Do you ever go beyond the first page of Google's search engine results while searching for a product or service?
Our guess is... not often.
Chances are you’re like most users who tend to only engage with the first few Google search results they’re shown.
This means that if you're doing a local search and a website appears in the fifth spot, let alone pages two, three or four, you'll probably will never see it for that particular keyword.
All businesses, including franchises, can benefit from having high search engine results page (SERP) rankings, which is why franchise SEO (search engine optimization) is so important.
But, creating a digital marketing strategy that includes franchise SEO can be complex, given the many franchise locations and local landing pages that exist.
Our guide to franchise SEO strategy in 2023 will help you understand why search engine optimization is crucial for franchisors and franchisees. We'll also introduce you to the best practices to optimize franchise websites for search engines.
If you're familiar with what search engine optimization is, skip to the next section. But if you'd like a refresher about search engines, keep reading.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It's a set of processes you can use to improve your website's search engine visibility and ranking in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others.
Organic search is one of the main ways that people on the internet search for, find, and engage with digital content. So a solid search engine optimization strategy is key to increasing and improving the quality of organic traffic to franchise websites.
Search engine optimization focuses primarily on improving your rankings on Google, given that it commands 92% of the SEO market share.
Google’s rankings consist of both paid search ads and organic search results, which are unpaid. Its algorithm ranks the organic results based on a page’s quality and relevance.
SEO aims to get franchise websites' content and business listings to appear on the first page of Google results. So when your target audience searches for terms relevant to your products or services, they're more likely to click on your link.
Both franchisors and franchisees use SEO to achieve their respective business goals.
Franchisors target individuals and small businesses that could become franchisees of the brand. Local franchisees, on the other hand, try to attract potential consumers for their offerings.
What are the Franchise SEO benefits for Franchisors?
You own an organic smoothie shop in Santa Monica and want to expand your local visibility in California by franchising your brand.
You could hire the services of a broker to connect you with prospective franchisees.
Or you can use the power of franchise SEO to connect with individuals who are looking for a franchise business listings.
Individuals interested in opening franchise businesses in your industry may search for terms like “smoothie franchise business in California” or “how to become a franchisee with no experience.” You can include these and hundreds of other keywords in your content.
So when potential local business owners are searching for opportunities with franchise businesses, they have a better chance at finding franchise owner local business listings like yours.
You can earn trust by providing your target audience with the exact information they need. This encourages them to invest in your business and helps you stand out from your competitors.
What are the Franchise SEO benefits for Franchisees?
Franchisees can use SEO to attract the right audience to their e-commerce websites or physical franchise location.
Let’s consider the same example of a smoothie business. As a franchisee, you’d want to attract fitness enthusiasts, smoothie lovers, and people living close to your outlet.
Even if there are multiple franchise locations involved, you'd want to target keywords that could include “smoothie shop near me” or “best smoothies in Santa Monica”.
Keywords like these would make potential local customers aware of your brand and offerings. They would also give them the extra information they may need to make a decision. This would include details such as business hours, menu, prices, reviews, and more.
Local SEO for franchises can help increase the online visibility of multiple franchise locations. Each outlet will need a custom strategy to target the terms or keywords local searchers tend to use.
This will help improve brand awareness, generate leads, and build trust among new audiences who find your business location in Google Maps, for example.
If you don’t invest in search engine optimization efforts, chances are high that Google won't place your website's content higher in the search results.
And the lower your content appears in search results, the less opportunities local customers will have to find your business listing.
Do Online Reviews Impact your Franchise SEO Rankings?
Are you listening, franchise owners? The answer is an emphatic YES!
Reviews and ratings are among the many factors that search engines use to determine if your web page is worth visiting.
Customer reviews, both positive and negative, help the algorithms used by Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo to determine your ranking in organic search results. Online reviews can boost your franchise SEO rankings and local search results by close to 12%.
In other words, the more online reviews you have, the more likely your brand is to show up first when users search for terms related to your industry.
Customer reviews can go a long way in increasing traffic and improving sales. They're also a powerful tool for converting potential customers into paying clients.
Through the psychological effect of social proof, they encourage potential customers to choose you over your competitors, based on the fact that others have had a good experience with your goods or services.
Let's use a local SEO strategy to paint a picture...
Your kitchen faucet is leaking and you need to contact a local plumber to fix it. You’ll probably open one of your favourite search engines or Google Maps and type something like “plumber near me.”
Next, you’ll look at and probably open the first few search results and look at their pricing and timing to find the right fit for you.
But suppose they all have decent online visibility and offer similar quotes: how will you decide which service is the best?
Here’s where customer reviews come into play.
Reading real customer reviews can give you and other local customers a fair idea of past users’ experiences. From the perspective of a business owner, reviews will help your business rank higher up, making the user more likely to visit your website.
Additionally, good feedback from past clients will help you gain a positive reputation and give you an edge over competitors.
5 Best Practices for Franchise SEO
Now that you know the importance of franchise SEO, you may be wondering about the steps needed to execute an SEO strategy.
We’ve created a shortlist of the four best practices to strengthen your SEO strategy and get the most value out of search engines.
1. Create location-based web pages to rank more in search engines
An effective way to improve your franchise SEO strategies is creating local landing pages for each franchise location — without creating duplicate content (i.e., the exact same content), of course!
This will help you appear higher on searches made using geo-targeted keywords.
Search engines including Google also localize results to provide searchers with high-value and relevant information.
By having location-specific pages, you can also improve your local SEO rankings. This also holds true for more generic keywords that don’t include geographic terms.
As part of any franchise owners' local SEO strategy, try to include the following elements in your landing pages for the best results:
The address, phone number, and opening hours for the brick-and-mortar location (if any).
Reviews for that specific franchise location.
Title tags and on-page content that is customized for that area.
Links to relevant external resources.
Structured data (coding) to give search engines a deeper understanding of the goal or context of a particular web page.
Even if your brand doesn’t have physical stores in an area, you can still create localized landing pages if you offer your services in a particular region. This will allow you to target a larger audience and educate them about your offerings.
Again, we encourage franchise owners to try and avoid publishing duplicate content if you have landing pages for multiple locations. Do your best to make the content of each page unique.
2. Use local backlinks
One of the most important local franchise SEO strategies is link building. It can impact your Domain Authority, which is how likely your website is to rank in search engines.
Getting backlinks, which occurs when other businesses link to your pages on their website, can help boost franchise business owners' local rankings in search engine results pages.
Remember that while collaborating with local businesses is essential, you don’t necessarily want to partake in link building with competitors as part of your local SEO strategy.
So what can you do?
Let’s say you own a flower shop. This positions you well to collaborate with local event organizers.
They can use your products at their next party, conference, or wedding. While you and event organizers both work within a similar industry, they are not your direct competitors. So you can ask them to publish a blog post about your services in exchange for a free floral setup, for instance.
Similarly, if you run a clothing brand, you can partner with a charity in your area to provide warm clothing for people in need during the cold season.
When they write about the campaign on their website, they can include a link to your location-based landing page, boosting the local search results (and traffic) to your website.
While activities like the ones above impact your online presence, sometimes SEO for franchises can happen truly organically with face-to-face relationships.
3. Focus on Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T)
When deciding how to rank a site, Google factors in how likely it is to provide accurate and updated information to users.
By optimizing your on-page content for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness as part of your local SEO strategy, you signal to search engines that you're a reliable source of high-quality information.
As a business owner, here are some ways to use E-E-A-T in your franchise SEO content:
Post content with authentic information instead of generic articles that are stuffed with keywords. For instance, if you run a pet store, you can conduct interviews with veterinarians or partner with a pet health journal to create informative and engaging content that is relevant for pet owners. Google advises that you can improve quality rankings by publishing content that individuals with first-hand experience or in-depth knowledge on the topic.
Include links to authoritative sites and add information about relevant laws or regulations
Be trustworthy and update your content regularly. Don’t use outdated statistics or facts that are not relevant anymore. Make sure to fact-check all the data used and don’t link back to suspicious websites.
4. Set up a Google Business Profile to improve local SEO
In a list of franchise SEO strategies, Google Business Profile should be at or near the top of the list.
But we saved one of the best for now.
Google is the preferred review site for 81% of users engaged in evaluating local businesses. This makes it essential for you to set up and effectively manage your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business).
Your Google Business Profile serves as a digital storefront. It includes key business listing information about your brand, including customer reviews.
It's free to create a Google Business Profile that can help increase your visibility across its services.
If you've done local franchise SEO correctly, Google Business Profiles often pop up in the organic results, helping users identify relevant brands near them.
Many users also do local searches for products or services on Google Maps to find franchise locations closest to them.
You can set up a Google Business Profile in a few simple steps:
Sign in to Google Business Manager or create an account if you don’t have one already.
Add your business to Google and select an appropriate category to list your brand under.
Enter your store location or areas where you provide your services. It’s important to note that Google Business Profiles can only be created by a business that either has a physical outlet (like a cafe) or provides in-person services (like electricians or car washers).
Enter your business contact information. Include your phone number, email address, and website, so customers can reach out to you easily.
Verify your business by entering a five-digit code. Physical businesses will receive a code via a postcard, while service-area-based businesses can opt to get it via email.
Customize your profile by adding your operational hours, business description, photos, and any other relevant information. It’s important to complete all required fields and provide potential customers with as many details as possible. Completed business profiles on Google Search and Maps make customers 2.7 times more likely to perceive a business as reputable.
5. Get listed in business directories to improve SEO for franchises
But local SEO strategies don't just stop at Google. Apart from building your Google Business Profile, you should also try to get listed in as many directories as possible.
They're often free — and trusted by many people — so why not?
When taking steps to improve local SEO for franchises, business owners should explore both national and local business directories.
Start with the national business listing services. These includes directories like:
Next, move on to local business directories.
There are likely dozens of these directories close to home. These can include the:
Chamber of Commerce
Local Better Business Bureau
Local online phone directories
Local business owner associations
If you're not sure where to find them, do a Google search for “Directory + your city name”. Once you have a relevant list of local directories, reach out to them about including your business.
These are pretty free and easy franchise marketing wins that are at your disposal.
Common local SEO mistakes to avoid
Local SEO for franchises takes time. Doing it right will set multiple locations up for sustainable, long-term success.
And because local SEO is a key part of any great franchise marketing strategy, there are some common mistakes that small businesses should try to avoid.
1. Expecting overnight success
SEO for franchises is a long-term strategy that takes time to start showing results. But if done right, it can exponentially increase organic traffic, giving you more valuable leads and increasing sales.
2. Doing poor keyword research
Missing the mark on local SEO keyword research by using wrong or irrelevant terms could mean missing out on potential customers, profitable leads, big sales, and business-growing revenue across multiple locations.
For instance, if you run a carpet cleaning business in Ohio, you can target keywords like “carpet cleaner near me” or "carpet cleaner in Cleveland".
Chances are your competitors are also targeting those more obvious local keywords as part of their on-page SEO campaign.
But using keyword research tools, you can also include and create content for relevant keywords like “how to clean a carpet” or “removing stains from a wool carpet” to add to your website's content.
Sometimes, publishing content that isn't directly related to location-specific keywords can still positively impact local SEO performance.
By making content about relevant keywords that can benefit your ideal client, you add value to their search journey, and showcase your experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness...
Which hopefully leads to that visitor choosing your business — all thanks to the right keyword research.
You must also be mindful of how you’re using keyword research. The terms must fit in with your content naturally and not seem forced. Using too many keywords, even if they’re relevant, can hurt your franchise SEO rankings.
3. Ignoring website performance
In a world where we're all running on shorter attention spans, you should ensure you provide customers with an enjoyable experience when they visit your website.
Slow loading times or a poorly designed website can result in high bounce rates and reduced time on the page, which are important metrics that Google may consider when ranking franchise websites like yours.
You can find information about bounce rate and other on-page SEO metrics in Google Analytics (GA). We encourage franchise owners to pay attention to GA because there are some awesome benefits and tips for your small business.
If you'd like to learn more about the power of digital marketing, listen to this podcast episode with Matthew Prepis, Chief Sales Officer at SmartSites.
4. Paying too much for local franchise SEO services
We're not saying that an SEO agency with a team of franchise marketing experts cannot deliver successful results for businesses. Not at all.
Is there a time and place to dedicate a chunk of your digital marketing budget to local SEO services? Absolutely.
Maybe it becomes possible for a franchisee whose parent company has multiple locations and there's stakeholder buy-in.
But even if you're a little familiar with franchise marketing, you've probably had meetings with a local SEO agency whose price points are just far too high for a bootstrapped small business owner.
And if that sounds like you, all we're saying is that there are a handful of impactful ways to start or improve your local SEO efforts before paying too much with little to show for it.
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