Local search engine optimization (SEO) is a process for increasing search visibility for businesses through various techniques. A good SEO strategy can improve your business’ position on local search rankings, translating to more in-store visits, sales, and revenue. Local search occurs when a user includes a location in their search or when the search engine receives their location from their electronic device. Examples of local searches are “restaurants near me” or “bars in Venice Blvd”.
The importance of Local SEO
Many users who do a specific local search are already potential customers. Thus, if you don’t invest in local SEO, you run the risk of being overshadowed by your competitors in the area. People nowadays like to plan ahead and not spend too much time wandering around to see what stores are in the vicinity. You could own an ice cream business in Santa Monica, but if someone looked up “ice cream in Santa Monica” and your business doesn’t show up in the search, then you won’t be an option to that person. You don’t want to miss out on these opportunities to convert curious users into paying customers.
Franchises are at an advantage since they are already an established brand, but unless people are made aware that a specific location is near them, they won’t patronize the business. Just like how traditional businesses pour money into aggressive advertising campaigns to announce the launch of new branches, franchise owners need to invest in an effective local franchise SEO strategy to reach out to the locals and maximize their business’ customer reach and sales.
Strategies for Improving Franchise SEO
There’s a lot of debate and research still ongoing for what SEO tactics really work, especially when the search engine algorithm changes so frequently, but these are some basic tips of multi-location marketing that your franchise can utilize to improve your visibility on local searches and attract consumers.
1. Manage your Google My Business (MB) listing. Registering your franchise on Google MB results in it becoming visible on Google Maps, making it easier for potential customers to find your location. Make sure your Google MB profile is complete, detailed, and up to date. These are important because it’s been found that a more thorough Google MB profile makes consumers more likely to patronize a business. Think of it as your first impression to users that do a search on your business. Having information like reviews, contact numbers, business hours, and peak hours easily available boosts your business’ credibility and helps consumers plan better.
2. Use location-based keywords. Use location-based keywords on your pages to boost your visibility on local searches. For example, if you’re a car repair service based in Manchester, New Hampshire, add “Manchester, NH car repair” in elements like headings, body, tags, and title. You can also use local landmarks and nearby tourist destinations as keywords. If you own a restaurant near the Empire State Building, it would benefit you to include “restaurant near Empire State Building” in your tags. Remember that certain keywords work better in certain regions, so use this to your advantage but be careful not to stuff your content with too many keywords. Search engines may flag keyword-heavy pages as spam and demote its search engine rankings.
3. Decide on whether to use an umbrella site or multiple microsites. There are two schools of thought when it comes to developing websites for franchises:
. The first is that the whole brand should only exist under one website. The advantage of this is that a single corporate website could rank higher on global search rankings thanks to more backlinking and more traffic. It’s also cheaper to maintain just one website. Each franchise can just be listed on a “branches” page on the site, or you can use the user’s location to direct them to the nearest franchise. Make sure to list all the relevant information for each franchise, including the contact number, address, and business hours.
. The second is that franchises should each have their own website. The downside to this is that running multiple websites can get expensive. You’ll have to budget the server costs and manpower, since it’s ideal that each site has its own web manager. The upside is you can tailor the website for the specific region it’s servicing. Different franchises may have different products or ongoing promos, and by having a dedicated website for each franchise, you can emphasize these better. Use a consistent theme and branding throughout these microsites to unify the franchise but keep content unique. Too much duplicate content across these microsites can be flagged as spam by the search engine and cause your sites to be demoted on the search results rankings. Put major franchise announcements on the umbrella site and keep the contents of each microsite unique and localized.
- Take advantage of listing sites and business directories. Sites like Yelp are convenient for users because it is a way for them to gather information on multiple establishments, such as their service list, menu, business hours, and reviews. Having one website with all this information makes it easy for them to consider their options and come to a decision. Given this, it is advantageous for businesses to list all their branch locations on Yelp. Having pages for each specific location also benefits local consumers because even if it’s a franchise, it is inevitable that some branches are superior to others. Having reviews specific to each location can give consumers an idea on how each specific branch performs.
- Encourage customers to write reviews. 84% of consumers trust online reviews, so when a business has too few reviews on their Yelp page or Google MB listing, it might raise a few red flags. Launch promos that reward customers with discounts or free products on their next visit for leaving reviews on your business online. Meanwhile, consider adding review management to your franchise SEO strategy. It reflects well on your brand if you respond with gratitude to positive reviews while addressing negative reviews politely and professionally.
- Monitor your metrics. Running an SEO strategy is useless if you don’t monitor the outcomes. There are various success indicators for SEO campaigns, but one of them is if your website’s ranking on different search engine results pages increased. If you don’t see any positive change after a few months, try switching gears or being more aggressive with your tactics.
- Enlist the help of franchise SEO services. If you’re still struggling with obtaining your desired results, consider hiring professional franchise SEO services. They can help develop custom strategies for specific businesses or locations. They can also handle most of your online presence by optimizing and creating content for your website and managing your Google MB and other online profiles. By leaving your SEO strategy to the hands of professionals, you can focus on running your business while reaping the benefits of your business’s improved online visibility.
The internet has revolutionized our lives in many ways and has undoubtedly created a permanent behavioral shift in consumers. Businesses should study and take advantage of these emerging technologies to maximize their potential and get an edge over their competition. Now that you understand the importance of local SEO in franchises, plan and execute a strategy that works best for your franchise and location. Remember that there is no single, guaranteed, fool-proof way of doing SEO, and that certain industries may be more competitive than others. Don’t be discouraged by failures and keep trying and testing out different techniques until you find what works.