It is more important than ever for franchise brands to take the reins in managing the presence of every one of their locations online. As mobile adoption rates and online user activity on mobile devices continue to grow at an exponential rate, franchise businesses have an opportunity to capture the interest of potential customers on mobile and drive them in-store to make a purchase. However, in order to maximize the reach of your business locations online, it’s important to consider the key factors that make them discoverable by consumers. From a local search marketing (non-paid) perspective, these factors are broken down into two primary categories: (1.) Local Business Listings (i.e. Google My Business / Google Maps) and (2.) Local Organic Search Results. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental tactics your franchise can start implementing today within each of these categories to ensure your brand and locations are front and center in capturing the attention of online users.
Local Business Listings
Each year, a group of digital and local search marketing industry experts and thought leaders compile the definitive report outlining the top factors that contribute to your business’ ranking in search engines like Google, and other directories. It’s no secret that the actual proximity of the online user to your physical business has a significant impact on whether or not your location appears in the user’s results. However, proximity isn’t the only factor that impacts how/when/where your franchise shows up. First and foremost, it’s critical that the primary “NAP” information (Name, Address, Phone) is accurate for each and every one of your franchises. That’s simply table stakes for ranking well. Second, it’s important that your business locations are categorized accurately for every location using Google My Business Categories. In selecting categories, it’s important to be specific while also ensuring they are representative of your actual business. For example, instead of selecting a broader category like “Salon”, it may be more impactful to select “Dry Bar” or “Nail salon” instead. Because you can select more than one category, the primary category of choice should be most relevant. If you have a coffee shop that is an extension of your restaurant, you might choose “Family restaurant” as your primary category and “coffee shop” as an additional category. After populating your franchise business listings with the correct NAP information and accurately categorizing each one, it’s important to incorporate robust content like hours of operation, brand logo, website URL, quality images, and other information that can serve to create a quality experience for your potential customer. Speaking of the customer, don’t forget to regularly read and respond to your customer reviews! Not only is this a best practice for improved customer service, data shows that a higher rate of positive reviews and a higher rate of review response by the franchise owner can help your listings rank higher and ahead of your competition.
Local Organic Search Results
In addition to local business listings, your franchises have the opportunity to rank prominently in local organic search results if your website and franchise pages are structured properly. A comprehensive Local SEO strategy is needed to establish a sound technical foundation for your website, while also incorporating franchise location pages and hyper-local content that is relevant to users, market-by-market. If you’re planning to create location pages, it’s important to build them as an extension of your brand website using what is called a “Subdirectory” (NOT “Subdomain”.) An example of what this looks like from a URL structure: www.mybrand.com/denver/store-123. The reason for using a Subdirectory is that it allows each franchise page to leverage the pre-existing search ranking authority already established by the brand website URL. Subdomain architecture (i.e. denver.mybrand.com) simply does not allow your location pages to tap into this valuable ranking factor. In addition to site hierarchy, it’s important to approach each franchise page much like a business listing and firmly establish local content like NAP information, hours of operation and specific products/services offered at each franchise. You can then layer on content that is more personalized for each franchise like specific menu information, community engagements and more. Lastly, once your location pages are live, be sure to take those unique location URLs and implement them on your business listings for even greater local search integration.
When it comes to helping your franchises capture the valuable attention of online consumers, start by focusing on your Local Business Listings and developing franchise location pages that are not only an extension of your website, but truly an extension of your business. In using a consistent approach to implementing key business information system-wide, while also providing a localized experience for each franchise when appropriate, you can own more search result real estate and help send customers to your business before they find the competition.
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.