Why Your Franchise SEO Model Isn’t Working
There are a variety of reasons why owning a franchise can be a good thing for you, but once you’ve invested, unless your franchise has incredible brand recognition, there’s still a need for effective marketing.
What’s unfortunate is that a lot of franchises suck at SEO.
Now, that may be a bold statement, but the issue really boils down to control. Many franchise owners want to maintain strict control over their brand and messaging which is completely understandable. This is necessary to protect the integrity of the brand.
The last thing any franchise owner wants is to have a new franchisee come in and start sending out marketing messages that are completely against what the brand stands for, so there is a very real need for control there.
But, there’s a balance between control and an effective growth strategy. That’s where SEO gets dinged frequently.
The Traditional Franchise Model Of Digital Marketing
In the 14 years that we’ve been doing SEO, we’ve seen both some really successful digital marketing and some dismal failures. With franchises, we’ve seen a consistent pattern that we think is very limiting.
The typical setup is this: the franchise has what we call a “mother ship” website that they completely control. Whenever they bring on a franchisee, they simply add a page to their site. The page is usually nothing more than a template that they allow the franchisee to have access to in order to fill out the details.
This is great for the mother ship site since it adds keyword-rich content to the site with various locations across the country.
Adding franchisees from all around the country helps the mothership site gain recognition because it’s naturally adding location pages from around the nation. This is the basis of national SEO.
But, for the franchisee, their digital marketing is limited to one page on a website and some social media channels where all your content is typically laid out for you.
So, What’s The Problem With The Traditional Model?
Imagine the excitement and thrill of buying into a business where everything has been tested and the entire model of how to make money has all been laid out for you. All you have to do is write a check and walk into a successful business. Sounds perfect, right?
We all know that success depends on getting and keeping new customers. Now, imagine that your entire online marketing efforts begin and end with one page on somebody else’s website. Worse yet, you aren’t even able to add a lot on the one page you have access to.
Starting to see the problem?
While the pages for each franchisee help the mothership site gain traction for national SEO, what the franchisee needs is help with local SEO since they are typically trying to attract business from the local area versus the next state or across the country.
With the company’s digital marketing strategy, the very nature of having a franchise model means that there’s a need for both national and local SEO strategies. However, the need for the franchise to maintain control often trumps the local SEO efforts. This issue means that the franchisee can be severely limited in what they can and cannot do to attract local customers.
For example, we’ve done some work for a nationally recognized billboard company. This company has a well-established website that was built years ago on a proprietary platform that has all kinds of tools on the backend. It would be a pretty big job to change platforms but certainly doable.
Each franchisee has their very own page on this company website, and they are allowed to fill it out completely to help localize that page. That’s all they are given when they buy into the franchise.
Now, some franchisees have taken it upon themselves to build their own websites and work on optimizing them for the local areas. Here in Atlanta, there are two franchise owners that work well together and have both built websites that rank very well in their service areas.
A Solution For Franchise SEO
The simplest solution for this dilemma is for franchise owners to continue to focus on national SEO for their brand. Easy enough.
That being said, an easy fix that would help the franchise owners would be to give them a ready-made website with templates that would allow them to build landing pages to target local areas around their store.
Since WordPress is far and away the most popular website platform online today, it would be simple to simply create a franchisee site and give this to them when they buy into the franchise.
From there, the company could give the new franchisee some training and guidelines on how to build landing pages to help capture the local market.
While the franchise’s national SEO efforts would add pages for major metropolitan cities throughout the country, adding smaller websites that are optimized to rank locally would be a one-two punch that could, depending upon the competitiveness of the industry, land the business on page one of the search results twice- once from the national SEO and again for the local franchisee. We’ve seen this happen for the billboard company mentioned earlier.
As with everything, there is a risk/reward ratio here to consider. Taking this approach to the franchise digital marketing would relinquish some control but it is absolutely the best approach to bringing in more eyes and potential customers to the local as well as the national websites. This approach is about effectively getting more and isn’t that what it’s all about in business?
Your Google Business Profile
While most franchisees are wrestling with how to gain traction in their local areas, having a well-optimized Google Business Profile is certainly a top priority.
By “well-optimized”, we mean filling out your profile as much as possible with the business description, pictures of your business from the inside and out, your staff, your service area, etc.
Most people don’t realize that Google uses the information you give them on this profile to assess whether or not you are a legitimate business vs someone trying to trick Google for various reasons. That’s why adding images of your signage, your staff, and your office is important.
One thing that is often ignored is the Q&A portion of the profile. This is space to add frequently asked questions about your business along with the answers. It gives you a place to not only add helpful content for your potential customers, but it also adds keyword-rich content about your business to help your profile be more visible.
Don’t forget that besides proximity to the center of the town where your business is located, getting and responding to reviews is another important ranking factor for your profile. Reviews and making sure that you are active with your profile- adding posts (1500 characters), pictures, Q&A, etc. are all great ways to ensure that your profile is seen by Google as active.
Make It Loud can certainly help you get more visibility with your franchise if and when you’re ready to capture more of the local (or national) market. Simply call us at 678.325.4007 for a free consultation.
Cliff Tillery, MBA is the Chief Operating Officer at Make It Loud which is a digital marketing firm located outside of Atlanta Georgia. He is also the Director of SEO. More than 14 years ago, he started search engine optimization at this agency and has taught digital marketing skills to business owners at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center, and other groups.