Branching out and making your business into a franchise is a great way to grow your brand and your revenue, but it isn’t without a lot of work. You’re dealing with several different managers and staff, different locations, but one overall budget. While you might have a solid plan in place about how you’re going to evaluate these managers, how you’re going to hire, etc., SEO and online concerns seem to fall into a weird place. Should you manage all SEO at the national branch level, or is this best put into the hands of franchisees?
The term “managing SEO” refers to constantly optimizing different websites to rank well on a search engine results page (SERP). This can get confusing because different franchise branches might offer different products, have a different audience, and they certainly have different managers and will differ when it comes to local search—all factors that play into SEO.
Working with a franchise and creating an SEO strategy is quite different than when you’re dealing with just one or two locations. Below are a few tips to keep in mind:
You have to determine if you’re going to have entirely different websites for each branch because this might affect your decision. I recommend having one website for your entire company and then simply have a page that shows visitors all of your locations and the contact information for each location. Nonetheless, if you have just a few (2-3) different franchise locations and the audiences and/or products differ in those locations completely, it might make sense to have more than one website. Trend carefully, however, and make sure that it is 100 percent the right move.
If each branch were going to take SEO into its own hands you would likely have problems with communication and organization. No matter how solid your strategy might be, you have to remember that SEO moves fast. SEO changes often, social media happens quickly, content needs to be produced at least 3 times per week, and finding keywords where you really want to focus your optimization also changes. If you had each branch trying to keep up, things are bound to overlap. Moral of the story: It’s important to keep your brand unified and that can be difficult if you have too many people trying to take control.
Franchise or no franchise, there comes a time when you have to decide whether you want to work with an SEO agency or hire an in-house expert. Having to make this decision for each individual branch is going to be tough (not to mention expensive), so it helps to have one unified company or expert working with your entire brand. This is also a great way to avoid the overlap in strategy discussed in the last point.
Budget is going to be a huge concern when you create an SEO strategy for a franchise company. In general, it will be less expensive to hire one agency or expert as opposed to a lot of different professionals. Using your national budget to organize your strategy across your entire company is going to ensure you get the best deal. Hint: Don’t make the mistake of not hiring someone to specifically work with your SEO. As discussed above, SEO is constantly changing and if you’re a large enough company that you’re building out franchise locations, SEO is not going to be a simple task.
While the budget and the overall management of SEO can get messy if you have too many people in charge, small local factors don’t quite have this problem. Although your franchise managers probably shouldn’t be in charge of optimizing for local search, you should give them access to the local listing/Google+ page in case there is ever a special promotion for that particular location. This also makes it easy to add photos to help give that local listing a little bit of character that someone working at the corporate level might not be able to do.
The Verdict: The majority of companies benefit from making major SEO decisions at the national level for all branches. This is the best way to make sure your brand stays unified and people who really understand SEO are in charge. Host a meeting with all franchise managers explaining each branch’s SEO responsibilities and things should start to run smoothly!
Do you have any tips when it comes to franchise SEO and/or franchise content management? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.