Franchise owners, like many business owners these days, are likely to have a website which they use to inform potential customers of their products or services. Some may use them to sell these products or services directly through the site; others may use them to give information to the user about the business.
In the same way as every other business using a website who is looking to improve sales or leads through search engines they need to think about SEO. For franchises, just like every other business, the fundamental SEO best practices remain the same and should be followed where possible. Due to the nature of franchises, there are some areas of SEO to be wary of and some that you should focus on more than others.
The below areas to focus on and take caution of are based around the franchisee having their own site. This site could either provided to them by the parent company or created by themselves following any branding guidelines.
Where To Be Wary
It’s been said a million times in relation to SEO: duplicate content reduces the value of a page and its likelihood of being visible in search results to your intended user. Content duplication isn’t an issue only with franchise sites but it is something that, through their nature, is inadvertently commonplace.
Essentially a lot of franchise sites are built around a template that meets branding guidelines and follows a set structure. Whilst that in itself isn’t the issue it tends to be that a lot of the content on the pages is templated too with localities and contact details updated by the franchisee. This can reduce the value of the page(s) and in turn reduce that page's authority and visibility opportunity.
Bottom line: Where possible, create your own content for the site and fight to do so if you can. It might take longer and be harder work but it will pay dividends in the end if it’s unique and relevant to the page/business.
Again, not necessarily for any disreputable reasons, franchise sites tend to have a habit of interlinking between one and other. Although it could be argued that the linking is in place (usually in the footer or specific page linked in the footer) to help the user find the franchisee they’re closest to, the likes of Google may misinterpret this as a deliberate attempt to manipulate the authority of a site or sites. In essence there would be a mini link exchange network going on between sites that all looked pretty similar and with (hopefully not) pretty similar content too.
Bottom line. Either remove all unnecessary interlinking or make it very clear that it is for the user. For example, one nofollowed link in the footer to a page containing the links for the user with the meta noindex, nofollow on it….and for good measure disallow that page from the robots.txt file too! Remove the risk or mitigate the risk.
Domain Health and Risks
Franchisees come and go within large franchises and as I mentioned before some franchises own and manage all their individual franchisee’s local domains. Due to the turnover of people buying into and leaving franchises, this means that some previous franchisee’s sites (and territories) would be up for grabs at times. Great news – or is it? Did that previous franchisee engage in any shady SEO practices that may not do you any favors when you try to be visible to your target users?
Bottom Line. Take a look (or hire someone to take a look) at the domain you may end up owning. Let them check its health through a backlink audit to determine any risks or hurdles (such as link removal) you may be facing. Ultimately it could help save the new franchise.
Okay, so I’ve given you some areas to be wary of when it comes to SEO for you if you’ve bought into a franchise or are looking at a potential franchise future. Of course all the usual risks and pitfalls of typical SEO need to be considered but I feel these are the top ones to look into from a franchise sites perspective.
In my next post I’ll cover ‘Franchise SEO: The Things To Focus On’ which will shed some light on the areas of SEO that would yield the best results for your time and energy. If you can think of any other areas to be wary of in the meantime please add them into the comments below.