As online shopping continues to gain popularity, mostly due to increased adoption of smartphones, the dependence that franchisors and their franchisees have on search engines grows. Potential customers make first contact with products through online searches, and that has rendered traditional media marketing ineffective. If you own a franchise, therefore, or if you operate a chain of local businesses, you are likely to struggle to keep up with competition without the input of a solid SEO strategy.
There are several SEO tips that you can employ to boost your franchise SEO and improve your rankings. Here are 6 of those:
1. Build helpful, high-quality web content
Most, if not all, of your competitors are scrambling for the limited top SERP ranks on Google. To stay on top of the game, your SEO strategy has to be anchored on the value visitors get when they click on your web link. You can make your content high-value by following these simple steps:
• Group your audience demographics in terms of age, sex, financial and literacy levels, and probably health status. Which group among those demographics need/consume your products the most? That is the group that you need to optimize most of your content for, and then the others will follow in their order of priority.
• Conduct a thorough keyword research to know what a typical customer from each group within your target audience is likely to type into Google when looking for the products you sell. You can use research tools such as Google Keyword Planner for that, or ask customers who come to your franchises how they search for your products online. Put all the keywords you get into Google Trends to check how effective they are.
• Once you’ve determined which subgroups within your wider audience should be targeted, and with which keywords, you can now proceed to create content for your franchise’s website.
• If you aren’t an expert in content writing, it is best that you partner with a freelance writer or an industry expert in coming up with the most appropriate content for your audience.
• If you have a blog, ensure that every article you post is well-written, informative, relevant, and long enough. A long enough article needs to have at least 1000 words with minimal filler content.
• To address topics that your blog or “about” page hasn’t addressed sufficiently, include a FAQ section on your site. Your audience will find such a section useful. Whenever possible, include your targeted keywords when answering questions on the FAQ section.
2. Optimize for mobile
The answer to today’s franchise SEO is with mobile. Nearly all the online visitors that your website gets are from mobile searches, so you have to optimize your content for mobile. Here is how to do it:
• Encourage customer reviews in as many review platforms as possible. Mobile searchers will find your products trustworthy if you have more 5-star reviews than 3-stars and below.
• Invest in social media marketing. Because of the growing popularity of social apps, you will hardly find people using desktops to access their social feeds; all social media traffic comes from smartphones. If you are visible to social media users, they are likely to follow you back to your website, which will then build your ranking potential.
• Now that you have the attention of smartphone online searchers, your job is to make them stay and engage with your content. You will do that by providing them with a great user experience, e.g. ensuring that your website is easy to navigate from the smallest of devices. Also, invest in AMPs to improve mobile load speed.
• Another way of making mobile visitors stay is if your content answers their questions right away. Smartphone users have a lot of things to do and places to be. They need answers fast or they bounce.
3. Focus on on-page SEO
Adopt on-page SEO tactics that help you address:
• Over-duplication of content
When managing multiple local franchises, you can easily find yourself using almost the same content across multiple pages. Search engines will penalize your website if they realize that most of its content is duplicated. To avoid that, create a separate blog for each franchise, with each blog loading unique content.
• Excessive linking
Your different franchises link with one another, with backlinks, and with the main franchise website. All this inter-linking can be misinterpreted by Google to mean that you are using blackhat SEO or unethical link exchanges to build your SEO. Install SEO plugins to check and remove unnecessary links.
• Page load speed
Google hates slow webpages: Your site will drop very fast through SERP rankings if your website is slow. Besides, users will bounce off your page as soon as they realize that it is slow.
Invest in premium speed-enhancing plugins, optimize images, leverage browser caching, and content distribution networks (CDNs), among other load speed boosting best practices.
Buy an SSL certificate to make your website HTTPS. That will help you minimize data breaches on your site and boost your SEO rankings. Also, invest in security plugins to protect customer data from website hacks, which happens to be very common these days.
4. Build your local SEO
You will rank better in Google for “Pizza House Riverdale” than for “Pizza House” because most customers want to purchase from franchises closest to them. For that, you have to optimize your webpages for local audiences. Start by:
i. Getting listed on Google My Business
Google My Business shows searchers your franchise name, a map of its location, your website link, online reviews, phone numbers, and other important info. That makes it easier for your local customers to find you online, and to find your physical shop. If your customers search on other search engines or they follow other listings such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, be sure to add your business to those listings as well.
ii. Create local content
Always try to keep up to date with local news. Take images of local treasures. The content you gather locally will help you base your blogs (and the visual content on your homepages) on events that happen within the communities where your target customers live. Also, be sure to catch up on local slangs and using it to craft your content. Local people will feel like your franchise is a part of them if you speak their language, love what they love, have a genuine interest in their events, and respect the people they respect.
iii. Leverage customer reviews
Local customers rely on reviews from other locals when shopping for anything, whether online or offline. You need to send out positive reviews through the word of mouth and build up positive customer reviews from your online customers. Use social media influencers to influence customer opinions and for as much as possible, ensure that customers have no motivation to give you a negative review.
5. Get relevant backlinks
Get high-authority websites to link back to your website in order to earn the trust of Google as an informative source. Reputable websites include mainstream media sites, educational sites, and research publications, among others. For your local audience, go to local TV interviews and get featured in local online magazines, and then link everything back to your website. You can even share a video of your interview on social media, or you can ask the media house to upload your interview on YouTube and then tag that video to your website. Such validations will tell Google that your franchise and its website are worthy enough to be displayed at the top.
6. Use consistent branding for all locations
Franchises have an established branding to build from, but many of them make a mistake of detaching their local SEO from the main brand’s SEO strategy. That doesn’t always work in their favor.
Big brands already have a reputation and a high degree of customer loyalty. People recognize them by colors, logos, and brand identity. If you choose to use unique colors for your franchise or to create unique logos for different locations, your storefront’s brand identity is lost. You run the risk of passing as a fraud in the eyes of loyal customers, which would then mean negative online reviews.
Franchise businesses have tons of options when it comes to improving their SEO rankings and making conversions. However, the competition they get from local establishments is immense; everyone wants a share of the growing online market. For that reason, franchisees and franchisors need to combine efforts to make their content and products appealing to online users. They need to be committed to making the necessary website updates as SEO algorithms change, and to making substantive investment in content marketing. Remember that business listings- as well as localized content that targets mobile users, is critical to any successful franchise SEO campaign.