Your customers are actively searching for your franchise’s products and services online, so it’s imperative that your franchise locations can be found easily. In order to achieve this across your system, you need a sound local SEO strategy.
This four part guide will help you establish an online strategy. It will also provide you with useful tips for establishing your local franchise’s websites online. We will help you with the following:
- Basic local SEO
- Local listing (creation and optimization)
- Tracking SEO goals
- Getting into a good SEO flow
- Measuring SEO success
Having local presence is key to keep your franchises generating revenue and there are many really well written articles on the web about local SEO for small business websites. Most articles lack the scalability required for franchise websites and the attention that franchisors need.
As a franchisor you may be strapped for time when it comes to online marketing. You can take a few hours a week and you will be on your way to getting your local franchisee websites to meet online marketing goals.
Online Marketing Strategy for Your Franchise
Before we dive into the mechanics of SEO for your franchise websites you must be able to establish a well defined online marketing strategy. Having a clear picture of what you want to accomplish when it comes to online marketing goals will help in guiding your SEO efforts in the right direction.
In service based business you can define your strategy by at least three major key points.
- Lead generation (forms)
- Lead generation (calls)
- Secondary call to action (newsletters, feeds, etc)
Whichever of these major conversion points you’d like to establish as a part of your franchises online marketing strategy, there is a common denominator across all of them related to SEO.
Let’s take a look on how you can identify which of these conversions applies best to your franchise. We will also help you prioritize them so that you are clearly targeting your potential audience and what the expected behavior is when they land on your website.
Example 1: Increase lead generation through forms
“My online marketing strategy is to increase leads through the use of forms.”
So in order for the latter to happen you need to be driving traffic to your site and SEO is an integral part of driving traffic to your website. Once you have potential clients on your site what is the expected behavior or action you want them to take? In this case fill out a form right? So let’s ask a few questions that will help you achieve your goals.
- Is the content on the page relevant to the search query?
- Is there a form present on the landing page?
- Is the form easy to read and the language portrays a clear message?
- Is the form too elaborate?
- Are you asking for good conversion information?
- Is the submit button visible?
- Is there a thank you message? Confirmation?
Asking these questions is a critical part of the marketing strategy process because you can do your best to drive visitors to your site but are you generating leads from those visits? Ultimately that is the real bottom line.
Example 2: Lead generation (calls)
“I would like to increase the number of calls the local franchise receives”
As with example 1 in order to increase phone calls to your franchisee you need to be driving traffic to your site and SEO is an integral part of driving traffic to your website. Prior to implementing the fundamental SEO tasks that we explain below ask yourself a few questions:
- Is the phone number clearly visible on the site?
- Is the phone number in text? (click to call optimization and text crawling)
- Is there more than one number available for clients?
By optimizing your local sites and considering the questions asked above we are certain that you will notice an increase in calls.
Example 3: Secondary call to action (newsletters, rss feeds, counter sales, etc)
“I would like to increase the number of counter sales, newsletter sign ups and other types of conversions”
Referring back to examples 1 and 2 a great way to increase counter sales, newsletter sign ups, rss feed subscriptions your website needs to have traffic. As we mentioned before it all comes back to SEO. As yourself the following:
- Is there a map on the site?
- Is the newsletter sign up button clear?
- Is the rss feed subscription button easy to find?
Making sure that these simple things are present on your local franchise site will without a doubt make it easier for your potential clients to make it out to your place of business or sign up for that newsletter.
Bottom line! How many of your sites visitors are becoming customers?
Ok so you have your strategy in place now. How do we get traffic to your local websites?
For the franchisor who has a one man marketing department or for the marketing person inside the franchise that wears many hats, there are some basic SEO tasks that you can handle to increase traffic.
Setting some clear objectives will help you keep sight of your goal without deviating from the long term goal whether it’s increasing leads, online sales, or any other type of expected call to action by potential clients.
In this first article we will cover how you the franchisor can identify what simple tasks you can do and what very simple tasks you can delegate to your franchisees so that you are well on your way to meeting your online marketing goals
Step 1. Local Site Structure
Most franchises typically have one website with contact info, listings, and dedicated landing pages all in the same place. One of the biggest questions franchisors have is whether to have individual sites for local markets or as a subdomain.
waterdamage.com/locations/sandiego (location within content)
san-diegowaterdamage.com (own top level domain)
According to Google any of these are fine. In our professional opinion we feel that the best option for franchises to make a local impact is by either using the subdomain or own top level domain explained above. Whichever you decide to use it’s important to include localized content on either choice.
A great alternative to keep track of content across many local websites is an integrated CMS system that allows you to keep track of content updates.
OK so now that we have helped you decide on a strategy let’s break down what you the franchisor can do and what simple tasks you can scale down to your franchisees.
Step 2. Finding the Right Terms (Keyword Research)
First you need to identify what potential customers are searching for and how they are searching for it. When a person searches for something online most of the time they use keywords or terms that are closely related to the product or service they are looking for.
So, for example let’s say that someone just had a flood in their home and need to find a business online that can repair the damage. So this is as simple as searching for “water damage repair”. For many business the terms or keywords that they need to target are already part of the products and services they offer especially service related franchises but you must also think about all the other business online competing for these same core keywords.
This is where the thinking and strategizing comes into play.
Now keeping in mind that time is priority one in the franchise business, we will show you a quick and effective way to identify core keywords, semantically related terms and synonyms.
In the above image you can see that the keyword water damage repair has a local search volume of 60,500 searches and the image on the left shows how websites come up for specific keywords. This makes choosing the right keywords for your franchise very important.
We will be using two easy to use resources that will help you decide and determine what are the best keywords for your franchise and local franchisee website.
So let’s begin walking through the process of choosing the right keywords you can use the attached Google doc spreadsheet to help you keep track of your target keywords. The first tool we will be using is Google keyword tool which is free to use and provides very valuable search data information.
We will continue with our example of “water damage repair”. Google’s keyword tool not only provides search data it also gives you related terms that people search in relation to your target keyword. For example search: water damage repair and you get suggestions like:
water damage repair costs
iphone 4 water damage repair
ceiling water damage repair
water damage cleanup
water damage remediation
Many of these terms are related to our core keyword but some are not and this is where you have to weed out the terms that best fit your target audience. A good way to define a keyword strategy is by checking its local search volume (which is provided by the keyword tool) and by also checking how many website results a search engine shows in it’s queries.
For example the term water damage repair returns about 35,900,000 results in Google and of those, 35 million plus 519,000 include the term water damage repair in their title tags (coming up). Taking into consideration how many people search for the term on a monthly basis which is 60,500 so that is a competition of % which is quite high in this case that’s when we begin to search for the low hanging fruit keywords.
Search volume results returned divided by allintitle; allintitle divided by search volume gives us competition share.
So that we can get other keyword suggestions we will use Ubbersuggest. With this free keyword tool you can instantly get thousands of keyword ideas from real user queries! http://ubersuggest.org/ . With ubbersuggest we found the longtail keyword “home flood damage repair”.
Which has a local search volume of 110 according to the adwords tool and all in title of 10 so if you include this keyword in the title of a specific service page you have a better chance of ranking for this longtail term rather quickly and including synonyms and semantic related terms in the content of your page can really help boost ranking.
Ok so as a franchisor how do you go about setting a quick strategy for your target keywords?
Start small and think core service and product related keywords. Once you have identified those then you can start venturing out into the longtail terms that you can include in deep content pages.
Don’t go overboard with keywords, it’s very easy to do because of so many longtail terms and options keep tight and simple and once you start looking at conversion data and search queries in the Analytics tools you can then build a new strategy for other keywords.
For geo targeted localized content you can always add the location prior to the keyword or after the keyword. Example: “san diego home flood damage repair” and include this in your local websites content.
Step 3. On Page Optimization
We’ve got the structure and keywords all set up, now let’s implement them onto your page titles, meta descriptions and content of your franchise and franchisee sites. Depending on what kind of system your websites are set up in this can be a very simple task or a bit time consuming.
If you are set up in a “CMS” or content management system, this is very simple and should not take a very long time but if your franchise and franchisee sites are set up as separate entities this could be a very time consuming task but just as important.
We will include a simple template that will help you make this task as easy as possible but recommend that you get your your franchisee sites in a cms one to many publishing system for easy administration.
Page Title Tags
Whether you know about title tags or not learning about them and optimizing is very fast. Title tags show up in search results as prime real estate so you want to make sure that you include keywords and important information about the page. See example below.
There are some simple but yet very important rules to follow here, for example character count, keywords, a compelling title to attract clicks.
In the attached Gdoc spreadsheet we have made it easy to keep track of old title tags and new optimized titles with a character count formula to make to simple and fast.
Meta Description Tags
Just as important as the page title tags the meta description tags give you more room to give emphasis to specific services, specials and call to actions. Adding in synonyms of your target keyword or semantically related terms here is very helpful for SEO.
Again we understand that as a franchisor time is very important and the attached spreadsheet will help you optimize meta description tags efficiently.
Step 4. Planning the Right Content Strategy
Most if not many franchisors and franchisees get the first 3 steps of local SEO right on target but struggle with the content part of optimization. Content is king and it’s important that as a franchisor and franchisee you do not take this lightly.
When it comes to content you must come up with a strategy that can work for each franchise on an individual level while keeping in mind that it should work for all franchises across the board.
Establishing a clear content strategy that you can scale down to your franchises via, newsletters, content suggestions, and templates will help you both get a clear flow of content and developing content on a regular basis that is both seo friendly and valuable to your target audience is key.
First let’s think about the global content. What kind of valuable content should you include on your franchise site? Simple, focus on services and products your service based business offers. Include your target keywords and synonyms within the content. Once that is out of the way let’s now focus on your local franchise content.
Placeholders and Duplicate Content
There are many aspects of content that will repeat throughout all your local franchise sites and that is ok. But make sure that you keep a close eye on exact duplicate content across all your sites. Now here is the tricky part because many franchises simply adopt a copy paste theory and well that is simply not the way to go.
Remember when I said content is king?, well duplicate content is quite the opposite simply, worthless. But how do you undertake the task of rewriting content across multiple local sites? I mean you could be a franchise of 10-20 sites and you could set timeout on a daily basis and you’d probably be done in no time but what about the franchise that has 100 or maybe even 500+ local sites.
It would take you an extreme amount of time just to hit the tip of the iceberg and on top of that it would be very time consuming. So again it is recommended that you think about setting your franchisee sites in CMS style system so that changes like these are easier to optimize in a few clicks.
Remember that SEO is a moving target and requires that you update and optimize on a continual basis and an outdated system of updating your franchisee sites can be harmful to your SEO efforts.
So let’s talk about setting up a simple and scalable content system that will help both your global and local seo efforts.
Ok when it comes to content across many local sites the best way to target local content is by templatizing your content efforts. In our experience many search engines consider duplicate content as anything that is similar within 30-35% of the content.
Now while this is not an exact number because frankly search engines will not share this data with us it is a safe assumption to make that anything above 35% is considered duplicate so what is the best way to approach this? Create a template for local services and products while leaving “blank spaces” for your franchisees to fill in.
Encourage franchisees to come up with as much local content as possible because after all they know their local markets best. So setting up a template for content that you can get out to your franchisees and have them fill in the blanks is definitely a faster way of getting local content up on franchisee sites.Here are other examples of geo targeted localized content:
Use photos as local proof (images and videos are content too)
Local events that lead to links (expos, meetings, etc)
Seek out local sponsorships (local sports teams, clubs etc)
Generate local reviews
Local news and updates (weather, season and holiday related depending on services)
All these are very simple ideas that you can include on your next newsletter to specific regions or across national franchises as an example:
For a Heating and AC service franchise: “Too late to think about heating in _____ or too early to think about AC? Top 5 reasons you should double check your heating and AC now.”
This example is season/weather targeted for specific regions
For a junk removal service: “It’s almost spring cleaning time! Here’s a simple checklist that will help our community of ________clean and beautiful!”
So as you can see in both examples you are providing your franchisee with a simple content task that is location targeted and you can even go as far as providing them with a few target keywords. When working SEO in a franchise group there’s a pretty good chance that it’s on a large scale and not losing site of the fundamentals is very important.
Getting content down across multiple sites can be a challenge but if you implement some of the tips and strategies we mentioned you can get it down to a science that will improve your local sites ranking and providing your franchisee’s with data that backs up the effort exerted is a sure fire way to get them pumped up about writing content and SEO.
Share ranking results with them and get them involved in the process of identifying new opportunities for optimum rankings.
In this first part of Local SEO for Franchise Websites we learned that setting a strategy with clear goals is fundamental prior to undertaking any SEO task. This process will help you measure the success of your SEO efforts and is a valuable resource to share across your franchisee’s so that they can see that the effort they put in comes with rewards.
We also covered the importance of on page optimization which includes domain structure, keyword research, on page optimization and defining a scalable strategy for fresh and compelling content.
If you are a franchisor that and would like more tips on SEO for your local franchises sign up for our newsletter or leave us a comment if you would like us to cover a specific type of franchise when it comes to local SEO. In our next article we will cover Local Listings Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Your Franchisee Sites Listed Locally