There are always two sides to every situation in life. If you’ve watched the Garth Brooks autobiography special he talks about it. He said that his father talked to him about the concept many times. One example Garth gave was that he experienced the most success professionally during the ’90s. His dreams came true. But his marriage fell apart. Likely in no small part because of the time and energy stress caused by his successful career.
The SEO world was kind of the wild west in the 2000s. Google didn’t go public until 2004. I was in college. It wasn’t necessarily common to “google” something back then. I came to learn that there was a bit of a shady industry surrounding rankings on Google. Different tactics kind of came and went until about 2011 or so. Up until then it was about getting links to your website and its pages. By any means necessary.
Since then, though, Google has gotten really good at finding what they consider the “best” content. Links or no links.
Anyway, SEO is now a long-term strategy in almost every situation. Lots of time and energy to the investment. It’s difficult for any brand to achieve strong rankings. It seems especially difficult for small businesses.
But the flip side to that coin is that it presents a bit of an opportunity for those willing to take the long journey. Or those that have a unique position, such as franchises.
Not every franchise is big. But even a franchise with 20 locations or 20 franchisees is likely bigger than a single small business with one location. It’s not always the case, but it’s likely that the franchise has more brand recognition and more of a lot of things that go into SEO.
If you’re part of a franchise, as either the franchisor or franchisee, here are some SEO tips.
1. Domain (Brand) Authority
A big part of SEO success in recent years has been brand awareness. How many people that know about your brand and are actively searching for it. That alone leads to traffic from Google. People search your brand name. That also signals to Google that you’re a brand that’s “in demand”. In whatever way they do they likely compare this to other brands in your category and weigh that when doing rankings.
With franchises, this is kind of built in. An Ace Hardware in Small Town, USA, isn’t some stand alone hardware store. It’s a nationally recognized brand. People all over, including in that small town, will be searching for “Ace” on Google. Google sees that and uses it in many ways.
One thing to remember is the website side of it. It’s likely good for each franchisee to be part of the overall brand domain or website. For example: www.acehardware.com/small-town-usa or whatever the location is. This is usually more successful than something like www.smalltownusaacehardware.com. The brand is the main pull. And each franchise uses that to their advantage.
2. Question & Answer Content
Content is still what SEO is about. People are looking for content. Google provides the method for them to quickly find it. Imagine going to the largest library in the world. You want a specific book. Nothing is organized. Just random books on every shelf.
That’s the Internet at a much larger scale. Google provides the direction. They do it well. They do it incredibly fast. And often we aren’t even sure exactly what we want and Google provides great suggestions.
A lot of searching is about finding an answer. How to do this. A list of examples for that.
A great content strategy – for blogging or landing pages or videos or whatever – is question and answer. Identifying as many questions as possible that your customers are asking and providing the best answers you can.
Do this strategy for a long time and you’re likely going to see traffic not just from that content, but also as Google recognizes that you are a great source of content and help for their searchers. They might see you answering questions and boost your homepage and other pages in the rankings as a result.
3. Research Content
People that write blog posts or create videos or share on social media are often sharing research findings. But it’s not always just medical research or things like that. It’s often industry research done by those involved in the industry. Even brands themselves.
Brands can do their own surveys. They can share their own data. That includes franchisees. You likely have data from each franchisee that can build some interesting findings. The same for all the customers at each of the locations.
Let’s say you’re Ace Hardware or another hardware franchise. Do a survey to see what customers are fixing the most this year all over the world. Publish the findings. It’s likely to get picked up by other blogs, video channels and even some major media.
4. Unique vs. Shared Content
Back to the brand’s website. It’s not the worst thing to share content when you’re creating different pages for each franchisee. It’s understandable. You have all those locations. You want them up and running with a page. Reuse the content. After all, how many ways can you explain the same services?
It’s not necessarily going to hurt you. It’s not a penalty or anything. Google is smart. They know how businesses and franchises work. Just do your best to make each page unique to the customer that will be using it. Mention the location. If it makes sense, mention the owner and employees. Share unique reviews. Things like that to make it unique.
From there, also encourage franchisees to create their own unique content. Video, blog posts, social media posts and maybe even a podcast. This can boost SEO and separate the franchisees a bit when the rest of the sales content is similar.
5. Brand Awareness Marketing
If you’re looking to boost SEO it doesn’t hurt to boost overall brand awareness. Through advertising. Through social media. Big things at the franchisor or brand level. We’re talking national level stuff or worldwide stuff. Perhaps large sponsorships. It’s part of many franchise situations where they want the brand name to be top of mind. This way when someone thinks about the service in their location they search the brand name and find the local franchise.
Again, this is not easy. It’s often not cheap. There are some ways to do it without money. You could do guesting on podcasts or video channels and things like that. It’s a long-term effort. But the focus is on getting more people that know about your brand everywhere that you have a franchisee.
6. Longform Content Creation
A 500-word blog post can be a great way to answer a question. Google has seemed to skew toward longer content though in the last few years. Will this continue to be the trend? Hard to say.
A 500-word post isn’t short. 2,000 words is typically considered longform. I would say that if you’re doing something like a blogging strategy that it’s good to have a mix of both when starting. See what works. If it’s the 2,000 word posts, stick to those.
But keep the focus on answering questions that fit with a word count. If you can provide a great answer with 500 words do it. Don’t stretch it to 2,000 words just because you’re trying to please Google. At the end of the day they are doing what is best for searchers. They will, and have, changed their strategies and rankings accordingly and this catches people off guard all the time.
SEO is as difficult as ever. But in many ways it’s simpler. There are two sides to everything in life. It’s more difficult than ever for small businesses to rank. But that’s also an opportunity for those that do. And I think franchise businesses have a little built in advantage with SEO if they’re willing to take a few steps. Hopefully these tips can help if you’re a manager or owner of a franchise.