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Running a successful franchise can be an extremely rewarding experience. Running a failed franchise can be a massive pain in the neck. The difference between success and failure? SEO of course! Well not completely but having a sound SEO strategy can certainly help you grow your franchise into a profitable business.
This post will look at the do’s and don’ts when it comes to applying SEO to a franchise.
Part of being a successful franchisor is being able to support your buyers with excellent marketing tools. We all know there is no better marketing tool than a good website but will it provide the right SEO features? If your franchise comes ready-made with a website do they get their own domain or do they get a page on your website? A page on your main website can certainly get the ball rolling but if the buyer wants more control you may want to consider offering a separate website.
If you are thinking of buying a franchise that comes with a website it’s essential that you review the CMS. There are many problems you can encounter with quick build websites so a manual review is vital. It’s worth checking you can easily edit content and create unique Meta titles and descriptions. Can you edit H1 headers? Are you able to amend sitemaps? Do you understand how to make technical changes, or is there a risk of breaking the CMS? These are all questions you need to ask before taking the plunge in buying your first franchise.
Duplicate content is a massive issue when it comes to running your own franchise. Chances are your Services page and About Us page could be exactly the same as 20 other branches across the UK. Why is this a problem? There is nothing unique about your website and Google takes a firm stance on holding back websites that have duplication issues.
This has always been the case but recent Panda algorithm updates have made it impossible to have any generic content on your website. The solution is to take control of your own franchise and make the effort to write unique content for EVERY single page. Everything from your ‘Contact Us’ blurb to your ‘Meet the Team’ page should be tailored to your franchise.
If you are worried about duplicate content then run your site through Copyscape.com. Another simple way is to paste a chunk of content into Google and see what duplicates appear.
Duplicate Meta is just as damaging as duplicate content. It’s important you check this in your Google Webmaster Tools account. If you have recently purchased a franchise website I would run the domain through a tool like Screaming Frog so you can sort which pages have identical Meta.
If you take nothing else away from this blog post please remember that interlinking between websites can cause serious problems. If you are the main franchisor and your site links to all the separate franchisee’s websites this can look suspicious to a search engine (particularly if they have the same content).
Linking to your separate franchise pages is fine but I would suggest “no following” the link. This shows Google that the link is there for referral traffic not to manipulate PageRank.
Similarly if a franchisee wants to link back to the main business website they should “no follow” the link so search engines are clear on their intensions.
If you are running your own franchise the chances are you are going to need to target local terms i.e. ‘Window Cleaner London’. If this is the case it’s essential you give search engines as much local information as possible. Schema.org is a site that provides a range of schemas like HTML tags to help search engines recognise important information. It would be worth marking up your franchise address at http://schema.org/Place . Loading this code will give search engines more to work with. A franchisor with a range of branches should make this information available to all their partners.
Have You Referenced Your Address?
This sounds simple but I have seen hundreds of franchise websites not reference their address on each page. Including the address within the footer of each page will help search engines understand the location of your business and how is it different to the other companies in the franchise.
If you’re a franchise looking to rank for a local term you must make sure you feature a local number. For example if you are a personal trainer in Manchester you will get much better local results if you use 0161 instead of an 0845 business number. Again, if the local number can feature on every page you are giving yourself a better chance of ranking in the SERPs.
Google + Local
Having a Google+ Local page is essential for any successful franchise. If you are a franchisor I would make sure each of your franchises has their own dedicated page. Having a detailed Google+ page will ensure you are featured in local search results as well as on Google Maps.
If you don’t have a Google+ Local profile, start by logging onto Google+. Down the left hand side of your main screen click on the last option “more” to reveal the Pages icon. You can find more information in our Google+ guide.
In addition to their Google + profile all franchises should create their own 3rd party review profiles. Local profiles like Yelp, Qype and Brown Book rank well for local search terms and can help each individual franchise gain Page One Domination for their own branch.
Part of being a successful franchise is individuality. You may be under an umbrella brand but you can still make yourself unique. The best way to make a website unique is to have your own blog. This way you can tailor blog posts to your own personal location or target audience. Again, if you have your own franchise website but host the same blog content as the main franchisor this can cause serious duplicate issues. Beware of the Panda!
Should you set up your own franchise specific social profiles? 100% yes. Although the brand may already have their own social profiles it’s important to have a personal touch. This is particularly important for local companies who want to control what they say. You gain a social following by being personal so the more you can tailor your social profiles to your franchise the better.
Sharing regular blog posts on social media will help you build up a local following and make your brand have authority in the eyes of a search engine.
If you are a purchaser looking to invest in a franchise it would be worth looking at the age of the domain. Has the brand been around for a while? Will it have authority in the eyes of a search engine? These factors will both help.
If you are buying a franchise it’s worth checking the backlink history of the domain. Why? Buying a franchise can be a huge investment and if you are connected with a brand you need to make sure they are sustainable in the SERP’s. By sustainable I mean have they played by the rules. You can quickly spot a dodgy link profile by exporting a company’s links and sorting by:
If you have suspicions about the link profile don’t be afraid to question the franchisor and see how he plans to rectify any unnatural patterns.
So there you have it. Running a franchise needs its own SEO approach to be successful. It’s important to stay on top of duplicate and interlinking issues to not be a victim of the next Google algorithm update.
Combine this with building your own branch specific site and you will have a franchise that is valued by both customers and search engines.
Has anyone else come up against franchise SEO hurdles? Is there more that franchisors can do to support their investors? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
Illustration of Franchise from Bigstock
Franchise Business Retail from Bigstock
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.