When it comes to SEO and franchises, the same standard rules apply, but the way you go about SEO is different. You have different problems and responsibilities as a franchise company that other companies don't see--multiple managers and locations, differing audiences, different products and promotions at different stores, multiple social accounts and/or websites. Because of all of these variables, it's almost mandatory you work with an SEO agency or a strong SEO in-house team in order to succeed.
While many of the SEO questions you need to ask yourself are the same as any type of company, franchises have a few extra things to consider when creating and updating SEO plans. Unfortunately, this does typically mean your SEO might seem a little bit more complicated, but knowing the right questions to ask can help keep you on task and help you cover all your bases.
One of the biggest mistakes franchise owners make is treating their SEO as if they were a traditional or "normal" company. Below are some of the extra questions that franchise owners need to ask themselves when creating and growing an SEO strategy:
1. Does it make sense for you to have one website for your whole company or one website for each of your locations?
Believe it or not, many franchise owners think one way or another and never really consider the alternative. This is probably one of the biggest questions to ask and weigh through the pros and the cons. In terms of SEO, what route you choose will completely change your strategy. For example, having more than one website means you need to worry about keyword research and not competing with your other websites. You also have to worry about navigation and local SEO to make sure people are being sent to the right pages.
Having several different websites makes the most sense if you only have a few locations and if those locations differ drastically in the products you offer, audience, location, or a mixture of all three. You would need to serve different content to be relevant to your audience, so several websites makes sense. Other than that, I typically recommend having one website for your entire franchise. Managing SEO at the national level makes the most sense for consistency and branding, and this is always easiest with one website.
2. Are you going to have a location page on your website?
If you are deciding to have one website, a franchise has to think about a potential location page. A location page is a great way to keep the consistency of one website but give visitors the choice to click on a particular location and get customized content for that location. However, this can seem confusing if you only have a few stores or if your different locations are so similar that customized content just makes things more cluttered.
In terms of SEO, Google actually does recommend having a location page. You will have to do a few different things to make sure that Google is indexing the page properly and you are not getting penalized for duplicate content, so it's something to definitely consider.
3. Do you want to manage your SEO at the national level? And what is going to be most cost effective?
This question is usually pretty simple to answer: If you only have two or three locations and are going to give each location its own website, managing SEO at the local level might make sense. In every other case, I highly recommend having your national branch manage all SEO so that things stay consistent. In terms of cost it is also usually less expensive to manage SEO efforts from the corporate branch because you can hire one agency for all locations (the logic is much like buying in bulk).
4. Were there any SEO efforts made before you bought the franchise?
The thing about SEO is that if it's done incorrectly it can have lasting consequences. Therefore, when you buy a franchise you always have to go back and check to see what was done in terms of SEO (in fact, this is something you should really check before buying). If you find that your website is full of duplicate content, broken links, being struck by negative SEO, poor navigation, etc., you're going to need to fix that before you move forward with your efforts. As a franchise owner, this can be something tough to miss because you weren't in charge in the past (something other companies can usually get away with).
I spoke with Scott Langdon, managing partner of SEO company HigherVisibility, who also added that if you are planning to redesign your website or change who is managing your SEO, you will want to make sure you're not losing any of the good SEO that was built in the process. Langdon said, "Part of doing this is knowing what links and content is out there in the first place. It's incredibly important to complete a link audit and a content audit first before diving into any new SEO practices; especially as a franchise owner."
Ask all the same questions about social media that you did for SEO.
In addition to questions about SEO, you also have to remember that social media will typically fall under the SEO umbrella. Figure out how many accounts you want to have, who is going to manage them, and whether or not your franchise is already represented on social media.
The Takeaway for Franchise Owners Thinking about SEO
Asking these questions doesn't always come to mind right away, but these are crucial if you own a franchise. Franchises are constantly growing and by nature have a lot of people working higher positions, so the managers working with you are constantly changing. This makes it even more important for a franchise to have an SEO strategy in place that caters to the franchise model.
It's also worth mentioning that these are not the only questions you need to ask if you own a franchise. All of the other typical SEO advice such as getting involved with local SEO and following analytics still applies.