SEO Franchise Case Study – Improving Organic Rankings

SEO Franchise Case Study – Improving Organic Rankings

SEO Franchise Case Study – Improving Organic Rankings

Franchise SEOLocal SEO is a more involved when it comes to franchise search optimization. It has it’s own challenges that other single locations based businesses face. I should know, I’ve worked with some of the largest franchise brands in the business.

When I was the head of SEO at yodle’s YBN department,  I worked with brands such as Maaco, Miracle-Era, Hand & Stone and many others. This is a case study about some of  the common issues I saw while there and other companies since then. Hopefully, you’re not making the same mistakes.

Numerous Challenges

One major benefit of being a large national chain is that many of these websites carry a fair amount of  authority. The longer a franchise has been around the more trust they have, typically. However, the longer they’ve been around the more likely they are in using old and outdated SEO methods.

One Site Per Location

One of the most common strategies I’ve seen with franchise locations is the method of building individual sites for each location. This becomes problematic because many of these sites are littered with duplicated content. The location sites are built with the same template and they use the same content with just the location(city+state) swapped out. Why is this a problem?

Google will typically only rank one site for the content that is duplicated. If many sites have the exact same or nearly identical content – Google can penalize some or all of these sites as it violates their terms of service.

Another Reason This Method Fails

If you want to rank organically and not just in the map listings, you’ll need incoming links. Imagine working on link building on a hundred websites. In my experience, it’s rare that anyone links to these local sites. In most cases when a franchise is mentioned even if it’s from a local source the link will point to the corporate main site.

Now, I’ve seen some attempts at workarounds such as a directory on the corporate site that links to these individual sites in order to pass some “link equity” to the smaller sites, but it rarely helps boost rankings.

Why Was This Method The Method Of Choice?

There are several reasons, the first being that some companies felt that since each franchisee was its own business it should have its own site. Other franchisees didn’t offer websites to their business owners and so they had to go out and create their own.

Another reason is that franchisee’s wanted to be able to customize their site and offers. The best way to do that was to allow owners to manage their own site.

What Needed To Happen?

Google didn’t like these micro sites and hit them with a penalty as they were made up of mostly duplicated content. Even after writing unique content, rankings improved very little. In very competitive markets these micro-sites also lacked authority, age and links.

sThe best option was to consolidate sites into a single page on the corporation’s main website. This was a bit more difficult than you would think. You have to build these locations into the site. You would need to build state pages which then would link to city pages and then list out the locations in each city.

I’ve seen brands that just added the pages on the backend and have people search to find these locations. However, Google doesn’t use a search function. Also, for the user’s sake, if the search function is broken – how does one find a location? Create a way for people to navigate locations that make sense if search is broken and the search engines will be able to crawl it as well.

Another not so great idea was that a franchise wanted to just upload new locations through a xml sitemap directly through Google’s search console. Not all of the locations were a part of the site navigation. Those that were –  ranked far better than those that just had a link in a sitemap. Why? Well, if Google is the only source that can navigate to these pages because you “fed” them the pages then there is no way for a user to find them. Showing Google pages users can’t find won’t help your SEO.

The Ultimate Fix?

Adding locations to the main website and tying them together with a sitemap, using breadcrumbs (marked-up with schema) and placing a link  in the main navigation to the “location’s” sitemap improved rankings in those locations drastically.

There were many other scenarios I came across. If you have a problem with your locations ranking or need help with franchise SEO contact me. I’d be happy to speak with you.