When consumers are looking for products and services online, it’s no secret that search engines play a significant role throughout the various stages of the purchasing cycle. While it’s incredibly important to ensure your franchise and brand are represented accurately across the entire web, optimizing your online presence specifically for Google has the potential to drive the largest impact in terms of customer acquisition and new revenue.
The reason for this is simple – Google still dominates the search engine landscape, with a nearly 80% market share of user engagement across desktop and mobile devices. When developing a franchise search marketing strategy, it’s important to begin with optimizing for Google My Business while actively managing your Google Reviews.
Optimizing for Organic Search with Google My Business
For franchise businesses, optimizing for organic search should begin with Google My Business, as this channel has the potential to drive significant increases in customer visits, calls, orders and more. The first step is to claim and verify your GMB listing, which indicates to Google that you are indeed the business owner.
Next, it’s important to fill out your GMB profile with all data and information relevant to your business, such as the business category (i.e. Salon), name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation, and more. Not only does this provide a much better user experience, it also limits the ability of random users (or competitors!) in providing incorrect information via Google’s “Suggested Edits”. Many business owners overlook this aspect of Google My Business, which can lead to confused customers or – even worse – lost customers due to inaccurate local data being published.
It’s worth noting that because franchisees are part of a larger brand and network, management of Google My Business profiles should ultimately be done in bulk across the entire system to ensure data consistency and accuracy. Whether this is managed in-house by a corporate marketing team or managed by a preferred agency or partner, optimizing and distributing local data using a central source results in better ranking performance and traffic increases for every single business location.
That said, franchisees can enhance their Google profiles by actively creating and posting content using the Google My Business Posts feature. These posts can often act as micro advertisements or promotions, similar to more traditional social media posts on places like Facebook and add an additional layer of localization and authenticity to each GMB profile to enhance the customer experience. Is your franchise running a promotion or seasonal sale? Do you have an event coming up that you’d like potential customers to be aware of? Posting unique information and content within Google My Business Posts provides the consumer with additional context about your business and can help turn a potential customer into a loyal, returning customer.
Actively Managing Your Google Reviews
For franchisees, it’s also critically important to both monitor and respond to your Google Reviews on an ongoing basis. Not only are these reviews a window into your business from the perspective of previous customers, Google ranks your business in search results while taking factors like total number of reviews, overall review rating and response rate into account. In a study released earlier this year, data indicated that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family members. Encouraging customers to review your business can help you drive increases in volume, while responding to reviews can show future customers your commitment to a quality experience.
When responding to reviews it’s important to be both timely and authentic, and it’s also worth thanking customers for positive reviews. When it comes to negative reviews, taking the time to listen to a customer’s concerns and replying in a thoughtful, helpful manner can not only help rectify a difficult situation but can also potentially turn a bad experience into a loyal, lifetime customer. No matter your approach, ignoring your Google Reviews going forward is not a strategy we’d recommend.
Once you’ve established a quality Google My Business profile and dedicated time and resources to engaging with customers using Google Reviews, you can also further enhance your Google footprint by tapping into features within GMB like Photo & Video content, Question & Answer content, Google Messaging, Google Menus, Google Booking and more. All of these features provide additional opportunities to enhance your franchise’s presence within Google, and typically require ongoing management to ensure everything provided to users is up-to-date and relevant.
Google consistently monitors the level of interaction customers have with your GMB listing, as well as the level of engagement you have as a business owner in optimizing your profile, when determining where you rank for key user searches. As such, it’s imperative that your GMB listings are actively managed on an ongoing basis to maximize performance in Google.
As Director of Marketing, Josh Allen is responsible for planning, developing and managing Location3 and LOCALACT brand strategies, with a focus on establishing new business partnerships among franchise systems and multi-location brands. He also works with Location3 client partners to establish key initiatives for increased franchise engagement and growth. He is an active member of the International Franchise Association and has previously been featured by the American Marketing Association, Franchise Update Media, MediaPost and more discussing franchise digital marketing strategy.