There are several similarities between running a franchise and running a traditional company, but there are quite a few differences when it comes to marketing. It's important to identify some of the blunders that come with marketing a franchise online. The sooner you can understand what goes wrong most often and how to avoid it, the faster you can get on the right track.
Below are some of the top blunders that we see when it comes to franchise companies:
This refers to when the franchisees have their own website that is not part of the corporate domain name. Unless there is a specific business reason to break them out, it makes the most sense for most franchise companies to avoid this approach altogether. This fragments your brand and weakens your SEO potential since not everyone is working towards a common goal.
Fix It: Having one domain for your company with a "locations" page is generally the easiest way to keep things organized and manageable while still giving visitors a way to see your other locations and get that contact information. In addition, having all franchise locations under the same domain allows for them to draft off the power of the main corporate domain thus improving the likelihood that they will rank.
- A Wild West mentality.
In other words, a lack of guidelines and a lack of preferred vendors for each location. If the franchisees are able to each choose their own vendors, then this opens the door for them to do the work themselves or hire potentially spammy companies that produce low quality results. It's important as a franchise company to keep things consistent across the board. It's also important to remember that all of your franchise locations represent the brand as a whole, and with the increase of online reviews and social media participation, you can't afford to let one franchisee potentially bring down the online reputation of the company by choosing a spammy vendor.
Fix It: The fix here is simple: You have to set guidelines. If you're going to allow each location to choose their own vendors, have someone at the corporate level create a pre-approved vendor list that has been vetted.
- Local SEO is just citations.
There is a lot more to local SEO than just citations, but unfortunately many franchise companies don't take the time to really optimize. They assume that citations, or when and where your company is mentioned online, are the only things that Google cares about. While this is important and it is a local ranking factor, there is a lot more to local SEO to understand.
Fix It: When performingLocal SEO, one must take a holistic strategy to truly see success. This means making sure your website is properly setup so that you can benefit from local rankings. Make sure you have enough localized content about your business, including your phone number, physical address, and google map. This allows the search engines to know where that franchisee is located when a potential customer is searching for them. It's also a good idea to reach out to local organizations to establish connections. The more people you can connect with--local forums and organizations, etc.--the better chance you have that they might visit your website and hopefully link back!
- Content is not offering unique value.
Everyone already knows the all too familiar saying that "Content is King". This is especially true with franchise websites. Too often franchises have either very thin content that doesn't allow the search engines to understand what pages are about, or they have duplicate content on all of their local franchisee pages and simply just swap out the City/St information. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach, so your content needs to reflect that. Unfortunately, many companies just publish one piece of general content that, ultimately, offers no real value.
Fix It: In order to gain an edge over your competition, it is a best practice to have unique localized content that is describing your products and services. One easy way is to send out a questionnaire to your franchisees asking for certain information about their local area which will provide insight to your writing team when developing content.
- Not proactively responding or monitoring reviews.
Online reviews today are not something that you can check every once and a while--they need to be a part of your day-to-day strategy. According to a study by market research company Dimensional Research, 90 percent of consumers say positive online reviews influence their purchasing decisions.
Fix It: This is typically an easy fix--you have to make sure that monitoring and responding appropriately to reviews is part of someone's job duty. If you have a corporate social media expert or strategist, they are usually a great option. If not, consider talking with your local franchisee owners and have them dedicate one person to managing the reviews for their local business.