Owning a franchise is going to add a new layer onto your online marketing efforts. You still have to worry about SEO, social media, outreach and relationship building, web design, etc., but you’ll have several locations and managers that will add a whole new dimension to your business. Whether you want to believe it or not, owning a franchise is going to force you to ask yourself lots of questions that traditional business owners might never have to ask.
Consequently, this is where a lot of franchise managers make mistakes. It’s important to be informed of these questions and why they matter, so let’s get right to it.
7 Questions Franchise Owners Need to Ask Before Creating an Online Marketing Strategy
The biggest difference between franchise companies and other companies is the idea that franchise companies have more people to work with and more people at a higher level. You have a corporate branch and then you have managers of each location. To avoid any disorganization, you need to be asking yourselves a few questions when it comes to creating an online marketing strategy:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Questions to Ask:
1. Do you have one website for your company, or several?
This is one of the first questions franchise owners need to ask, especially when thinking about SEO. If you have one website for your entire company you’re going to go about SEO differently than if you have a website for each location.
Answer: I recommend only having one website for your entire company unless each location offers vastly different products and/or services. If you have just one website, managing SEO at the national level makes the most sense.
2. If you have one website, do you have a location page?
Google recommends having a location page if you aren’t sure how many different websites you should have. This allows you to keep one website so everything stays consistent, but it still gives you the freedom to show your different locations and possible specials for that location.
Answer: If you want to have a location page, I recommend checking out this video to learn how to make it happen. The video showcases Matt Cutts, head of Google Webspam, talking about different countries, but the same logic applies to any company with multiple locations anywhere.
3. What is your budget and do you have a lot of time?
Okay, so this question isn’t really specific to franchise owners. Nonetheless, you have to always consider your budget because SEO can get expensive.
Answer: For franchises, it’s usually more cost affective to manage SEO efforts from one national branch. I like to think of it as buying in bulk—hiring one agency for all of your locations is always less expensive than trying to hire locally for each individual branch.
4. Have you laid any prior SEO groundwork?
This is a question that you will surely need to ask if you just bought a franchise, but it’s also a good idea to think about this if you’re making a switch. If you’re deciding you want to manage SEO in a different way (have your managers help, setup new websites, etc.), thinking about your past SEO is crucial.
Answer: You want to make sure that if you do make a website change or decide to create new websites you’re not losing any PageRank or authority in the process. You will want to take a look at the SEO you’ve done in the past and then setup a 301 redirect, which you can learn about here. It’s also a good idea to do a link and content audit to get rid of the poor quality connections to your website (no sense in transferring that over).
5. Who will be managing SEO for your franchise?
All of the questions above really lead you to this question. As you ask yourself all of these different things, you ultimately need to decide who will be managing the SEO for your franchise, someone or an agency at the national level, or each individual location?
Answer: It’s often most consistent and most organized if you have your national branch handle all the SEO for your website or websites. If you just have one additional location and work closely with the manager you can think about giving him/her that responsibility, but generally the former works best.
Social Media Questions to Ask:
6. Does your consumer base use a lot of social media for search?
This is different for franchise owners because social media is an easy outlet to have specific to each location. In other words, unlike SEO it sometimes makes sense to have different social accounts for each location. This is where you will likely be advertising for location-specific deals and it also helps Google keep your business straight when it comes to local search.
Answer: You will want to do some research and talk with your target audience about whether or not they are using social media to make decisions. Look at the data available from each social network or turn to tools such as Sprout Social or Spredfast. If you find that your audience isn’t overly active, it might make more sense to have just one account.
Also an extra tip: Don’t forget to consider legal issues. If your business works in an industry where you deal with a lot of confidential information, having lots of social accounts might not be the most secure idea.
7. Do your products vary from location to location? This is another huge question for franchise owners. If you have a franchise but some of your locations offer a completely different vibe or different products, you’re going to want to split up your social media.
Answer: Most companies don’t have this problem because franchises are kept generally the same. However if you do run into this issue, you should have different social media accounts and almost treat each of your branches like its own little business. If you simply offer different specials from time to time, a location page discussed above is best and keeps things more organized.
The Takeaway for Franchise Owners
A franchise owner always has to think about growth and organization. Knowing who is going to manage your SEO and social accounts is crucial. You’ll have a lot of different managers wanting to get involved, so it’s important you ask the questions above and determine how you want your online marketing process to work so that you can give orders. You have to think of everything so things don’t spiral out of control!
Are you a franchise owner who has had to make tough decisions regarding management and an online marketing strategy? What worked for you? Did you ever have any trouble because you weren’t prepared? Let us know your stories in the comments below.
Adam Heitzman is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at HigherVisibility, a nationally recognized SEO firm that offers a full range of Internet marketing services.
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