalized on, you can gain a significant competitive advantage.
  • Immediate Impact: While SEO takes time to generate results, a well-executed PPC campaign can provide immediate visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Market Insight: The performance of your keywords can provide valuable insights into market trends and consumer behavior.
  • Brand Exposure: Even when users don’t click on your ads, appearing in the SERPs increases brand exposure and recognition.
15 Best Pay-Per-Click Keyword Strategies for Restaurants
Restaurant PPC Keyword Mobile Ads From the Web

15 Best PPC Keyword Strategies for Restaurants

Let’s spice up your PPC campaign with our top 15 keyword strategies, specifically tailored for restaurants that will take your digital advertising from ordinary to extraordinary.

1. Understanding Your Audience

A crucial part of keyword strategy is understanding your customers’ language and search behaviors. Are they searching for “best Italian restaurants” or “pizza places near me”? Identify the phrases your potential customers are using.

2. Competitor Keyword Analysis

Identify keywords your competitors are ranking for. You can leverage these insights to refine your own keyword strategy.

3. Location-Based Keywords

Include keywords that specify your location, like “restaurants in [city name]” or “dinner spots near [popular local attraction]”.

4. Menu-Based Keywords

Use keywords related to your menu items. If you’re known for a particular dish, ensure you’re incorporating it into your keywords.

5. Adopting Long-Tail Keywords

These are more specific and less competitive than generic keywords. They also usually have a higher conversion rate.

6. Seasonal Keywords

Depending on your menu, seasonal keywords like “summer brunch spots” or “restaurants with winter patios” can be very effective.

7. Event Keywords

Target keywords around events or holidays like “Mother’s Day brunch” or “restaurants open Christmas Day”.

8. Service-Based Keywords

Highlight unique services your restaurant offers, such as “outdoor dining”, “pet-friendly restaurants”, or “restaurants with live music”.

9. Using Local Slang or Lingo

If your restaurant is in an area where local lingo is popular, include it in your keyword strategy.

10. Keywords Targeting Special Dietary Requirements

Include phrases like “gluten-free bakeries” or “vegan restaurants” in your search terms if your establishment offers food tailored to particular diets.

11. Including Review or Rating Keywords

Keywords like “top-rated” or “best” can help if you have strong reviews or have won restaurant awards.

12. Mobile Keywords

More people are using mobile devices to find restaurants. Consider mobile-specific keywords like “restaurants near me now”.

13. Using Google’s Keyword Planner

This tool can provide insights about search volume and competitiveness for your chosen keywords.

14. Negative Keywords

These are words or phrases you don’t want your ad to show up for. For instance, if you’re an upscale dining establishment, you may want to include “cheap” as a negative keyword.

15. Regular Keyword Performance Review

Continually monitor your keyword performance and make adjustments as needed. Keywords that were once effective might not remain so forever. Be ready to adapt and evolve your keyword strategy.

These strategies can help you create a comprehensive and robust PPC keyword strategy for your restaurant, ensuring you reach your target audience effectively.

PPC Keyword Common Mistakes by Restaurants

Ever seasoned a dish with too much salt? Similar blunders in PPC campaigns can leave a bitter taste. Avoid these common mistakes in keyword selection to ensure your restaurant’s PPC success.

1. Bidding on Irrelevant Keywords

Restaurants sometimes bid on keywords that are not relevant to their offering. This can lead to wasted ad spend and poor ad performance. To avoid this, make sure that the keywords you choose directly correlate with your restaurant’s offerings and your potential customers’ intent.

2. Ignoring Negative Keywords

Neglecting to use negative keywords can cause your ad to appear in irrelevant searches, wasting your budget. Regularly review your search query reports to identify irrelevant terms to add to your negative keyword list.

3. Overly Broad Keywords

Using keywords that are too broad can lead to a high volume of irrelevant clicks. Avoid generic keywords like “restaurant” and focus more on long-tail, specific keywords such as “Italian seafood restaurant in Boston”.

4. Not Using Location-Specific Keywords

If a restaurant ignores location-specific keywords, they risk their ad being shown to people outside their service area. Always include your location in your keywords to attract local traffic.

5. Not Keeping Up with Trends

Food and dining trends change quickly, and your keyword strategy needs to adapt. Regularly update your keyword list to include trending dishes, popular diets, or seasonal changes.

6. Neglecting Mobile Searches

With more people using mobile devices to search for restaurants, ignoring mobile-specific keywords like “near me” can lead to missed opportunities. Optimize your keywords for mobile searches.

7. Not Testing Keyword Performance

Some restaurants set their keywords and then forget about them. To avoid this, regularly monitor keyword performance. This allows you to adjust your strategy accordingly.

8. Setting and Forgetting

PPC advertising requires regular monitoring and optimization. There is no “set it and forget it” option. Regularly review your campaign performance and make necessary adjustments to optimize your results.

9. Not considering user intent

User intent is a vital factor in keyword selection. For instance, a user searching for “Italian pasta recipe” is likely looking to cook at home, not dine out. Understand the intent behind keywords and select those that align with your restaurant’s offerings.

10. Ignoring branded keywords

Some restaurants believe that they don’t need to bid on their brand name if they rank organically. However, bidding on your brand name can protect against competitors who might bid on your branded terms.

By avoiding these mistakes, your pay-per-click (PPC) keyword strategy, PPC campaigns, and ROI will all benefit greatly.

How to Choose the Right Keywords for Pay-Per-Click
PPC Keyword Strategy Graphics From the Web

How to Choose the Right Keywords for PPC

Choosing the right keywords for your PPC campaign is crucial to its success. Here’s how to do it:

1. Understand Your Business

You should know your business inside and out before beginning keyword research. Understand what you offer, who your target audience is, and what kind of searches they might be making.

2. Start With a Broad List

Begin by brainstorming a list of potential keywords. Think about what makes your establishment special, such its food and location. You can get ideas from both your own site and the sites of your competitors.

3. Use Keyword Research Tools

Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Moz Keyword Explorer to generate more keyword ideas and see how often people search for those keywords. These tools can provide valuable insights into the popularity and competitiveness of various keywords.

4. Evaluate Keyword Relevance

Make sure the keywords you choose are relevant to your restaurant and the services you offer. Irrelevant keywords can lead to low-quality traffic and wasted ad spend.

5. Check the Competition

If a keyword is highly competitive, it might be difficult and expensive for your ad to rank well. In some cases, it might be better to choose less competitive, long-tail keywords.

6. Consider Search Intent

Try to choose keywords that align with the intent of your potential customers. When someone types in “best Italian restaurant,” they’re probably looking for a restaurant, not a recipe or a delivery service.

7. Select a Mix of Keyword Types

Don’t just stick with one type of keyword match. A mix of broad, phrase, exact, and negative match keywords can help you reach the right audience.

8. Review and Refine Regularly

Keyword effectiveness can change over time, so regularly review your keywords’ performance and make adjustments as needed.

9. Group and Organize Your Keywords

Organize your keywords into tightly themed groups. This will allow you to write highly specific ad copy for each group and increase your Quality Score, lowering your cost per click.

10. Track Your Results

Use conversion tracking to see which keywords are driving results. If a keyword isn’t leading to clicks or conversions, consider removing it from your campaign.

Your pay-per-click ad should reach people who are likely to make a reservation or order food from your restaurant. You can target the appropriate people at the right moment with your ads if you use the right keywords.

How to Group and Organize Your PPC Keywords

Organizing your PPC keywords effectively can significantly impact your ad campaign’s success. Properly grouped and organized keywords improve ad relevance, increase your Quality Score, lower your cost per click (CPC), and ultimately increase your return on investment (ROI). Look at the detailed instructions below: 

1. Start with Broad Keyword Research

Begin by conducting broad keyword research to identify all potential keywords relevant to your restaurant. This could include types of cuisine, dishes you offer, your location, and other services like home delivery or catering.

2. Identify Themes

Look at your list of keywords and identify common themes or categories. These could relate to specific food items (like “pasta” or “burgers”), services (like “home delivery” or “takeout”), or even your location (“restaurant in [city name]”).

3. Create Keyword Groups

Once you’ve identified themes, create keyword groups based on them. Each group should contain keywords that are closely related to the theme. For instance, a keyword group for “pasta” could include keywords like “best pasta in [city name]”, “Italian pasta near me”, and “pasta delivery”.

4. Use Match Types

Within each group, make sure to include a mix of different match types, like exact match, phrase match, broad match, and negative match. This will help you reach a broad audience while maintaining relevance.

5. Organize by Performance

Monitor the performance of your keywords and rearrange your groups based on results. If a specific keyword is performing exceptionally well, it might deserve its own ad group with tailored ad copy and landing pages.

6. Regularly Review and Refine

Keyword performance can change over time due to shifts in user behavior, trends, or competitive landscape. Regularly reviewing your keyword groups and making necessary adjustments is crucial.

7. Implement Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are an important part of keyword organization. They prevent your ads from showing for irrelevant search queries, helping to ensure your ads only reach the most relevant audiences.

8. Use Keyword Tools

Use tools like Google Ads’ Keyword Planner or other keyword research tools to help you find new relevant keywords to add to your groups over time.

Always keep in mind that your targeted audience should be the primary focus of your keyword grouping and organization efforts. When executed properly, it can greatly boost your PPC campaign’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Summary Checklist of Action Plans

Before we serve up our conclusion, here’s a handy checklist of action plans to help you execute a successful PPC keyword strategy. Let’s ensure your digital advertising campaign is as perfect as your signature dish.

  • Define Your Goals: Understand what you want to achieve with your PPC campaign. It could be increasing traffic, generating leads, or driving sales.
  • Know Your Audience: Understand your audience’s demographics, behaviors, and needs. This will help you choose keywords they are likely to use.
  • Conduct Keyword Research: Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to discover relevant keywords. Remember to consider both high-volume and long-tail keywords.
  • Understand Keyword Match Types: Know the difference between broad, phrase, and exact match types and when to use them.
  • Implement Negative Keywords: Use negative keywords to prevent your ad from showing up in irrelevant searches, saving your budget for where it counts.
  • Group and Organize Your Keywords: Group your keywords based on themes for more effective ad targeting.
  • Monitor Keyword Performance: Keep an eye on how your keywords are performing and adjust your strategy as needed.


Mastering keyword strategy for PPC advertising isn’t just a box to be checked; it’s a powerful lever to drive your restaurant’s digital marketing success. Whether you’re a single-location restaurant or a nationwide chain, a well-crafted keyword strategy can increase your online visibility, attract more relevant traffic, and ultimately drive more business to your restaurant. 

There’s no time like the present to start optimizing your keyword strategy. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, those who fail to adapt risk being left behind.

READ ALSO: 4 Effective Advertising Strategies For Your Business

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