Most business owners know the value of search engine optimization, or SEO. However, franchise SEO has additional considerations small business SEO does not, such as determining how to organize franchisee web pages and ensuring your SEO efforts point directly to the page you are trying to target. Read on for an SEO how to guide just for franchises.
1. Realize the Value of SEO
SEO, or the process of optimizing your franchise’s visibility for users searching organically on a search engine, helps users find your website. More specifically, SEO looks toward increasing positive traffic to your site by making sure your site has properties Google wants. If your site ranks higher than those in similar markets, it stands to reason more users will click through to your page or visit your franchise.
You could choose to focus on traditional, outbound lead techniques such as mailers and other print or audio ads. However, these techniques boast only a 1.7% conversion rate as compared to SEO’s 14.6%. In addition, SEO efforts cost an average of 61% less than traditional campaigns. With figures like these, it’s easy to see why SEO is important for businesses.
Franchises experience unique challenges when it comes to SEO, mostly due to the presence of multiple locations. For each location, the goal is to be first on the list when a local user searches for the service or product your business offers. Not only that, but you also must make sure each of your franchise pages includes the essential information local clients need when they do locate your franchise’s site, without duplicating other franchise content.
2. Understand the Components of SEO
Before you can fit SEO to your franchise and differentiate your content, it is important to understand the key components of SEO:
- Keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases users enter when searching for content or products online. If you can include commonly used keywords for your niche on your franchise pages, user searches for those keywords will lead them directly to your page.
- Page load speed. Recently, Google began to rank pages for speed based primarily on the load speed of their mobile content. A too-slow web page can drop your rankings, causing users to miss your page. Additionally, users experiencing slow web pages will naturally bounce off your page in search of something more efficient.
- Frequent, high-quality content. Publishing content frequently is a way to ensure your franchise’s pages do not appear static or abandoned. However, you must also ensure the content is high-quality; it must exist to help users, provide information users can trust, and be fresh, well-written content.
- On-page SEO. Google and other search engines use algorithms, crawlers, and human analysts to constantly monitor your page’s information in places like headers, meta descriptions, as well as your quality, relevancy, and trustworthiness.
- Off-page SEO. You need a good understanding of the other places that link to, review, and provide other mentions of your franchise.
3. Perform an SEO Quality Audit
An SEO quality audit will pinpoint shortcomings in any of the above areas. Tools exist online for business and franchise owners to perform their own audits. However, many prefer to begin a franchise SEO quality audit with a professional service.
4. Address Deficiencies and Make Improvements
Now you must address the deficiencies highlighted by the audit. Franchises, in particular, often fall victim to a certain few SEO pitfalls:
- Duplicate content. It is important to develop unique local franchisee pages even if you use a template to promote consistency across all your franchise’s pages. If too much content is the same, Google will penalize all pages holding the same content. Instituting a blog with unique content for all your franchisee pages, or consolidating franchise information onto a single page you can link from the franchisee page are two solutions to duplicate content.
- Excessive linking. When a web of franchise locations link to each other, the main franchise website, and so on, search engines can interpret the practice as suspicious and indicative of unethical link exchanges. Removing simple links and replacing with a plugin to provide a tool to find the proper franchise locations resolves this issue.
5. Do Keyword Research
Keywords should reflect what someone in your target audience would search for if they want to use your services or product. First, consider your audience demographics such as age, sex, education level, and income level. Then, make a list of action queries like “buy cheap [product] near me” as well as a list of learning queries like “best rated [product] 2018.” Plug your queries into the Google Keyword Planner to get ideas for more, and then into Google Trends to see if more or fewer people are searching for them. Many franchises use a franchise SEO service to determine highly effective keywords.
6. Build Content
Once you’ve determined your audience and keywords, you can begin building high-quality content using the keywords to get your franchise’s website to rank in a search for those keywords. Content marketing often includes on-site content such as FAQs, product features, and more. Or, consider adding a blog to address topics your audience will find useful, and include your targeted keywords to continue to add value to your web page.
A blog can cover a wider variety of topics in an effort to help your users, and can earn high-quality links back to your site. However, it is essential to remember that your content must be useful and high quality, or users will assume your product is as low-quality as your content. In addition, each franchisee website must feature its own unique content or you risk duplicate content flags.
7. Develop a Social Media Presence
Links to your franchise’s website from a well-established, active social media page can help increase your rankings as well as drive traffic and conversions to your site. In addition, social media gives you the content to directly engage with your potential customers as well as provide accurate location information about each franchisee.
Overall, multi-location franchise SEO proceeds like most other SEO, with one major difference. Each location should use its own SEO tactics in conjunction with the franchise’s SEO. This will ensure optimal SEO for all franchisees while avoiding the most common pitfalls of franchise SEO.