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Is your franchise business consistently outranked by local, less-authoritative businesses? In this article we are primarily focused on franchise seo strategies, but these same marketing initiatives apply to seo for businesses with multiple locations as well.
At its core, franchise system marketing efforts have two objectives to fulfill: Build a strong brand and recruit customers. Building a strong brand demands that the franchisor and franchisees send a consistent message to prospective and current customers, and it’s for this reason that franchisors in well-designed systems set strict rules for the use of their trademarks and control the use and creation of marketing and advertising materials.
Most franchisors have comprehensive marketing plans in place for the overall franchise operations, with national plans that typically include TV and radio commercials, advertising campaigns, social media, Internet advertising, direct mail efforts and public relations tactics (press releases, etc.) – thus, brand recognition is widely established and franchisees benefit from this “brand equity.” Franchisors that do not manage marketing on a national level normally provide an outline for the franchisees to follow when preparing their local level marketing plan.
So, how do you find a franchise SEO strategy that works for you and your franchisees? It’s now time to dive into the beating heart of this marketing for franchises guide, which will provide the essential tactics for building brands via the magic of Search Engine Optimization (or franchise SEO) and other marketing strategies.
1. Start With Doing Your Research
The first thing you need to know when creating an effective marketing and promotion program is that researching the competition and identifying the target customer is vital. The two key factors that influence franchise planning are competition and demographics of your target client profile; along with this comes many questions to answer about your target market:
- Who is the competition, and how many competitors are there within the region being targeted?
- What types of services do they offer, and what is the structure of their pricing?
- What are their weaknesses and strengths?
- What are the methods of the competition’s advertising?
- What types of customers reside in your location, and where are they originating from – for example, are there sprawling residential neighborhoods or massive industrial complexes in the vicinity?
- What particular needs does each group of customers demand? What are traditional concerns for your customers?
From here, you can begin to create and execute a franchise marketing plan – but because these can be very complex, you should make some basic steps first, keeping in mind the “five p’s” of marketing: Product, place, price, promotion and publicity.
These steps include:
- Collecting information
- Planning the campaign
- Implementing the campaign
- Reviewing and assessing the results
2. Governance Policies
Corporate governance is a crucial part of managing a growing and successful business, yet far too many small business owners underestimate the need for and benefits of this element. What exactly is corporate governance? Put simply, it is the system by which you manage and direct your business; it essentially refers to the decision-making and control you exercise over the business, and can greatly influence how your business objectives are set and achieved. What’s important to remember is that it is not so much about operations and day-to-day activities of a business, but the decision-making process.
Critical questions to be addressed include:
- Who exactly are our customers, and how can we best compete?
- What are your brand and messaging policies?
- How are new seo and digital marketing strategies implemented and rolled out?
- What is the go to marketing strategy for new locations?
- What capital is needed to fund each franchises local marketing efforts?
- What’s our success and ROI policy for local marketing strategies?
Having well-considered formal policies in place can help you run a franchise consistently, but then the question becomes, where do you start? Good governance is based on the relationship between managing/lessening risks and the objectives trying to be attained.
3. Schema Markup
Here’s where we start to get into the “SEO for franchises” angle in franchise marketing. One of the most effective evolutions in Search Engine Optimization techniques has been the schema markup, and once you grasp the concept and method, you’ll be able to boost your franchise’s website in the search engine result pages (SERPs). First, let’s define what schema markup actually is.
Schema markup describes code (semantic vocabulary) that is put on a website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. If you’ve ever used rich snippets, you’ll understand exactly what schema markup is all about.
Think of schema markups as breadcrumbs of information about your brand that you leave for Google; they are located right above your meta description on Google result pages. You can include such information as location, ratings and price ratings for individual franchise locations. If you have decided to create individual websites for each franchise, you should consider providing customized schema markups for each site.
What’s the benefit? Customizing schema markups allows you to rank for local keywords – you may call yourself “ABC Cleaners,” but the New York branch will want to rank for New York. Adding “New York” to your schema markup makes that happen, because you’re providing Google as much local information as possible.
4. Great Website Design
By now, you should understand the importance of your franchise business having a website, but have you ever considered how it can become a way for prospective customers to find you? Here are the reasons why great website design is essential when marketing a franchise:
Your Franchise Website Should be a Learning Center – Does you website merely sell your services and little else? It doesn’t matter if you work out of a home office or you are the franchisee, your website should teach the website visitor, as this helps build trust, boost engagement and dramatically raise your Google rankings (SEO for franchises).
A few types of content that can be used within your content strategy to teach include articles, videos, FAQs, eBooks, white papers, podcasts, case studies, tutorials, blogs and infographics.
A Franchise-Responsive Website is a Must – Since mobile devices have taken over in terms of how people view websites today, it’s vital that your website looks great on every device; this means that your franchise website is one that automatically adapts to the size of the browser, regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or personal computer.
Social Media Demands a Strategy – There’s no getting around it any longer: Social media is here to stay, and businesses must use the associated platforms to survive in today’s market. Keeping in mind that people have become “ultra-visual” and want to see something rather than read text about it, you can use social media for your franchise through YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and Pinterest content that’s applicable to your industry and more.
Video Marketing is Essential – People today prefer to watch videos, and studies have shown that video increases engagement, builds trust and increases sales. There are a few types of videos you can include on your website that can yield good ROI (Return on Investment), including a “welcome to our franchise” video for new franchisees, FAQ videos, tutorial videos, an “About Us” video, a “Top 10 Products” video, training video and testimonial videos.
Expert Tip: Do not allow your franchise locations to go rogue and create their own local domains. This is a management and brand nightmare.
5. Local Location Pages On the Primary Brand Website
By creating a more user-focused experience that includes individual location landing pages for physical business locations, franchise systems and multi-location brands can turn user queries into actual visits. Developing location pages that are an extension of the primary brand domain allows brands to rank more prominently on hyper-local search terms above online directories such as Insider Pages and Yelp, while also capturing valuable “real estate” on search engine results pages.
Here are the components for a search engine friendly location page:
- Google My Map with location info
- Unique content about the franchisor and location
- Directions to the location from surrounding cities, including landmarks
- Photos of the location
- Link to a review page for the location
- List of products and/or services
- Schema MarkUp
- Link to the location’s social profiles
- Link to franchisor and staff member profile pages
- Local phone number
Into this foray has come an ongoing debate whether brands should explore an approach that manages local SEO from the top down or allows individual locations to manage SEO on their own – otherwise known as a “centralized strategy” versus a “decentralized strategy,” which leads us to our next section…
6. Centralized Control of Listings and Pages
Establishing a centralized control strategy involves ensuring the franchisor or brand management team is in complete control over the decision-making on key aspects of both national and hyper-local strategies. These key aspects can encompass messaging, the brand position, important seasonal and direct marketing initiatives and more. From a local search viewpoint, it’s also vital that metro and location pages are created so that your brand shows up in SERPs for geo-modified and non-branded phrases; by utilizing the appropriate URLs, those pages (for example, Apple Maps or Google Maps) can also be associated with your local business listings.
Important to note here is that those pages should have the appropriate content, metadata and structured data in place to appear on organic local search queries.
7. Control of Franchisees’ Local Marketing Efforts
A common theme at such conventions as the Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference is always how franchisors are seeking new ways to help support the local marketing efforts of their franchisees. Most franchises require every franchisee to contribute to a national ad fund that goes toward franchise marketing campaigns, search campaigns for branded terms and display campaigns for company-wide initiatives. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough.
Franchisees, in addition to reaping the benefits of national marketing campaigns, should be encouraged to advertise locally; indeed, local efforts benefit the company at all levels – not only by yielding higher-ranking Googlesearch terms but also by producing more foot traffic, more leads, more local sales and brand consistency.
Here are four things franchisors can do to ensure that all of their locations are making the most of local marketing opportunities and tactics:
- Identify preferred vendors
- Regionalize media buying
- Develop channel-specific guidelines
- Localize pay-per-click and social media ads
8. Local Keyword Research
You need to research for which keywords you want to rank, which is typically a fusion of your business type and location that go together to match how your customers find you online.
“Italian food Norwich”
“car care services New York downtown”
“plumbing service near me”
In order to choose the right “long tail keyword,” you need to complete research with the help of a keyword tool to discover keywords that boast a high search volume, have a low competition rate and match your area of service. Furthermore, to successfully rank for your search term, you need all of these factors to come together in harmony, in the right balance.
Usually, we advise clients to go with the most localized keyword, since that’s where competition is lowest, chances to rank are highest and users are most willing to convert.
9. Local Content Strategy
While the parent company’s overall mission is carried out at the franchisor level, franchisees are still not off the hook; they still need to keep tabs on local marketing efforts, and some of the best tools available at the local level include:
Social Media – We covered this earlier, but it bears repeating: Social media is a powerful content creation and promotion tool, but because posts spread quickly, it’s important to exercise caution. The franchisee is responsible for maximizing local audience exposure by promoting social media posts, and they should allocate local advertising dollars to this expense.
Local Business Listings – Directories like Google Places, FourSquare, Yahoo! and Yelp should all figure into a local marketing strategy; franchisees should be responsible for getting registered with these free directories, and this will also create inbound links from local branch profiles which also improves search engine rankings for the company at large.
Local PR – Getting media coverage in your local market will not only help increase your brand recognition, but will boost your local SEO rankings within that market.
Get Involved and Give Back – It is no secret that giving back to your local community has a powerful effect on brand affinity and sales. Being known as a socially responsible franchise will do wonders for your business and brand in your local community.
Since we just mentioned inbound links, let’s talk about local link-building strategies. At its core, link-building describes the process of acquiring hyperlinks from various websites. In fact, every time another website is “convinced” to post a link to your site, a link has been successfully built. But how does link-building factor into franchise marketing?
To begin with, building links to your website provides more opportunities for organic users to connect with your brand…it’s essentially a form of free advertising that targets everyone who visits the host’s website. More importantly, link-building assists Google‘s “crawl bots,” as they can now find your site and are signaled that it is safe, high-quality and deserving of a high ranking in the search listings.
If your franchise marketing campaign is running neck-and-neck with a local competitor, simply alter your link-building efforts to help claim the coveted top spot.
Here are some suggestions:
- Utilize Local Chamber of Commerce or Local Neighborhood Websites
- Sponsor Local Teams
- Give Back to the Community
Recommended reading: Learn more about local link building strategies here.
As a franchise owner, leveraging your digital presence wish a strategic franchise SEO company gives you the power to tap into the more than five billion searches per day, and 50% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day – thus generative new customers for your franchise.