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Local SEO For Franchises Means Teamwork
Contributor Chris Marentis explores the unique SEO challenges and opportunities for franchisees and franchisors.
SEO is commonly viewed as one of the most challenging marketing activities to orchestrate across a national-to-local network. In addition to trying to figure out how to “win” at SEO in general, franchise businesses also often face the unique dilemma of needing multiple sites from the same domain to rank well in a search results.
Localization no doubt comes to mind immediately as the solution to this problem. While this is the ultimate route to success, some very specific considerations must be factored in for a local SEO campaign for franchises to be properly executed.
Start At The Beginning
Certainly the primary website should be the first area to focus on. Duplicate content is, of course, the big no-no here. One way that franchisors can avoid this is to offer their franchisees multiple versions of the basic website.
Each version can include not only slightly different copy but also varied images. It’s important to remember that content is not synonymous with copy.
Localize With Purpose
Gone are the days when localization meant simply changing out the city and state in the body copy or a headline and keeping all other content as is. For starters, localization today should focus not just on a city or geographical region but a neighborhood or smaller locale. The pendulum is shifting back to the more personal and more local.
All localized sites and landing pages, even if they share a domain, should find ways to create H1s, H2s and URLs unique to their specific business location. In addition, the inclusion of name, address and phone number (NAP) information and store hours provides immediate differentiators.
On those landing pages, social sharing buttons should be prominently placed with links to the social accounts for the specific location.
Despite the oft-cited claim that Pigeon was created to help small businesses, the truth is that its focus is on local businesses, which are not always small. An individual franchise operation may be a small business, but the larger franchisor company is quite often a rather influential national brand. Therefore, Pigeon most definitely applies to franchise operations.
Capture Mobile Users
A growing number of mobile users search for local businesses every day. Franchise businesses, like any other businesses, need to ensure that their websites are set up to appropriately capture this audience.
The focus on having a truly mobile responsive site is one of the best representations of how creating a website with the user as the first priority—not with SEO as the first priority—actually ends up helping SEO.
Leverage The Power Of Social Media
Local SEO is not just about a website.
Each franchise location should have its own active social media profiles. These profiles should contain NAP data, hours and more that are consistent with, and interlinked with, the specific location’s website.
This begins to create the web of associations that legitimizes a business to search engines.
Of course, simply “having” a social media presence is not enough. Social media’s ability to cultivate a following and grow customer loyalty is unparalleled and should be taken advantage of.
The more activity—especially customer activity—that happens on a business’ social media platforms, the more leverage and visibility your pages will have.
Encourage Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are perhaps one of the best kept secrets for helping local SEO.
We all know that Google loves real customer reviews, but when you consider that reviews of local businesses are very likely to include the location of the business, the power of these little gold mines really begins to shine through.
Franchise business should find ways to encourage more customers to post reviews online. These reviews need not necessarily be on traditional review sites like Yelp or Foursquare, but can be on the business’ social media pages as well.
Be careful not to get caught in the trap of rewarding people for reviews, however. That approach could backfire.
Clean Up Directory Listings
This is the suggestion that always brings out the groans from a crowd. I get it. It’s tedious and time-consuming work. But it is work that pays off big time when done right.
From claiming listings to ensuring all listings are accurate and consistent, the benefits of this activity are great and there is simply no other way to get there rather than to trudge through it.
If this still does not make the case for you, consider the fact (and it is a fact) that inaccurate, inconsistent and unclaimed listings can actually hurt SEO performance.
Go For The Win-Win
Franchisors and franchisees both stand to benefit when good local SEO practices are put into place. It is a critical element to overall brand building.
Local franchises operations can see their business volume increase. Franchisors can be better poised for future expansion.
With these benefits in mind, it behooves both parties to work together to find how best to implement a strong local SEO practice. It truly is in the best interest of both parties.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.