I recently attended the 3rd annual Google International Franchise Assembly (GIFA) at Google’s Mountain View California campus on May 7 & 8, 2015. I was offered the chance to co-facilitate the SEO breakout sessions and speak to franchise marketing leaders about SEO best practices for franchises, along with my co-facilitators Andrew Beckman of Location3 and Michael Bunn of Scorpion Design.
Franchise marketers face unique challenges in trying to drive brand consistency and user experience across a large number of local franchisees. It is important to have a centralized strategy to ensure that franchise SEO efforts yield the best possible results. We spoke about three key things to drive a successful SEO strategy for franchises; a branded site structure, quality content, and consistent business information across the web. Here are a few of the key takeaways from the SEO session that franchises and local businesses should keep in mind:
1. A Clear Site Structure & Brand Guidelines
Franchisors should set clear rules and guidelines to avoid franchisees creating competing domains and “rogue” websites. Establishing authority is important for SEO, so it is best to discourage franchisees from creating new domains that are outside the brand. Alternatively, franchisors should create subdomains inside their own site structure and allow franchisees to create unique pages with localized content and information to drive traffic from local searchers. Having your site structured in this manner will also allow your brand site to gain more authority, as well as create a consistent, quality brand message and user experience.
2. Quality, Localized Content
Fresh, relevant content is an important part of every SEO strategy. Franchises should focus on delivering unique, localized content for your sub domain pages and avoid duplicating content. You can include content unique to each franchise, such as the local customer experience, time in business, and team bios. Avoid taking short cuts and using boiler plate content for each local page.
It’s also important to remember to use localized images as well. This can create a better user experience and help customers better connect and identify with your brand. For example, for a roofing franchise, it is important to use pictures of home that reflects the region in the local pages rather than stock photos or general images. A home in New York City looks very different than a home in Albuquerque. Let your local franchisees shine by contributing high quality images unique to their location.
Also, when referring to your location, be specific with neighborhood and location names. This can help users better find you and recognize your proximity to their location. This is especially important in large cities and metro areas. For example, Los Angeles has over 272 officially recognized city, neighborhood, and place names , and that doesn’t include all the unofficial names searchers use daily. Most people in LA would not search for “day spa Los Angeles”, they would use a more specific name to describe their location, such as “day spa East Hollywood”.
3. Consistent NAP Information
Franchises can earn authority for their websites by ensuring that their NAP (name, address and phone number) is accurate and consistent across the web.
It is important to ensure the listings for all locations are consistent across the top reputation, directory, and industry websites such as Yelp, Google My Business, Citysearch and more. Don’t forget about top industry websites that apply to your business, such as Angie’s List & Houzz for home improvement franchises. If your information is accurate on these authoritative websites, customers are more likely to find you, contact you, and leave reviews that will interest future prospects. Make sure your business information also the same on your website – down to the spelling and punctuation – in order to improve the SEO quality of your website.
Sometimes, correcting information across these websites for a lot of locations can be a daunting task, but it is well worth the effort. When correcting inaccurate information, it helps to find and update the source of the incorrect info to keep it from seeping out to other listings in the future. If you don’t fix the source, data aggregators can continue spreading the wrong information, leading to more clean up.
Improve SEO for Your Franchise
When it comes to SEO, what is good for the user is ultimately what leads to local SEO success for franchises. Franchises need to focus on the above elements to drive a consistent user experience and best represent their brand on the search engine results page. Learn more about how we help franchises with all their digital marketing.