So, you’ve bought a franchise! Franchise ownership can be one of the most rewarding things you can do as a businessperson, but it can also be one of the most difficult. One roadblock that often stands in the way of maximum franchise success is tackling search engine optimization (SEO). Franchise marketing and ad campaigns must be well-researched and savvy to make a mark in a world that has more brands than ever competing for customer attention. Maximizing your revenue takes becoming knowledgeable in the unique ways of franchise SEO.
Learn Your Rights and Limitations
Owning a franchise is different than owning an individual company. You are one piece of a larger puzzle. As such, you have to comply with the franchise’s rules in terms of what you can and cannot do. Different brands will have various restrictions and standards for franchise owners. For the most part, franchisors allow franchisees to use the brand’s logos, trademarks, and slogans. Some may offer advertising and marketing assistance while others will not.
Make sure you have a firm understanding of what you can and cannot do according to your business relationship and the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) before you start with franchise SEO. The FDD will include disclosures you must be aware of before agreeing to the sale. The FDD will also have contracts you must sign, creating a legally binding agreement. Breaking any of the rules or requirements during marketing and SEO could spell serious trouble.
Recognize (and Avoid) Potential SEO Problems
Before you start, warm up to franchise marketing by reviewing some of the most common pitfalls franchisees encounter. Marketers can run into issues specific to businesses that are part of a larger franchise; for instance, search engine penalties for duplicate content. Google and other search engines take duplicate content seriously.
Even if you’re not technically plagiarizing because you have the right to use the franchise’s content, Google will penalize your individual website for publishing content that already exists on the web. Make sure all of your content is 100 percent unique to avoid this problem. Another issue is interlinking. Interlinking is an important part of SEO.
A strong interlinking structure can enhance user experience by making the pages on your site more accessible to search engine bots. Franchise owners can run into issues with interlinking when they try to do so between its business and another under the same franchise. Google can misinterpret this type of interlinking as an effort to manipulate a site’s authority. Remove unnecessary interlinking altogether or make sure it’s clear that it’s for the user’s benefit, not for yours.
Check an Old Site for Bugs, Errors, and SEO Disasters
Taking over a previous owner’s abandoned website can seem like a great way to make SEO easy, but it could hurt you if the last site manager engaged in unsavory web writing and content creation practices. Franchisees might encounter domain issues if they try to take over an existing site due to franchisee turnover.
Look at the elements of an existing website carefully, hire a web expert to do so for you, or run the website through a tool such as Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer. Make sure the website has a clean bill of health before going live. Otherwise, you could suffer the consequences of someone else’s mistakes.
Adapt SEO Best Practices to Fit a Franchise
Now that you’ve gotten the potential pitfalls and roadblocks out of the way, you can focus on making your franchise’s website, marketing, and ad campaigns the best they can be. Learning where to focus your efforts is the first step. According to a WebpageFX infographic, 89% of people use their smartphones to search for local businesses at least once per week. Another 86% search for local business locations on Google Maps. The majority (76%) of local searches result in the user calling the business.
It’s clear from these statistics that franchise SEO rests largely on mobile and local marketing. Make the most of this fact by starting with proper keyword research. Find out which words potential customers are using to find local stores like yours. Then, create original content and develop a website based on these keywords and phrases. Make sure all of your advertisements are completely original to your franchise location, not the larger franchise itself. Then, regularly assess and adapt your website to suit changing user needs.
Master Local Marketing
Localization is crucial to the success of a franchise. After all, most customers are likely already aware of the franchise itself. It’s up to you, the owner, to spread awareness of your particular franchise. The lifeblood of your operation will be in drumming up local business within your community. This means going a step beyond putting out sandwich boards to increase foot traffic. It takes digital marketing efforts as well. Use the following tips:
- Manage your local listing. Make the most out of the fact that you’re local with powerful local listing management. You can do this yourself or employ an agency to do so for you. Mastering local means making it easy for nearby customers to find you. Using the right keywords and methods can mean performing better in local search results and ultimately making more money.
- Capture mobile users. Customers on the go might search for queries such as “Italian subs near me,” or “Subway near me” on their phones to find their local franchises. Make sure your URL pops up when they do. Capture mobile users with a mobile-friendly website and keywords that make sense, such as long-tail terms for voice searches. Don’t forget to prioritize location keywords as well.
- Join Google My Business. One of the easiest ways to implement local SEO as a franchise is to join Google My Business. You can make your efforts consistent across platforms, check how you’re doing with SEO requirements, and optimize your content through My Business – all with local marketing in mind.
Don’t underestimate the importance of prioritizing the fact that you’re local across your franchise marketing and SEO efforts. Your location is one of the only things that separates you from the hundreds (or thousands) of other franchise locations around the world. Don’t sell your franchise short of its full potential because of preventable problems. Work with a professional if you’re not sure how to master franchise SEO and marketing on your own!