Many consumers are surprised to learn that some of the biggest brands on the high street, and many businesses that are household names thanks to national and even international advertising in the press, magazines, and TV, are actually franchises owned by local entrepreneurs.
According to digital marketing experts Slinky Digital Agency, if you own a local franchise, it is likely that you benefit from marketing that is undertaken centrally by the main company. Although the millions of dollars spent by the central company may help give the brand a much bigger profile, it does not necessarily speak to the local audience that your local franchise targets.
Nor does all the SEO the main company does to get it to the top of rankings nationally for searches such as ‘coffee shop’, ‘pool cleaner” or ‘bakery’ necessarily help your local franchise to attract local customers who might search for those same terms with their town or city added.
What would help though, is for you as a local franchise owner to implement some local marketing strategies which can help you climb the rankings whenever local searches are made.
By doing so, you not only get the trickle-down benefits of the main company’s marketing and SEO efforts, but you also start to attract more prospects, leads, and ultimately customers to your franchise business. So, what are the local SEO tactics and actions that you can take in order to boost their local search rankings?
It may be that you do not actually implement them yourself, but instead employ a local SEO agency to do them instead. This way you get the expertise of that agency, and the assurance that any actions are going to be properly implemented, tracked, and analysed for their impact.
Here are 5 local strategies that a local SEO agency is likely to recommend for your local franchise.
Create Your Own Local Website
This may depend very much upon the terms and conditions relating to your franchise agreement and how much leeway you have with regards to your online activities.
If there are strict rules that state you can only use the website that the franchise company provides, then you may be limited to asking your SEO agency to try and optimise it in whatever way is possible.
There may still be lots of scope for improvement assuming that you can give the SEO agency access to the back office where they can optimise aspects of the website such as the metadata.
On the other hand, if your franchise agreement has greater flexibility then it may prove worthwhile to have the agency build you a local website that promotes your franchise. Building it from scratch allows them to get everything properly optimised from day 1, and in doing so should help you get good local search engine rankings more quickly.
Tactics would be to include content that is more relevant to your local area than the content supplied centrally which is likely to be very generic and only product or service focussed.
Ensure Your Google My Business Listing Is Optimised
Whenever a search is entered in Google, especially one looking for local business, then what appears near the top of the search results is what is commonly referred to as ‘the map pack’. This is the top three google map results with the locations of those three businesses pinpointed on the map which also appears.
The information that appears there is referred to as your ‘Google My Business’ listing, and this is a vital cog in the Google ranking machine. Now, it may take some time for your SEO to get you into one of those top three spots, however, that does not stop you doing all you can to make that happen.
One critical aspect of this is to ensure that the details related to your Google map listing are correct. Those details include the company name, business address, telephone number, and opening hours.
There are other elements within the map pack that your SEO agency can advise you on such as reviews, images, and answering questions which also add to this listing. The more optimised it is the better chance you have of ranking higher, and of people clicking through to your website.
Use Citations and Ensure They Are 100% Accurate
To some, a citation is something ordering you to appear in court, but the type of citations we are talking about here are not quite as officious as that, albeit, you still want to take this type of citation very seriously if you want your local franchise to enhance its online presence.
The citations in this instance are simply the basics of your franchise business such as its name, address and telephone number, and while that might not seem particularly exciting, it is important to know is that they are considered by Google to be ranking factors.
The places where citations are added to are mainly online business directories, with the most important ones being the likes of Yelp and Bing. Beyond those two, there are literally hundreds of other directories and websites that you can add a citation to, and each one of them adds a little bit to your ranking score.
One mistake that many business owners make is the information they post for each citation is not always consistent. By consistent we mean every single character within the information has to be 100% accurate and identical. If it is not, the citation is not counted towards your franchise.
An example would be is if your franchise were located at this address; ’53 Saint Francis Road’. If that is how the address is written in your Google My Business listing, then every citation must be exactly the same.
Variations such using ‘St.’ instead of ‘Saint’, or ‘Rd.’ instead of ‘Road’, might seem minor, but they are enough to nullify any citation that had them.
Use Local and Geo-Specific Content
One of the issues with any of the branded online marketing that your main franchise company uses, is it will mainly be generic content relating to the product or service, and almost certainly will not make any reference to the local area where your franchise is located.
That might be advantageous when it comes to telling anyone online about how good the product or service is, but it is not going to speak to or attract the local audience that you are seeking.
That is why you need to have content created that includes lots of references to your local town or city, and where appropriate laser focussed on the neighbourhoods or districts that you want to attract customers from.
The form that this content takes can be as diverse as you like and that means it can go from quite simple text blog posts, all the way through to videos promoting your locale and your franchise business.
Most SEO agencies know what kinds of content work best for local audiences, and for specific products or services, so they will be able to advise you. They can also create it for you using skilled writers, graphics editors, and video creators should you wish to use any or all of them.
The advantage of publishing content has two main advantages. The first relates to engagement with your local audience who are more likely to watch or read content when they see it speaks about their local area.
The second is for SEO, as whenever a search is made that includes a local town or city, the content is more likely to rank, than a generic non-local piece of content.
Create a Strategy For Encouraging Customer Reviews
When we spoke about your Google My Business listing, we mentioned that it included a section with customer reviews. This is where you see an average review score out of 5 along with the most recent reviews.
If you want your local franchise to have a huge advantage over your competitors, then having a strategy to garner customer reviews is the perfect way to do it.
Looking at a business’s reviews has now become the number one factor in the decision of people online in deciding whether they are going to use a specific business or not. That means if you have a poor review score then they are not going to be knocking on your door.
That also applies if you no reviews at all, as this implies that you either have very few customers or are not open for business at all. Another negative is if the date of your last review was more than 6 months ago.
If you have no reviews, your first target is to get at least 10 positive reviews. This may require some staff training so that they start asking for reviews, or a system put in place that encourages your customers to leave those reviews.
Thereafter, you must respond to every review, as it is this response that tells potential buyers seeing them that you actually appreciate your customers.
By response we mean more than just saying ‘Thanks’. What it needs is a couple of lines to show your gratitude for them taking the time to review, and that you look forward to serving them again.
The same principle applies if you get a negative review. Do not get defensive, but simply respond by taking full responsibility for what went wrong and promising that you will do everything to avoid it again in the future.