Does your business have several franchise locations in your area (or nationwide)?
If so, a local SEO strategy can help you raise brand awareness and attract potential customers.
According to research by BrightLocal, 85% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the past year.
While digital marketing may seem unnecessary for brick-and-mortar franchise locations, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Research by Google showed that 74% of in-store customers searched online for details before showing up, such as store hours, locations, directions, products in stock, and contact information.
Online reviews are another huge selling point for untapped prospects. In fact, 93% of users admit that reviews had a serious impact on their buying decisions.
So if your local franchise lacks a serious online presence, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of your audience.
The most effective online marketing strategy for these types of businesses is known as franchise SEO.
It bears many similarities to local SEO but also has some completely unique challenges that franchisors need to understand.
With a savvy SEO strategy in place, you will generate a ton of organic traffic that you can convert into leads and sales. Yet, there’s quite a bit to know if you want to climb to the top of the search rankings, which is why we put together this extensive guide.
Read on to learn how you can develop a winning franchise SEO strategy for your business.
What Are Franchise SEO Services All About?
The ultimate goal of franchise SEO is to attract new customers to your brick-and-mortar franchise locations.
Since this revolves around local search (such as for dog groomers in Dayton, Ohio), franchise SEO and local SEO are closely linked.
That means franchise owners need to employ classic local SEO techniques like:
- Creating a Google My Business listing (or claiming an existing one)
- Uploading your franchise website to local directories (Yellow Pages)
- Using location-based keywords
- Setting up a Google business profile
These techniques will increase the online visibility of your franchise websites in local searches. Not only that, but your locations will appear in Google Maps and in SERP features (local packs and map packs).
The whole idea behind SEO is to match your target audience’s search intent (the reason why they searched for the keyword) with content that educates, informs, and answers their questions.
That way, you attract customers to your website and not the other way around. This is known as inbound marketing, and it’s incredibly effective.
An example of Franchise SEO in action
Let’s consider an example of how you can use your content to attract new customers.
Say that you board and groom dogs in Dayton, Ohio. After doing some research, you uncover the location-specific keyword ‘how to board dogs in Dayton’ and decide to create content around it.
You write an informative blog post called ‘Preparing to Board Your Dog in Dayton, Ohio.’
It provides numerous tips for getting your dog used to being away from home, which a reader finds helpful.
At the end of your post, you include a call-to-action that directs the reader to your service page, where you advertise your dog boarding services. The reader decides to convert and book a week’s stay for their dog.
As you can see, your helpful blog content brought the reader to you. In other words, they chose to click on your website and interact with your post of their own volition, which is a great way to build customer loyalty.
While this example involves textbook local SEO techniques, franchise SEO also involves some unique challenges that other local businesses don’t have to worry about.
What Makes Franchise SEO Different From Local SEO?
Franchise businesses have multiple locations, which muddies the SEO waters a bit.
In particular, duplicate content is a considerable challenge for franchise SEO strategies.
Why is that?
It has to do with the fact that most franchises have multiple websites for each one of their locations.
An example would be having two sandwich shop locations in the same city. Ideally, you’d want to create a website for each location to provide their unique:
- Hours of operation
- Contact information
- Products available
The problem is that each franchise website must be unique to avoid duplicate content. If you have two identical pages that you want to rank on Google, they’ll wind up canceling each other out.
Duplicate content is a notorious no-no for SEO because it confuses Google’s algorithms.
Yet, with a franchise, your websites are likely to be very similar, especially if you want to maintain consistent branding. That means product images, fonts, graphics, and logos will be the same across the websites – which can lead to duplicate content.
Another major challenge has to deal with the scope of your strategy.
For instance, do you want to focus on marketing your products and services to local customers, or do you want to go nationwide?
It will usually depend on how many individual franchise locations you have and how spread out they are in the physical world.
Local SEO techniques will work best if you only have a few locations in the same town. Yet, a nationwide approach can work if your franchise has spots all over the country or a few states.
Tips to Avoid Duplicate Content
Since duplicate content is the biggest challenge for online franchise marketing, here are some tips for avoiding it while maintaining brand consistency.
Provide branch-specific information on the site
Including branch-specific information is a great way to distinguish between local landing pages. That will help Google (and other search engines) realize that each branch’s website is unique and not a duplicate.
Not only that, but this information is valuable to your customers and will provide a better user experience.
Here’s the information you should include for each branch:
- An embedded Google map of the franchise’s location
- Location-specific target keywords in the title, tags, metadata, and body content
- Detailed directions for how to get to each location
- Include testimonials unique to that location
- Unique hours of operation
- Pictures and bios of the staff
- Local schema markup for each location
These tactics will help Google recognize each franchise location as a separate website, which is what you want.
Localize your content for each branch
Next, you’ll need to create original content for each one of your franchise locations. If you’re currently sharing blog content across all locations, that’s not the best way to distinguish them from one another.
If you have the budget for it, localizing your content strategy will yield impressive results, and it will help you avoid duplicate content.
Instead of creating content for general topics within your niche, get as location-specific as possible.
If you own a restaurant franchise, you could blog about the preferred cuisines in each branch’s city or neighborhood – as well as mention exclusive items only available at specific locations.
Pro tip: Pay attention to each area’s local news, especially community events. Neighborhood festivals and holidays make excellent content topics, and you can also develop special promotions and offers for them. That way, you’ll be able to pick up a few sales in addition to avoiding duplicate content.
Double-check the NAP for all franchise locations
Some franchises run into duplicate content because they haven’t formatted the NAP (name, address, phone number) for each branch properly.
That poses two problems; not only does it confuse search engines, but the wrong NAP misinforms customers and can lead to lost business.
For instance, if one branch lists the same address as another, Google will see it as duplicate content, and your customers won’t be able to find it.
That’s why it’s so crucial to double-check the NAP for each branch.
Here are some NAP formatting tips:
- Assign a phone number to each location and ensure it’s consistent across all your listings (Google My Business, Yelp, etc.). You never want to use more than one phone number for a single location.
- Permanently delete any duplicate listings you find for the sake of your SEO.
- Use the same business name for each branch. The only difference should be the address and phone number (i.e., don’t number the locations).
- Don’t forget to update all your listings whenever you move locations or close a branch.
- Delete any inaccurate data you find to ensure consistency (i.e., wrong addresses or phone numbers).
Sometimes franchise owners forget to update their business listings whenever they move locations or close one of their locations.
That can lead to an abundance of false information about your brand online.
The last thing you want is for potential customers to attempt to visit or call one of your locations only to be misinformed. To avoid this, set a reminder to update your listings every time one of your locations moves or closes down.
Creating a Franchise SEO Strategy
Now that you know what makes franchise SEO a category of its own, it’s time to start developing a strategy.
Search engine optimization is an ever-changing and evolving tactic, but the fundamentals tend to stay the same.
As such, you’ll need a solid understanding of its basic concepts to create a winning franchise SEO campaign.
After that, it’s time for an in-depth audit of all your existing content, including making any necessary technical SEO tweaks (page speed, broken links, etc.).
Then there’s localized keyword research, content marketing, link-building, and setting up your franchise on local directories.
That’s a lot to take in, so let’s cover each step in greater detail.
The essential components of SEO
An SEO campaign aims to rank a website (or websites) higher in search engine results for specific search terms.
Most SEO strategies center around Google search, but others focus on search engines like Bing and Yahoo.
SEO differs from PPC (pay-per-click) ads in two ways. First, SEO is a form of inbound marketing where customers willingly come to your website to view your content. PPC ads are outbound, meaning they’re placed in front of customers against their will – which can be a good or bad thing.
Next, SEO aims to generate organic traffic, not paid traffic. In essence, you won’t have to pay a dime for an SEO strategy if you do all the work yourself (which isn’t feasible most of the time).
That means that SEO is only sometimes free. There are plenty of SEO agencies that charge for SEO due to their expertise and proven track record.
Here’s a quick overview of the ‘building blocks‘ of SEO.
Every type of SEO campaign involves discovering relevant keywords through research, and franchise SEO is no different.
You can use our free keyword planner tool to uncover localized keywords used by your target audience.
What’s a keyword?
It’s a search query that a user enters into a search engine to find content. An example would be ‘dog groomers Dayton.’
After entering it into the keyword planner, we see that the keyword ‘dog groomers Dayton Ohio’ is the top result. There are also important metrics for each keyword, including its search volume and keyword difficulty (KD) score.
The ideal keyword will have a high search volume but a low keyword difficulty score. That means that lots of users are searching for it, yet there won’t be much competition from other websites, thus making it easier to rank for the term.
This keyword has a search volume of 210 and a difficulty score of 28, which isn’t bad.
Last but not least, pay attention to the search trend graph that’s next to the KD score. It’s a line graph representing the term’s interest over time. This keyword is currently on an upward trend, which means it’s gaining traction.
You always want to go for keywords that are trending up.
Even if a keyword has tremendous search volume, it will soon run out of gas if it’s trending down.
When a search engine like Google crawls and indexes your website, it looks for on-page optimization factors.
These include keyword usage and frequency, title tags, meta descriptions, headers, images, videos, and more.
The crawlers also look at other on-page factors, such as your content’s relevancy, quality, and trustworthiness.
Therefore, any tweak or edit you make to your website counts as on-page SEO.
This is the other side of the coin to on-page SEO. It refers to everything that affects your SEO that does not occur on your website.
Besides your web pages, search engine crawlers will also look at the following:
- Online reviews of your brand
- Your citations (websites that mention your business, like Yelp and Yellow Pages)
- Backlinks (links that point to your site from other sites)
- Brand mentions (both linked and unlinked)
- Social media accounts and posts
It’s crucial to note that some of these factors, such as your brand mentions on other websites and user reviews, will be out of your hands.
Others, such as your social media activity, backlinks, and citations, are all factors that you can tweak to improve your SEO.
Besides the written content on your website, the technical aspects of your website need to be to avoid confusing search engines.
This is known as technical SEO, and it involves tweaking factors like:
- Page loading speed
- Broken links
- Duplicate content
- Missing sitemap
- Lack of SSL/HTTPS
- 404 Not Found pages
If you neglect technical SEO, it won’t matter how good your on-page and off-page SEO efforts are – you likely won’t rank at all.
For instance, if you don’t have a responsive website design or a mobile version of your website, you’ll get thrown to the back of the line during the indexing process.
That’s because Google uses mobile-first indexing, which means it will always look at the mobile version of your website first. The best solution is to use a responsive design, where your website’s dimensions will change depending on the user’s device.
The final core component of any SEO strategy is link building. Google wants to ensure the content it ranks the highest is accurate and trustworthy.
To do so, it needs a way to judge the trustworthiness of a website – which is where backlinks come into the picture.
If your website has links pointing to it from trusted websites (educational institutes, government agencies, etc.), Google views your website as trustworthy as well. That’s a big reason why link-building is so essential.
Without high-quality backlinks, it will be next to impossible to crack the top 5 SERP results for any given keyword.
Conversely, bolstering your backlink efforts can help push you over the edge if you’re having a hard time penetrating the top spots.
A logical and all-inclusive internal linking structure is also a component of link-building. Internal links help search engines quickly find all your content, and they help readers stay engaged with your site.
Get listed on Google My Business (GMB) and other local directories
Creating a GMB listing is a core aspect of local SEO, and it’s crucial for franchise SEO, too.
The twist is that each franchise location needs a Google business profile, not just one. You’ll also need to include the proper NAP for each listing, so don’t forget to double-check them before going live.
There are a few ways you can manage GMB access for each location. You can have each franchise owner create an account, or you can manage them all from one centralized account. The choice is yours, as both methods can work.
Why is GMB so important?
It’s because Google has a SERP feature called the Map Pack (also called Local Pack), which displays several local GMB results. This is significant because the Map Pack appears above the organic results and often snags a majority of the clicks.
In fact, research shows that 44% of users opt for the Local 3-Pack whenever it shows up. 29% of users choose organic results, 19% go for paid ads, and 8% choose other local results.
A GMB listing will also cause your franchise to show up on Google Maps, which is a plus.
While GMB is the most important, it’s far from the only directory you should use. Other significant local directories include:
The more directories you can list your business in, the better, so don’t stop at GMB.
Stay consistent with your branding
While you want to ensure that each franchise website is different in a few key ways to avoid duplicate content, you don’t want to lose your brand’s identity in the process.
After all, each franchise location provides a consistent customer experience, and your websites should follow suit. That means it’s okay if certain things stay the same across all your franchise sites, including:
- Brand colors
- Navigational layout
- Common design elements (fonts, images, call-out boxes, etc.)
Keeping these consistent won’t get you flagged for duplicate content (as long as you incorporate content and store information unique to each location), and they’ll provide consistency for your customers.
That way, there’ll be no confusion whenever a regular customer visits one of your franchise websites. If your branding is too different from site to site, customers may leave thinking they clicked on the wrong link.
Build local backlinks
Lastly, you need to incorporate link-building into your franchise SEO strategy. You can’t go for just any backlinks, though. You’ll want to target trustworthy local backlinks to see the best results.
That means you’ll need to work with reputable local organizations to acquire backlinks. At the same time, you don’t want to link to your competitors or get any links from them, which makes it a bit tricky.
Target local schools, charities, events, and churches. These are all seen as trustworthy by Google, so their backlinks will carry a lot of influence. They’re also hyperlocal, which will work in your favor.
For instance, you could sponsor a church food drive in exchange for a backlink. Or you could endorse a scholarship for a university and acquire a backlink that way.
Concluding Thoughts: Franchise SEO
By now, you should have a solid understanding of the core components of a franchise SEO strategy.
It’s a special type of SEO that involves some tricky challenges, such as avoiding duplicate content and maintaining accuracy amongst all your business listings.
Yet, with the right tactics in place, a proper SEO strategy will yield a ton of organic traffic which you can convert into visits to your brick-and-mortar stores.
Are you a business owner that needs help formulating a franchise SEO strategy?
Then don’t wait to check out our managed SEO services at HOTH X. Our team consists of seasoned SEO gurus that are always willing to share their expertise, so feel free to book a consulting call today.