The last few years have been tumultuous for business owners. But, for franchises, the market is looking up! Franchises are on track to increase their value output by 4.9%, ending the year generating $826.6 billion in nominal dollars.
Yet, while the franchise market as a whole is doing well, not every franchise owner can jump on the opportunities this presents. Some are better positioned than others.
So, if you own a franchise, what can you do to set yourself up for success? One way to position yourself strategically: boost your organic ranking with a killer online presence with franchise SEO.
Organic Ranking: Defined
What exactly is organic ranking? And why is it critical to have a better organic ranking to succeed in the market?
Organic ranking is a rating that determines where a given website or profile ends up on the search results page. Rankings differ by keyword, region, and a user’s search history.
Search engines like Google determine a website or profile’s page placement by determining its quality and relevance. Engines want users to see the most relevant, useful, and trustworthy results at the top of the page.
On an engine like Google, it’s important to be on the first results page. Ideally, your online presence will be in the top three results a user sees when they’re searching for solutions or products you offer.
Organic Rank vs. Paid Rank
Notably, organic ranking differs from paid search rank. Paid search results are marked as “ads” on mainstream search engines and platforms.
Paid search rank is determined similarly, but it also factors in how much an advertiser pays (bids) to associate their landing page with certain keywords.
Search Engine Optimization
Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn, and Google all use different factors to determine a site or profile’s quality. But, certain traits reliably raise a site’s quality. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process of intentionally cultivating these traits.
Most strategies to improve organic ranking are, fundamentally, SEO strategies.
How Does a Franchise’s Digital Footprint Differ?
A digital footprint is the presentation of your brand online. And, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
A digital footprint is composed of the various “rooms” your company makes online. Websites, social media accounts, earned media coverage, and reviews all contribute to your company’s perception online.
Franchise businesses need to tailor their SEO strategies to account for the unique digital marketing challenges they face.
Moreover, a franchise owner’s goals for their business may differ slightly from the goals of non-franchise business owners.
What Factors Into A Franchise’s Organic Ranking?
Nine factors reliably contribute to a franchise business’ organic ranking. They are:
- User experience
- Domain health
- Link use
- LSI keywords
- Mobile optimization
- Customer reviews
- Directory listings
- Original content
- Earned media coverage
Focusing on these factors systemically can improve the rank of your online presence.
User experience tells you how different users experience your online presence when they navigate your website or search for information. User experience is determined by a range of factors.
One factor is meta-data. Image metadata and meta descriptions of web pages make your site easier to navigate. You’ll want to use SEO best practices when writing descriptions, alt-text, titles, and captions.
Loading speed also affects user experience. Try to keep your site as light as possible without sacrificing quality. Compression strategies can help your page load faster.
It’s also important to have enough servers to manage your site’s traffic. Work to minimize your server’s response time. And, streamline your HTML code by removing unnecessary plugins.
Finally, a site’s readability significantly impacts user experience. A well-organized site is easier to navigate. This makes it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
Copy and design also make a site easier or harder to read. A site’s readability improves its conversion rate more than any other UX factor.
Search engines use web crawlers to evaluate the health of indexed sites. Use a domain health checklist to make sure none of your online pages are getting dinged for easy-to-fix issues. A checklist typically includes:
- Quality XML sitemaps
- Appropriate robots.txt use
- Standardized URLs
- Unique, accurate metadata descriptions
- Canonical tags (tag primary source content)
- 404 error check
- Proper redirect chains
- Site architecture with limited crawl depth (≤3 clicks)
- SSL certificate
- Appropriate Hreflang tags
- Disavow bad backlinks
- Keep cybersecurity software updated
- Use 503 status update to note temporary site downtime
Google explains how to address many of these items on its support pages. For instance, learn how to disavow bad backlinks with the relevant support article.
Appropriate link use is a key SEO tactic. High-ranking sites have an appropriate number of relevant, internal links. They don’t overload on internal links.
Backlinks are also important. When reputable, high-ranking sites refer to yours, your own site’s search rank increases.
Conversely, if shady or disreputable sites link to yours, your rank can decrease.
Keywords are words and phrases people type into a search bar. A site will have a different website organic ranking relative to different keywords.
Your website pages and profiles should be written to include relevant terms. That way, when someone types a problem into Google that you can solve—or a question you can answer—your site or profile comes up.
LSI keywords are sets of related words and terms. They can be synonyms, but they can also be similar in nature without being identical. Try using a free LSI keyword generator to begin cultivating a strategy.
Google first announced mobile-first indexing in 2018. By 2020, it expanded mobile-first to the whole internet.
As a result, it’s important that your website runs smoothly and is easy to read on mobile. Read Google’s guide to mobile-first best practices.
Customer reviews can improve a franchise location’s rank, or tank it.
Make your franchise locations easy to review by prompting customers to leave a review after visiting. Studies show that 72% of customers review local businesses when prompted. Places to make your locations review-able include:
- Google Business
- Google Maps
Directory listings are useful collections of businesses. They’re typically organized by category and location. For instance, if your franchise is a gym, add your franchise locations to fitness directories.
Make sure each directory entry includes your franchise:
- Local address
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- Other contact information (if applicable)
As directories typically direct searchers to specific locations, make sure each location of your franchise has an optimized landing page.
Original Content (Owned/Paid Media)
SEO strategies work best when integrated into a broader content marketing strategy. Content marketing strategies improve a website or social media profile’s rank by making the pages more useful and engaging to customers.
Original content can establish your brand as a reliable thought leader in your field. Content is more likely to elevate your rank when you update it regularly.
If you have popular posts, make sure to keep them updated so they don’t become irrelevant as time goes on. Effective content marketing can include a wide range of original pieces, including:
- Longform blog posts
- Short social media posts
- Guest blog posts
- Visual content (like infographics)
Consistency is key. It’s not enough to put out one or two great posts every couple of months. You need to establish your site or page’s reputation as a reliable source of quality information, entertainment, and connection.
Earned Media Coverage
Earned media coverage is, in a way, the type of SEO you have the least control over. But, you can still strategize to improve it.
Earned media is content that others write about your brand. This content can be a review in prominent outlets, event coverage, interviews, or even a simple reference to information you first published.
Like backlinks, earned media coverage strengthens your brand’s reputation. This, in turn, improves your franchise’s organic ranking online.
Strategies to Improve Your Franchise Business’ Organic Ranking
Now you know what factors can impact the organic rank of your franchise’s website or online profiles. So, how can you use this information strategically to improve your rank?
Effective strategies vary. But, each has three strong pillars.
Target Qualified Audience
Most franchises see a lead-to-conversion ratio of about 1%. That’s not ideal.
Fortunately, qualified audiences convert to customers at far higher rates than general audiences.
In one case study, the Black Rifle Coffee Company used a subscription and owned media strategy to cultivate qualified leads. Those leads converted at a rate of 7%.
You can attract and qualify leads with effective data gathering. Make it easy for site visitors to opt-in to content like newsletters or coupons. This gives you information on your leads, and it lets you accelerate lead nurturing.
Surveys are another way to better target qualified leads for conversion.
Coordinate Franchisee Network
As a franchise owner, make sure all franchisees are coordinated in their marketing efforts. Develop a brand playbook, and define marketing segments by location and relevant traits.
Choose specific products and services as the tentpole of your brand’s identity. Then, encourage each location to develop a strong, local social media presence.
Offer quality guidelines for different locations’ social media content, just as you do for products and services. Clarify the returns franchisees can expect to see on their investment in online marketing.
Create a “success roadmap” that can help all franchisees create branded content.
Reinforce Local SEO Strategies
Local SEO strategies are compelling. Reinforce local optimization with:
- Localized landing pages
- Location-based keywords
- Location-specific reviews
Give franchisees the ability to reward customers that leave location-based reviews.
Raise Your Rank With Kelly Webmasters and Marketers
Search engine optimization can be a minefield. That’s why, at Kelly Webmasters and Marketers, we offer specialized local and franchise SEO services designed to improve your organic ranking.
Are you ready to elevate your franchise’s digital footprint? Contact our experts today for a free consultation.