Under Your Website’s Dashboard: What Should You Pay For

Even today, years after its birth, the internet is evolving so quickly that there’s a new tool available for web builders almost on the daily.  Big websites like eBay, Amazon, and others rely on thousands of premium under the hood products and advanced pieces of web code to keep growing and thriving, and the technological bounds of web development are just about endless.  But as a restaurant owner, what kinds of features does your website really need for you to stay competitive?  There’s a lot of options out there you can pay for to make your website more powerful, but which ones are really worth it?  Here’s our take on some of the premium web site tools out there that you can invest in, and how you may or may not want to incorporate some premium features into your restaurant’s site.

1. Independent Hosting

Most basic web design tools, from WordPress to Weebly, have options for free web hosting that come standard when you design your site.  And for most restaurant owners, the free hosting that comes with most basic website builders is more than adequate.  So what do you get by investing in independent hosting, and what is “web hosting” exactly?

A website hosting service hosts the server for your site, which is how the computers of your visitors communicate with the data that makes your site what it is.  “Independent hosting” refers to web hosting services that you can pay for outside of the free ones offered by most basic website builders.  Web hosting services will make your website load faster if you have lot’s of data, and will make your site more reliable under big visitor loads.  But for most restaurant owners, investing in independent hosting isn’t really necessary: your market will be local, and it’s unlikely that you will get so much traffic that free hosting services will crash.  Plus, unless have a very complex site, you probably won’t be hosting enough data to notice slow loading times from free hosting services.

2. Premium Plugins

Depending on how you built your restaurant’s site, there are probably premium plugins you can invest in to give your site more functionality.  Especially in WordPress, third party developers have created hundreds of useful apps that can up the power of your site for relatively cheap.  But before investing your money in premium plugins, make sure to determine if you will be able to use them on your site: in WordPress, for example, you can only use plugins if your site is independently hosted.  While premium plugins do provide a lot of functionality to business owners who sell things from their site directly, as a restaurant owner, your site exists as more of a hub than a market place, and for the most part, premium apps aren’t going to add any functionality that you really need.

3. SEO Friendly Coding

SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization,” is a metric by which you can determine how highly your website will rank in Google searches and in searches on other search engines.  Improving your SEO ranking means your site will appear higher in search engine results, which in turn can bring more business through your doors.

Usually, when people talk about beneficial SEO practices, they are talking more about what’s on the front end of a website: your content, keyword optimization, and media integration, all of which visitors view, have an effect on your SEO ranking.  But the way your site is coded under the hood has a big effect on SEO rankings too.  Sloppy code will lower your SEO ranking, and could hurt your business.  But before running off to hire a web coder to improve your SEO, consider this: most basic web building sites that allow you to create your own site already have clean and clear coding that won’t affect your SEO.  Unless you built your site from scratch, it’s not really worth it to dig into the under the hood side of SEO.

What Does Your Restaurant’s Site Really Need?

As a restaurant owner, your website needs to do a few things.  It needs to give visitors all the information they need to contact you quickly and easily, like your phone number and address.  It should have a link to your menu, and some descriptions of your cuisine.  Your site can include a blog, and other content elements as well, like an “about” section and a “staff” section.

What your site DOESN’T need is many premium features.  All of the features above can add functionality, but in all honesty, your money is probably better spent elsewhere.  As a small business owner, your site should operate more like an online business card. making it easy for people to find you and come through your door.  But while there are a whole host of under the hood premium options that you CAN invest in, most of them won’t really be worth it for restaurant owner’s websites.