5 Ways To Increase Local SEO For Franchisees

If you’re a local franchisee with a small budget, it can seem overwhelming to know how to increase your local SEO and compete against national companies. Luckily for you, it’s possible for your local website to rank higher than national brands online when you take a local strategy.

Taking a local strategy is key because it’s easier to rank for local terms like “bike shop in Pittsburg” instead of “bike shop.” Google and other search engines want to give customers what they’re searching for. So if customers are looking for local businesses, that’s what Google shows them.

So how do you start building a local marketing and web strategy as a franchisee? It depends on how you’re set up as a franchisee.

If your franchise shows up as a page under your national franchise brand’s website, then you may not have as much control over your local SEO. So you should focus on the first two methods that aren’t on your website: local listings and reviews. Then you can try to persuade your corporate office to put more resources into local SEO by using the suggestions in the rest of the article.

Get listed on Google My Business and other listing services

When you search for a business category on Google — either by mobile or desktop — a map with some local listings is what first appears. These listings show the essential stats for a local business including their website, reviews, address, and phone. These stats come from Google My Business (GMB). It’s one of the main ways your local customers find you online.

For example, when you search for a local service like “Pet grooming Dayton Ohio” in Google, chances are one of the first results may be a map.

Google My Business map of pet grooming studio

Your potential customer can then click on one of these listings or go directly to a provider’s website or reviews. If the customer clicks on a listing, they’ll see this screen which shows them the business’ contact information, a link to the company’s website, reviews, photos, and questions and answers.

By building out your GMB listing you can increase your chances of being seen by your local customers and also give them relevant information like your hours, website link, reviews, etc.

Google My Business isn’t the only listing you should create. We recommend adding your business to other listings that your customers search for. These might include Yelp, TripAdvisor, Bing, Manta, etc. Find out which ones your customers search on and then add your business to those listings. You can also use local listing services to manage all of your listings.

Solicit reviews from customers

What’s one of the first steps customers take when researching local companies? Finding reviews of them online.

So if reviews are so important, how do you build up positive customer reviews from your customers?

Decide which avenue(s) is most important and send customers there

Some businesses may have customers looking them up on Facebook, while other franchisees’ customers look them up on Google or TripAdvisor. Find out which venue most of your customers look for and post reviews on and then focus your energy on those one or two platforms.

Build a strategy for how you’ll get reviews

If you want to build up your reviews, you need to be proactive and ask your customers for reviews. First, decide when you’ll ask your customer for a review. Is it in person? Through a follow-up text or email? The best time to ask for a review is when your customer has had some time using your product or service, but the experience is still fresh. Make it easy for them by including a link that sends them directly to where you want them to review.

Optimize Your Site for SEO

If, for example, you’re a franchisee of a pet boarding studio in Dayton, Ohio, you want to show up when people search for “pet boarding Dayton.” You can pay for Facebook ads or Google ads which cost money, or you can optimize your site for local SEO. Here are some basic steps to take to increase your local SEO by optimizing your site.

Decide which local keywords you want to rank for

Local keywords like “pet boarding Dayton” instead of just “pet boarding” are at the heart of your SEO strategy. By targeting local keywords, you have a higher chance of ranking higher in the search results, even against larger brands. Google knows that when a customer is searching for a local service like pet boarding, they want local results to show up.

So think of the product or services you offer and build a keyword list around them. If you want to get more advanced, you can do keyword research using tools like Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer, or Ubersuggest.

For example, if you offer pet boarding for both cats and dogs as well as additional services like grooming you could try to rank for the terms:

  • Pet boarding studio Dayton
  • Dog boarding Dayton
  • Cat boarding Dayton
  • Pet grooming Dayton
  • Overnight pet boarding Dayton
  • Doggie daycare Dayton

Match those keywords to pages on your site

Once you have your list of core local keywords, match them to pages on your site. If you have a page that currently has information on both overnight boarding and daytime boarding, consider splitting it into two pages so that you can rank for both terms.

You may need to build new pages or add new content to existing pages so that each of your core pages has a keyword that you want to rank for.

Add those keywords to key parts of your pages

You want to tell Google and other search engines exactly what each page is about, using your keyword strategy. So add your keyword phrase to your page’s title, headline, and 3-5 times in the text. Try to make your keywords as natural as possible, because it’s important that your customer has a good reading experience with your page.  Also, avoid keyword stuffing where you’re putting a lot of keywords in your page so that you rank better because Google will penalize you for keyword stuffing.

Explore more advanced SEO techniques

Once you’ve built your keyword strategy, explore other ways to improve your site’s ranking. This can include your site’s organization and schema, increasing your site speed, etc.  

Create local content

Local content such as articles or blog posts that focus on helping your local customers is a great local SEO strategy. That’s because:

  1. Your customers search for local content
  2. Writing content establishes you as a local authority for your customers
  3. Google gives priority to local content and local content can rank higher than national content

So maybe you write a blog post about how Dayton residents can prepare their pets for an overnight stay at your local boarding studio. You could focus on how Dayton’s weather and seasons might affect their pet, or benefits of your particular studio.

By taking a local focus, you’re more likely to rank when your customers search for “preparing my pet for overnight stay Dayton” compared to a broader article where you’re competing with other boarding studios all over the nation.  

Get relevant backlinks

Another way to increase your SEO rankings is by getting relevant backlinks. What are backlinks and why are they important?

Backlinks are when other websites link to your website. These websites could include publications like your local newspaper, industry listings such as Yelp, etc. When your site has backlinks from reputable websites that have a strong domain authority, then Google considers your site to be more trustworthy since these sites linked to you.

So think about ways to get backlinks to your site. Maybe you can be featured in a local newspaper story that’s posted online and linked to your site. Or you could join an industry publication or directory that includes a link to your site.

Take the First Step to Increase Your SEO

Now you know a few ways to increase your SEO on your website. Choose one strategy to start with and build from there. If you want some more help with local listings, writing localized content, or building a franchise listing contact us at 317-576-2855.  


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Google My Business Best Practices For Franchises

Best Practices For Managing Google My Business Listings For Multiple Locations

As a business with multiple locations, you want your locations to succeed in their local marketing, and one of the best online local marketing tools around is Google My Business. But to be successful at GMB, you need to not only create listings for all of your locations but also stay on top of keeping their information accurate. Managing one location isn’t that hard, but when you’re a franchise or multi-location business with dozens of locations, managing these can seem overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together these tips to help franchises manage their Google My Business listings for multiple locations without being overwhelmed.

1. Set your account up the right way

The first step is to ensure that you meet the qualification guidelines set by Google to create and manage a Google My Business listing. Next, make sure that you’ve set up your account correctly so that you can manage your listings from one central location. If you have lots of locations that have never been centralized with Google My Business, you might have a mess at first because some of the locations may have great listings while others haven’t even claimed their business yet.

For consistency and brand control, we recommend that the corporate office retains ownership of the Google My Business account and manages all of the locations. You can do this either in house or by hiring a marketing agency to manage your listings for you. While you can give your locations access to update their own Google listings, you’ll be at risk of them making changes to the account, and so you may want to restrict them to be a communications manager.
If you don’t already manage your Google My Business listing, the first thing you need to do is set up an account. Create a Google account with your business name as the domain, for example, manager@acme.com. Next, you’ll need to create a Google business account, if you don’t already have one. This will be the main account that you manage all of the locations.

As the business owner or manager, it’s important that you retain primary ownership of your Google My Business Account. You can add other managers and owners (either marketing agencies, third parties, or local owners) to your listings as needed. If you’ve worked with an agency in the past and they’re the primary owner, you have the right to ask for ownership of the account. This means that even if you change agencies, you’ll still retain control of your account.

Some of your locations may already have listings they’ve claimed and manage. Request access and ownership to these listings by following these instructions.

2. Gather Account Information From Each Location Into One Place

It’s important that the information such as name and address that is on your location’s website matches their Google My Business listing and is consistent across all of your locations. If each of your location has the same name, i.e. “Sally’s Flower Shop” in each city, that is the name that should be on the Google My Business listing. You’ll also want to be consistent with address terms such as using “st” or “street” across all websites and local listings. This helps search engines recognize that it’s the same business and location across the web and ensures you’re listings aren’t competing against each other, resulting in lower search placement.

The easiest way to collect this information is through a spreadsheet. If you qualify for a bulk upload (see below) you can download a spreadsheet to use directly from Google My Business. You’ll need at least the store ID (for internal use only), company name, website page to link to, physical address, phone number, and service category for each location. We recommend adding additional information such as hours of operation, business description, AdWords extensions, and more to give your customers more details about your business. Here’s a list of the different fields you can create in your Spreadsheet.

If some of the information (such as hours) is different for each store, you can build a Google Form that feeds into your spreadsheet and send it to each store. You’ll just need to keep on top of your locations to make sure they fill out the necessary information.

3. Add New Business Locations In Bulk (If You Qualify)

There are two ways to add new businesses to your account: via bulk upload and by adding each listing individually. New businesses you could add include locations that were just opened* or locations that have never been claimed.

If you have more than ten locations, you can choose to use the bulk uploader. You’ll use the spreadsheet you already created (or use the one Google provides) and check that all the information is correct. Then you’ll upload it at once. Google will let you know if there’s any discrepancies or errors in the information.

There are some drawbacks to using the bulk upload method. First, there’s a character limit in the name and description field which can cut off text. Also, service area providers (where there isn’t a main physical location and services are provided at customer’s location) aren’t eligible for bulk verification.

After you’ve uploaded your information, you can request bulk verification. Bulk verification is a lot faster than manual verification. For manual verification, each location is mailed a postcard with a code that you’ll need to enter into their business listing. This can take time, especially if locations accidentally throw away their postcard and it needs to be resent. But with bulk verification, all of the locations are verified at once through sending a verification form to Google through your account. You’ll need at least ten locations to be able to request bulk verification, and it may take up to a week to get processed and approved.

*Never open a Google My Business account for a location that hasn’t opened yet. Your account could be disabled.

4. Update Business Information Easily

You can update information such as addresses, phone numbers, descriptions and more in bulk if you have at least ten locations. This is helpful if some of your locations already have listings, but they aren’t consistent with your other listings or have different information than their website.

You’ll need to download your location information, make changes in the spreadsheet, and then upload them again to Google. By downloading the information, you can also see if there’s errors that Google has found or any updates Google made on their own. Follow these instructions on how to make edits.

5. Hire Help As Needed

Business owners and managers should stay informed and actively participate with their business listings, but using listing tools or hiring experts can help your listings perform better and take some of the workload off your shoulders.

Local listing tools like Yext can help you manage your Google My Business account along with other local directory listings through one interface. If you want an even more hands off approach, hire a marketing agency.

Marketing agencies can enhance your local listings and manage your photos, reviews, ad extensions, and more so that your listing shows up for customers looking for your services. Another benefit of hiring help is agencies can manage your local listings across many services such as Yelp, Bing, and other directories. Look for marketing agencies that have experience with local listings, communicate well about accounts and changes, and adhere to Google’s guidelines.

Get Started With Local Listings Today

If you’re a franchise or multi-location business that needs help with your Google My Business or other local listing directories, give us a call at 317-576-2855 for a free consultation. We’ll manage your local listings for you so that customers can find your local stores while you focus on other aspects of your company.

 

Photo Credit: 123rf.com/abscent

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Local directory listings for franchises

The 5 Ws Of Local Directory Listing For Franchises And Multi-location Businesses

Your customers use local directory listings every day. And most likely, you do, too. If you’ve never heard of the term — no worries. This article is a quick overview of the who, what, where, when, why and how of local directory listings.

Who Uses Local Directory Listings? (Hint, hint: your potential customers)

Almost any online search for a local product or service will pull up a local directory listing result. To see how this works, let’s talk about a woman named Susan. Susan had just moved into a new home and wanted to redo her flooring. But since she was new to the area, she didn’t know what flooring stores she should choose. So she went online to Google and typed in “Flooring in Carmel, IN.” This was her result.

Indiana Local listing directory results for flooring

At the top she saw ads for local area providers, but what really drew her attention was the map which showed her where flooring stores in her local area were. This was very helpful because she could see which stores were closest to her, customer reviews for the stores, and the hours which they were open. She also could click through to a store’s website and learn even more about their flooring products and services. So she browsed through a few flooring websites and then went to bed.

The next day, after work, Susan was on her mobile phone and again typed in “Flooring in Carmel, IN.” She saw the store that was closest to her work, and remembered that she liked what they had on their website. So she clicked on “Get Directions” and showed up in their showroom minutes later.

The local flooring business gained Susan as a lead simply because they had a local directory listing with Google which they optimized to draw more customers into their store.

What Is A Local Directory Listing?

A local directory listing is a listing of your company’s basic NAP information – name, address, phone number – with a directory like Google, Bing, Yelp, or even smaller directory services. It’s similar to the old phone book listings, but it’s online where most people go to search for products. It can also include additional information such as hours of operation, website links, customer reviews, photos and more if you add those features. When customers search for local products and services these directory listings will pop up. Some people also go directly to the directory (like Yelp) and search through the listings there.

Local directory listings aren’t just for local mom-and-pop stores. National brands and franchises compete with local stores for customers’ attention and business. So you want to make it easy for customers who are searching online for your local services to contact you through local listings.

Where Should My Stores Be Listed?

You’ll want to start off by listing your stores on the major directories like Google and Bing. Then, depending on your industry, you’ll want to find the smaller directories that cater to your products. If you’re a restaurant, you’ll want to be included on Yelp, and touristy directories like TripAdvisor. In order to rise to the top of the listings, you’ll want to optimize your listings for the directories.

When Should I Start Creating And Optimizing My Local Directory Listings?

If you don’t currently have directory listings with the major publishers, then it’s time to get started. Sometimes the verification process can take a couple of weeks, and so the earlier you start, the better. And if you have lots of stores that need directory listing, that takes time as well. If you’re already listed on the major directories, look through your listings to see what you can do to optimize them and show up higher on the search list.

It’s possible for your business to show up in a local directory listing even if you haven’t officially registered it. However, you’ll see a lot more benefits after you’ve claimed your listing such as the ability to display your hours, link to your website, have customer reviews, and more.

Why Should My Stores Have Local Listings?

Local directory listings put your company’s information right in front of your customers when they’re searching locally for your products and services. For multi-location businesses, local listings are crucial for your store’s local marketing success.

Local listings can also improve your store’s website’s SEO value. One of our clients had a local store that didn’t verify their address with Google Places for months and months. We finally got them to verify their location and their SEO traffic doubled in one month. That’s the power of local listing, especially with Google.

Bonus: How Do I List My Store On Local Directories?

Listing your stores on local directories can be hard and take time. One of the biggest challenges is making sure that you are consistent with how you format your name, address, phone number, etc., across all of your locations. The first place we recommend listing is with Google My Business. If you are listing more than ten stores at once and you meet their guidelines, you may be able to do a bulk upload of the store’s information. If you don’t meet their guidelines, you’ll need to input the store’s information one by one. So we recommend creating a spreadsheet of all the information you’ll need from each store and then contacting the stores to get all of the information.

Google My Business (also known as Google Places) will send out a postcard with a verification code to each store’s physical location. So make sure that your stores are on the lookout for the postcard and that they contact you with the information so that they can be verified and claim their local listing.

Once you’ve listed your stores on Google, hit the next major listings. Each of these directories will have a different way of verifying your location such as email, phone call or mail.

After you’re on the major directories, start looking into smaller directories. You can use directory services like Moz, Yext, or work with an agency like Flint Analytics to manage these directory listings. Some of these services let you list your business from one interface to over 50 different directories and keep your listings consistent.

Local directory listings are an important part of local online marketing success and can increase your online visibility with customers. If you want to know more about local directory listing for your multi-location business, contact us today.

 

Photo credit: 123rf.com/denchik

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