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Local SEO for franchises (and really, local SEO for multiple locations) can feel a lot like herding cats. Trust me—I’ve been there.
Luckily, over the past 10 years of helping franchisors and franchisees, we at Blue Corona have learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and what it takes to get your franchise at the top of Google’s search results.
Keep reading to learn five expert tips our SEO specialists use when they’re performing local SEO for franchises and clients with multiple locations. Have any questions or want to learn more about franchise marketing? Contact us! We’re more than happy to help you get your franchise on page one of the search results.
Learn about our take on franchise marketing strategy on our blog: Franchise Marketing Strategy in a Digital World
What Is Local SEO for Franchises?
Local search engine optimization (SEO) for franchises helps individual branches of a company promote themselves online to local customers within a geographic area. The difference between local SEO and organic SEO is the intent. Google can (pretty well, too) pick out search queries that have “local intent,” meaning the searcher wants search engine results with local companies. These searches will result with local map listings and businesses near them.
5 Tips to Improve Local SEO for Franchises
Want to tighten up your local SEO for franchises? Follow these five tips. They’re the same tips we use for our franchise clients, so we have absolute proof that they WORK.
1. Tighten Up Your Franchise Website
Your biggest priority will be your website. If you want your website to show up at the top of the search results for your top keywords, it needs to be four things:
- Your website needs to be mobile friendly – The world is mobile, especially when it comes to finding local businesses. Approximately 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site, and Google ranks mobile websites higher in the search engine results.
- Your website needs to be secure – Your website should be HTTPS, meaning it has an SSL certificate. Data breaches and website hacks happen every hour of every day—and your website visitors know this. On top of that, Google gives HTTPS websites a boost in the search results.
- Your website needs to be fast – Website visitors need to see something happen on your site in under three seconds. If not, 40% of them will leave and go to another website.
- Your website needs to have a great user experience – Is your website easy to navigate from a mobile device? Is your contact information front and center? Is it intuitive and does it answer top questions right away? Is it attractive? It needs to be all of the above.
Franchise Microsite or Location Pages?
There are two ways you could go about creating your website: You can create a full microsite for each location, complete with extensive location-specific content, or you can create individual location pages within one website. There are benefits to both, and it depends on your specific franchise.
If your company isn’t very complex or you only manage a small number of locations, it’s not always beneficial or cost-effective to build out a full website for each branch. However, the more “local” feel each branch wants to have and the more varied your services are from location to location, the more it makes sense to have individual websites.
Whichever structure you choose, make sure it’s scalable. Hopefully, you’re planning for some heavy-duty growth, and your website should be able to grow with your business. It’s best to ask an SEO specialist which website structure would be best for your individual situation.
2. Perfect Your Google My Business Profile and NAP Citations Across Local Listings
If you want to get to the top of Google’s map listings, you need to have an optimized Google My Business account. The first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is to claim your Google My Business page. After you’ve done that, it’s time to optimize it.
Your Google My Business (GMB) account is ground zero for any franchise’s local SEO, especially if you have multiple locations. It’s an easy way to manage all of your franchise locations in one place, and there are some pretty great tools, like the insights tab, that can give you a good snapshot of your franchise’s online local presence.
The three top areas you should prioritize (outlined in red above) are your franchise’s business info, your GMB insights (where you’ll see crucial info about how people are interacting with your business) and your reviews section. Aside from that, if you want your franchise to pop up in maps and local listings make sure you have the following:
- Regular Google posts
- All owned franchise locations accounted for with connected GMB pages
- Consistent NAP (see more below)
- A large number of 4 and 5-star reviews (see more further down)
- Your franchise’s categories
- Your services and if applicable, your service area
- Your franchise’s description
- Your hours of operation, including holiday hours
- If you offer online booking, add the “booking button” feature
- If you want customers to access your location and call you via the Google Assistant, check the “Google Assistant Calls” box in the “info” section like the example below:
NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number, and it’s vital to your franchise SEO that each location have consistent NAP data across the internet. Google pulls the NAP listings from many online directories, local listings, sources, and citations (including your social media profiles) when determining which companies should appear for geo-specific searches. Once you’ve finished optimizing your GMB page, your next task is to make sure each location is listed in relevant local directories and that all information is uniform.
You can use a tool like Moz Local to find out how your business’s NAP and local listings stack up to your competitors. Go to https://moz.com/local/search and type in your company’s name and zip code. Moz will return the listings in its database that match your search:
You can also do this for your competitors to figure out how far behind them you are. Regardless of if you test your website’s local SEO in Moz, there are a few directories in which you should create free listings are:
- Best of the Web
- YP (a.k.a. Yellow Pages)
- Hot Frog
3. Use Geo-Specific Language in Your Content—and Have lots of Unique Content on Your Website
Google rewards unique, location-specific content in the local search results. We always make sure our franchise clients have volumes of content—including videos, blogs, service pages, etc.—that’s unique to the city in which they are located. This doesn’t stop at throwing in a few localized keywords—we always make sure to create helpful content down to the neighborhood, including local landmarks and events.
Make sure the content on your website includes:
- Franchise location’s name, address, and phone number (NAP)
- Franchise location-specific content
- Location-specific images of your staff, facility, and customers
- An embedded Google Map for quick directions
- Descriptions of how to get to your franchise location, including local cross streets and landmarks
- Location-specific comments and reviews from customers
- Location-specific Title Tags and Meta Descriptions on all web pages
4. Use Local Business Schema and Markup
Schema markup, also known as structured data, is the language search engines speak. Its a vocabulary that helps search spiders understand the different types of content on the web, and it was created by Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex back in 2011.
In layman’s terms, think of schema markup as subtitles in a language the search engines understand. Back in 2017, Google’s Gary Illyes even went as far as saying that:
“If you want your sites to appear in search features, implement structured data.”
There are hundreds of types of schema markup you can use, but the one franchises should really care about is the local business schema. Schema.org has a huge list of local business types, so be sure to pick the one that is the closest match to your franchise. If you’re dead-set on installing schema markup yourself (not recommended) try following this guide. Otherwise, contact us and we’ll do it for you.
5. Invest in Curating and Promoting Local Franchise Reviews
Reviews are everything, especially for local SEO. In order to show up for all your top keywords, you need to have plenty of four and five-star reviews. It’s not enough to get a few and call it good, either—85% of consumers don’t trust reviews more than three months old, and 40% only look at reviews from the last two weeks.
Make sure you’re continually asking customers for new reviews. Read this post for guidelines on how to get more Google reviews for your franchise.
Franchise SEO: Trust the Experts
Like I said at the beginning of this guide, local SEO for franchises can feel a lot like herding cats. That’s why I highly recommend you find a marketing agency that specializes in SEO for franchises.
For example, a franchisee came to us for help with SEO and digital marketing. At the time, they relied on the corporate website to generate local leads. To increase their online presence and increase leads, the franchisee was interested in creating their own website. of their own. However, they were worried that doing so would cannibalize the leads that consistently came in through corporate efforts.
Over two years, organic visits to the website increased by 4,900%. You can read the entire franchise marketing case study to see our approach. Need help? Contact us here, and I look forward to helping your franchise grow!
About The Author: Betsy is Blue Corona's Digital Content Manager. When she’s not directing Blue Corona's corporate digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring with her wife, diving into the latest marketing trends, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
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