Google is now testing its biggest change ever.
It’s called Search Generative Experience (SGE), and it’s slated for a tentative early 2024 release.
The good news? If you haven’t focused on your SEO game quite yet, you have a chance to really use this change as a boost for your business.
The bad news? If you are ranking well, your business may take a hit if you don’t take the proper steps now.
In the most recent International Caterers Association webinar, owners Jamie Pritscher-Tomaino and Michael Larson from Nuphoriq, a digital marketing agency for catering companies and venues, joined to share expert input on what hospitality businesses need to know about SEO and how to prepare successfully for this inevitable shift to SGE.
Larson, Nuphoriq’s in-house SEO expert, shared that of the 80+ websites Nuphoriq manages for caterers and venues, between 30-50% of traffic comes from Google, and 40-60% of website leads come from that Google traffic. With this, he cautioned that catering businesses and venues can no longer rely on these numbers being the norm, and there will be a great shift in SEO and how you optimize your business for this change moving forward.
So, how do you prepare to rise to the top of the ranks? Larson shared a handful of explanations and tips you can implement in your business as this change brings a new wave of leaders into the industry.
What is SEO?
But first, what is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of ensuring that your catering business shows up at the top of both organic and map results when people search for terms like “catering company in Salt Lake City” or “wedding catering New York.”
This is critical for catering businesses today because when individuals are searching for terms like this, it typically means that they’re ready to invest in a caterer or venue for an upcoming event. And showing up in these results typically decides whether they consider you or go with your competition.
Think about when you’re searching for a service provider of some sort; what do you do?
You search Google.
You check what pops up first.
You review the ratings.
You decide who to contact.
This is exactly how your potential clients are using Google to decide which caterers to call. It’s your job to make it to the top of the list and have a presence there so you can be competitive in your area.
What are the most important SEO ranking factors currently?
Today, there are over 200 factors that determine how you rank on Google. But there are two that matter more than the rest:
Domain Authority. The amount of trust Google has in your website that’s generated by the number of links you have back to your website from other businesses online. The more links you have, the higher your domain authority.
Keyword Content. When someone searches for a term, Google wants to show results that give the absolute best answer. So, the content related to that term and how much of an “expert” you seem to be is huge for where you rank.
But, with the future of search rooted in SGE, this will be changing soon.
How will Google SGE change SEO (and searches in general)?
Moving forward, the lists we know and love may no longer be the standard.
Early tests show that for the same search term, completely different companies will show up in SGE than have been showing up in traditional search results.
In other words, the top-ranking caterers today may not be the top-ranking caterers once SGE rolls out.
How to optimize for SGE
With that in mind, what should you focus on to win in the new Google?
Larson shared he’s seen the three things to focus on and start building now for ultimate success:
#1. Google Business Profile (estimated 2-4 hours/month)
Google needs to know that you’re a real, established local business. One of the best ways to express this to Google is by optimizing your Google My Business profile. Fill in every area possible, including:
- Service category (select caterer as your primary, with a few secondary services)
- Business address
- Business hours
- Business phone
- Correct website link
- Up-to-date menus
- Questions and answers
- Updated services
Pro Tip: Use Moz.com to input your business information. This service will distribute exactly what you input into platforms like Apple Maps, Waze, Google Maps, etc., so you don’t have to do it manually. This will help you build trust and authority with accurate citations.
Beyond these basic listing details, there are two areas of your Google Business Profile that need to be updated on an ongoing basis:
Google Business posts – weekly
On your Google Business listing, you have the option to create posts that you should be updating at least weekly. These posts function as an announcement or promotion that will show up when your profile is viewed. You can include up to 1,500 characters, as well as images, videos, product links, etc. Use these to drive business to your latest seasonal promo!
Your minimum post frequency should be weekly.
Google images – monthly
Next up is the images. Between business images and client images uploaded with reviews, your business has the opportunity to really showcase your creativity and delectable cuisine. Add new images at least once a month so Google knows you’re active and prospective clients can indulge in recent events.
#2. Increase the number of reviews (estimated 1-6 hours/month)
Speaking of reviews and images, next up is getting more of them.
With SGE, Google is taking the onus on itself to choose the best caterer in any city—and reviews are contributing to Google's decision there. Reviews are votes of trust for your business that Google can read when picking who the best business is.
With this, while many businesses have processes for this, they’re not prioritized. Now is the time to change this. Two ways Larson recommended you increase the number of your testimonials are:
Ask for reviews personally
After a successful event—including tastings—have the event manager ask personally for the review. A pro tip for this is to have business cards printed with QR codes that link to your Google Business Profile so they can immediately leave a review.
Leverage text messages
After a tasting or event, in addition to asking personally, send a link to review directly on Google via text to their phone. Usually, people are logged in to their Google account on their phone, so it’s a single-click action that’s much easier to take than going to their email, finding a link, and leaving the review.
The ultimate goal is to make it easy for them to review, make it personal, and follow up if you don’t get a response.
#3. Be the thought leader (estimated 2-4 hours/month)
Last but not least, your content. This is the most overlooked area as of this moment because blogs are seen as a long-term strategy. Now, they’re going to be non-negotiable. You want to be publishing helpful, educational content on your website. You are the experts in catering and events—share that knowledge!
Some topic idea prompts could be:
- What is ______________?
- ______________ vs. ______________
- How much does ____________ cost?
- How does ____________ work?
- What’s included with ______________?
In this content, create a CTA like “get pricing for your dates” or “let’s chat about your vision” to get them to book a call with your team or inquire for more information so you can capture the lead.
Why this matters more now is that Google is pulling answers to questions from those who seem most knowledgeable. Don’t keep your expertise under lock and key. Share it!
SEO is more important than ever
So, with all of these action items, your team can estimate spending an average of five to 14 hours a month, depending on how involved you get in your SGE and SEO strategy. If you need more support, Nuphoriq and the entire ICA membership community awaits. The future of business will always be peppered with unknown changes, but the more you can do to prepare for situations like these, the more profitable your business will be.
For more information on how to join the ICA and be notified of future catering industry webinars and education opportunities while gaining access to our exclusive and valuable ICA Facebook Roundtable Group, visit https://www.internationalcaterers.org.