Disclaimer: This article was originally published in 2019 and was recently updated in March 2022 to reflect the latest, accurate information.
A sometimes overlooked part of the small business community are those businesses that are part of a bigger franchise. These businesses contribute to their local communities in a very valuable way. Franchise businesses are no different than any other small business, and can benefit from SEO in the same way.
Similarly, if you have a company you want to turn into a franchise, it’s important to have an SEO strategy in place. SEO helps to boost the discovery of the business. It also increases how often search engines offer up content from the company in answer to customers’ queries.
In spite of this, marketing for franchise businesses is far more complicated than for individual small businesses. There are two main reasons for this. Companies must balance cohesiveness with local differences. Corporations must also find a way to get competitors to work together in specific regions as a team. This is often easier said than done. Lets dive into local SEO for franchises!
What Is Local SEO for Franchises?
Local SEO for franchises relates to the specific areas a business serves and it’s focus on bringing in organic traffic to that targeted area. While franchises work to optimize their website, working on local SEO helps business locations be found in their local areas. Ultimately these SEO efforts work to improve local rankings in search engines. Working on local SEO processes for franchises helps users see how close or relate they are to a franchise near them.
Benefits of Local SEO for Franchises
In this day in age, 97% of people search online to find a local business. Due to the changes individuals had to face with the pandemic, more people search for businesses online instead of going and finding them. The biggest benefit is the increased amount of exposure your franchise’s local audience gains. This can further result and translate into more customer visits and higher sales and revenue. Consumers are more focused on the hybrid customer experience. With this in mind, having your franchise utilize local SEO helps generate more benefits over time.
What Are the Local SEO Challenges for Franchises?
Franchisors often pay more attention to growing the umbrella business than boosting sales in individual locations. More than 80% of all franchises are local or regional brands, while 16% of them are national or global franchises. Here are a few common Local SEO Challenges franchises may face:
1) Targeting Similar Keywords for Multiple Locations
SEO is already a competitive field when competing for quality keywords. When a local search strategy is poorly developed and executed there are certain risks that can accumulate. Some of those risks can be keyword cannibalization and creating doorway content. Keyword cannibalization occurs when your content has too many similar keywords that ultimately work against each other. Doorway content is when both keywords go against the best practices and make it difficult for any webpage to rank. Be sure you’re able to avoid both of these risks when targeting keywords throughout your content.
2) Balancing Act
Corporate must decide how it plans to balance the marketing needs for corporate purposes with the needs of individual franchise locations. This may become more important in two scenarios.
- The first is when franchises have to consider cultural differences.
- The second is when the franchise enters regions that speak a different language.
The balancing act also stretches into choosing keywords. Geo-tagging is one of the main ways to boost the ranking in local searches using keywords.
3) Infighting Risks
To customers and onlookers, a franchise is one company with several locations. Whether they eat at the franchised cafe up the street, or the one 10 miles away, it’s the same company. For franchisees, all the other locations of the business that they do not own are competitors. This can lead to infighting within the company. It may also cause reluctance to contribute to the corporate marketing fund. At the individual level, owners may feel reluctant to promote too much because it may drive business for another location as well.
4) Limited Data
Both franchisors and franchisees may notice a disconnect in marketing. Limited information collected by and communicated between the two groups may cause this. The umbrella company may not pay keen attention to local differences and how effective different campaigns are in certain areas. Meanwhile, the individual branches may lack access to the data analytics of the parent company to see what drives their sales. This disconnect can make it difficult for either party to draw a straight line between marketing efforts and sales results.
5) Rogue Media & Messaging
Most franchises do not want local branches to create their own websites or social media handles. These are difficult to keep track of and would compete with the corporate website and handles. There is also the potential for misrepresentation of the overall brand due to unauthorized content. This may present problems for not just the franchisee responsible, but the other locations and corporate as a whole.
Local SEO Franchise Opportunities
In spite of the challenges, both corporate and its franchisees can capitalize on local SEO franchise opportunities by working together to create a mutually beneficial solution. This requires creativity and compromise.
1) Create Separate Corporate and Franchise Web Pages
Providing SEO services at both the brand and individual level helps reduce infighting. One way successful franchises do this is to give each individual location its own webpage to manage on the corporate website. The franchisor may review any potential changes before they go into effect. This ensures cohesiveness. Facebook also has tools in place to break up official pages into separate franchise locations.
2) Target Location-Specific Keywords in Website Content
There are multiple opportunities for franchises to grow through target location-specific keywords. Location-specific keywords that incorporate “near me” terms and state/city terms are very important to include for local SEO purposes. While it’s important to include them, be sure it doesn’t come off as duplicate content to search engines. It is essential to make the content unique and can be difficult for search engines to differentiate the two based only off of the location. By adding geographic indicators and elements, directions on how to reach your franchise, and nearby local businesses these ways help make that content unique. It helps give more effective context to search engines on where your business is located and who you service. It also helps determine what keywords your website should be ranking for.
3) Implement Cohesive and Accurate Messaging
When properly executed, local SEO strategies for franchises prevent discrepancies in the messaging that customers may read as false advertising. SEO tackles the content of websites and even ads. While not the primary function of SEO, focusing on content ensures everything lines up the way it should. That cohesiveness can help prevent confusion among customers.
4) Grant Independence To Reduce Rogue Messaging & Media
Franchisors are often appalled to discover “rogue” media created by individual franchisees who want to promote their business. Another way to avoid rogue messaging and media is to grant some independence to the franchisee with their portion of the website. Corporate may provide franchisees with a style guide, as well as the criteria for approved marketing agencies they can work with at the local level.
5) Incorporate Geo-Targeting in Paid Search Ads
While paid search ads do not directly impact local search efforts, it is extremely effective in gaining exposure for franchise locations by implementing geo-targeting strategies. Paid search allows companies to target customers in specific locations (geo-targeting) so the franchise location gets in front of the right target audience. Both corporate and franchisees may use this to drive customers to specific locations.
As mentioned above, location-specific keywords and content is a key strategy for local SEO. Combining this with geo-targeted paid search ads will make an even greater impact on the business, benefiting both the overarching corporation and individual franchises.
Note: The franchisor may also use paid search to target a more general geographic area for regular ads and promotions.
6) Claim Your Google Business Profile
Franchisees should take advantage of the many perks offered via Google for small businesses. Chief among them is Google Business Profile (previously known as Google My Business). This allows companies to list specific franchise locations and help customers differentiate locations in an easier way. Creating or claiming a Google Business Profile helps improve your local SEO efforts incredibly. It helps users find your franchise in your local area and helps improve user experience as well. Franchisees should then spend some time on adding high-quality photos of both the interior and exterior of the building, the team members, and the products so people know what to expect before even setting foot in the physical location. This helps appeal more to users and help improve your overall brand.
7) Prioritize Generating Positive & Detailed Reviews
Anytime you may receive a 4 or 5 star review, you should prioritize these positive reviews. These types of reviews have a very positive impact not only on your franchise, but on your local SEO performance as well. While receiving these reviews is a great thing, it’s also become necessary to have detailed reviews to be the most effective for your SEO. If you receive an empty comment 4-5 star review, it won’t have the same effect as it used to. The more detailed reviews you receive the more your local SEO benefits. Be sure to prioritize and monitor the positive detailed local reviews your franchise receives.
Is It Worthwhile to Implement a Local SEO Strategy for Franchises?
While difficult, implementing a quality local SEO strategy for franchises is neither impossible nor ill-advised. When done correctly, it contributes to improved brand recognition for the umbrella company while also increasing both online visibility and foot traffic to the franchise locations. And in turn, increasing overall sales for the small business owner who manages the franchise.
Building a business from scratch takes time. Buying the rights to one is a much shorter process if you can secure funding. Generating revenue and turning a profit is also faster due to the sales and marketing momentum from the overall company. Implementing local SEO further amplifies this momentum by introducing organic search to the mix. Over time your franchise will continuously receive positive results.
Do You Need Help with Local SEO Strategies for Franchises?
To summarize everything we discussed in this article, local SEO for franchises is worth the investment of time, money, and compromise. Without SEO, franchises would struggle to gain the popularity necessary to attract more small business owners. However, franchisors must learn to compromise so as to boost local businesses in all the areas in which it operates.
Does your agency need help with delivering data-driven and effective local SEO strategies for your franchise clients? Boostability can help take the responsibility off your shoulders! Our team of experts will work as an extension of your team and deliver all recommendations under your branding, not ours.
Learn more about our white label local SEO program here and see if partnering with us is the right fit for you and your clients!