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Franchise SEO: How To Rank Every Location Nationally

I need to get in the habit of producing more content for you guys, and figured this might be an interesting and helpful post for some of you.

Unfortunately, a lot of you think that taking on something like this would be intimidating, so you’ve never positioned yourself as someone that can get these clients. That all changes today.

After having a couple coaching calls with a few people wanting to implement a nationwide strategy, I thought it would be a good idea to at least cover the surface here and explain a few basic things and give an outline to follow.

Franchise SEO for Multiple Locations

If you land a franchise as a client, there are a few things you need to understand. For the most part, your goal is going to be to rank your clients in the 3 pack in every location.

Each location has a physical presence. An address you can use for GMB. Most franchises have rules for their franchisees regarding SEO and their own websites.

The good ones, don’t allow their franchisee to have their own website or do their own SEO. The only exception is typically when it comes to local, like citations, local brand properties, and review harvesting.

It’s good for the franchise and of course not as good for the franchisee.

They have these rules in place to prevent some idiots from ordering 10,000 links thinking it will help their SEO. It also helps because most of these franchisee locations will have citations submitted with links going to internal city specific or location specific pages. That of course helps with the domain itself, making it much easier to rank newer locations of the franchise as well.

Getting Started With Franchise SEO

There’s a few basic things you need to do. Some of this can be skipped if they’ve already had someone add all their locations and have done SEO work in the past. On average, most franchises will stick with the same SEO company for 18 months before moving on to someone else.

Chances are, some of the grunt work will already be done, but will still require attention to make sure everything is correct.

Bulk Uploading Locations in GMB

One of the first things you should be doing if it is a relatively new franchise or if they haven’t had SEO done in the past is to mass import the locations through Google My Business.

The process is tedious but saves time and is relatively easy to do. When creating a new business account for Google My Business, you click create, add locations and you have an option to download a sample spreadsheet or template.

Just input the business information in the template, upload, and you’re good to go.

Only a few of the options are required, like business name, phone number, address, etc. Coordinates are not required, and many of the other fields are not required.

Just something to remember though, a lot of people get lazy with this multi-location feature. If you’re managing a franchise’s SEO and they have more than just a few locations, use the bulk upload. However, do not forget to add pictures. People seem to think that just because there is a logo field, main photo field and other photos that you only need to add 3.

In the spreadsheet, you just need to link to the url of the photos. In the “other photos” section of the spreadsheet, you would separate each photo you want to add, by a comma. It’s easy to do, and you can use the same pictures for all locations so adding them in a spreadsheet will be easy.

If the franchise or multi-location business only has a few locations, then it may make more sense to just create them manually. However, this is a huge time saving feature for those dealing with a lot of locations and you should utilize it to its’ fullest potential.

Linking To The Website

The next thing to think about, is something that on the surface seems very simple but is the difference between dominant multi-location top 3 rankings, and being nowhere.

Most people think linking to the home page is the best idea through the GMB listing. In fact, some of the Local SEO gurus say that it is the best practice for franchise and multi location SEO. However, it’s a big lie.

A few franchises and large companies with a lot of branches had someone make this mistake. Quest Diagnostics was one of them when they weren’t pulling in the 3 pack for about 60% of their listings. They had all their listings linked to their main home page.

With a large company like that with many locations, it’s hard for the on page optimization to pick up the slack especially when it comes to location relevance.

They didn’t like the idea of using individual landing pages for each location, but created a search feature that ended up being linked to in every location’s GMB where people can find a location nearest to them.

I don’t like this tactic for optimization purposes, but it worked and until someone else can come along with more authority and a better strategy, it will continue to work for them.

A more competitive example was Paul Davis Restoration, with a lot of franchises across the US, but they were also linking to their home page.

Companies in this industry were completely dominating them in search, and all it required was a little bit of work with on page optimization and creating city / location landing pages that were linked to from the GMB listing and citations.

Now, Paul Davis Restoration is dominating the 3 pack in basically EVERY location, by linking to a city specific landing page in their GMB listings and citations.

For some, just linking to a location page seems to be enough, but Google has spoken out about this being used as a “doorway” page. It’s still working, but it’s less effective than a city specific page. Also, when the domain is branded, adding the city + keyword to the URL is practically treated as an exact match domain.

So, while this does seem like a simple thing, it actually requires more thought than what people typically give.

(Bonus tip: even if it is a one location business, you can add a url like johnslawncare.com/houston-lawn-care to direct to that page and get a big boost in the local rankings. It can even be a 301 redirect to the home page, and is still treated almost as an exact match domain)

On Page Optimization for Multiple Locations

This is something most of you are already familiar with, here’s a few other posts you can read up on:

Local Search Domination in As Little As 26 Days (CASE STUDY)

How I ranked a Client’s Site in 20+ Cities with Duplicate Content

The main difference between what you would do for a regular one location client, and a multi location franchise / business is the on page optimization.

A regular one location client will typically be optimized for their main city on all their main pages. About Us page would likely have (Business Name, Best keyword in City State). We would want something similar, to hit their keywords and have the location in URLs and title tags.

For a franchise, or business with multiple locations, we don’t want to single out a specific city on the main pages. Instead, we want to just focus on industry relevance and industry related keywords.

Since you’re linking to the city specific page from the GMB listing itself, you get the added boost of location relevance and won’t need anything else. Since you have the menu, Google will associate the content and optimization of those menu items with your industry. You already have strong location signals from the GMB listing and the city page, but will pick up on the industry relevance with your main menu items.

Focusing on industry relevance instead of location relevance is the way to go for franchises and multi-location businesses.

I mentioned the example of Paul Davis Restoration, and Quest Diagnostics earlier for how they link to their site from GMB. You can also follow their examples of content, both menu items and article related content to boost industry relevance. These are perfect examples of how to boost industry relevance via menu items (and the content on those pages), since those items are linked from the city pages as well.

Off Page Strategy

The majority of the battle is on page and with the listings. Off page actually doesn’t require nearly as much work in terms of depth of what you’re doing, and can be systematized and outsourced relatively easily for each location.

Citations – While the impact of citations for local SEO have been steadily decreasing, they still play a big role for multi-location businesses because of the links to internal city pages. This also helps with overall domain authority, passing strength to all your main menu items.

Make sure you include the location/city name in your citations. For example, Joe’s Plumbing Houston even if the company name is just Joe’s plumbing, makes the most sense.

Side Note: I realize this can bring up a point about the GMB listings. Some franchises do not want anything other than the business name. They refuse to allow locations in the business name for some stupid reason. In the case of Paul Davis Restoration and Quest Diagnostics, they were both okay with the tactic and have benefited from it.

Paul Davis Restoration of City Name/Area is used for most, if not ALL locations.

For Quest Diagnostics, the template is simple, Quest Diagnostics, City name… the comma is added on the majority of locations, but not necessary or preferred.

Video – I’ve discussed it before in previous posts, basic animoto slideshow style videos, optimized for each location are good enough to get you a strong citation and a chance to add location relevance via the video title tags. Usually one per location is good enough, and all you have to do is duplicate the videos in animoto with minor changes in any text slides you use, and of course the unique phone number.

Syndication of the videos usually isn’t necessary unless you’re in a very competitive industry. Even medical, dental, roofing and related industries don’t require syndication for a boost. Some cities will be more difficult than others, so wait about a month to see where you land and go from there before deciding to spend time/money on it.

Press Releases – I love press releases. Great strategy for local search and establishing co-occurrence and location relevance. The problem, is that this can be an expensive tactic if you utilize it for each location with full syndication distribution. Franchises pay hefty monthly SEO retainers so you should still be able to justify doing this if you plan out the distribution on a monthly basis.

For example, if a franchise has 100 locations, and you have a 12 month contract with them. I would do 8 press releases per month with syndication distribution for 8 locations each month. Remember, these are franchises, or major multi-location businesses that are paying well into 5 figures a month just in power bill expenses. 5K/mo for SEO is low end for most.

Social Media Properties & Web 2.0 – This is the trickiest part and you have a couple options here. Do you stick with the main brand properties or do you have location based properties for each franchisee? This is as much of an on page strategy as it is off page, considering you will likely have social icons on the city pages for the specific brand and not the location.

For SEO purposes, the franchise mostly wants you to be concerned with the brand itself, and NOT set up social media for independent locations. This is typically left to the franchisee, but they have to follow specific guidelines.

Since the franchise is usually (and rightly so) concerned about their brand, they don’t want business owners messing things up. Ask the franchise their policy on city specific or location specific social media pages, review the written policy and make suggestions that require the franchisees to follow your instructions.

For example: If Joe’s Plumbing has a location in Memphis, TN, you want their social media page title to be the same as citations. Joe’s Plumbing of Memphis would be good. The same goes for any other web 2.0 or social media platform.

When it comes to the home page you link from that page, it should also be their city specific landing page on the franchise website.

The difference between franchise SEO and multi-location business SEO strategy concerning social media is pretty simple. For franchises, you are concerned with the franchise itself, you don’t do any grunt work for the city specific social pages, that’s up to the franchisee.

For a multi-location business, you set that up in their main account or dummy account with all the locations for them to manage. The optimization stays the same, only difference is you do all the work for one, and not as much for the other but still get paid better per task/time involvement.

If for some reason the franchise does not have these rules, it is your job to recommend these rules and have them implemented.

Final Thoughts

These types of clients seem to be a little daunting to most. It can be intimidating, taking on a client this large with so many locations, wondering if you’ll be able to deliver results.

While what I’ve shared, is truly surface level stuff, this will allow you to get very good results without getting into or dealing with all the intricacies that change on a case by case basis.

The majority of SEO providers for these types of clients, are no different than you, except that they’ve had the balls to go after them without knowing what they’re doing. Seriously, very few providers are getting results because they focus on the wrong things. Follow this post, and you’ll have a happy client.

Happy Hunting!

Need help growing your agency? See what Martin Bell says about the IncomeBully coaching sessions he’s had in the past year and what it has done for him!

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