If you like getting repeatedly punched in the face with a boxing glove on a mechanical arm, then working on a Local SEO program for multi-location franchises is the right job for you.
While SEO for any multi-location organization can be tricky, the complicated dynamics of franchises can make a SEO engagement the equivalent of playing 3-D chess on the surface of a Rubik’s Cube. Here are some of the key challenges:
The ownership of franchise location information is often a can of worms. Each franchisee may or may not have already claimed their Google My Business profile and local citations.
Maybe an ex-employee has the logins. Or maybe no one has the logins. Regardless, the listings are likely a mess, and trying to fix them across multiple accounts can be an arduous task.
This problem is not exclusive to franchises. We often work with clients who have little to no knowledge of SEO. That’s why they hire us, right?
But a franchisee who has been told they have to buy SEO services from a vendor selected by corporate, when they don’t really have a good way to evaluate what they are buying, can lead to confusion, poor communication, acrimony and an ineffective program.
As difficult as it is to deal with location managers who are not up to speed on SEO, it can be even worse if corporate doesn’t really get it.
Often corporate marketing managers are checking a box because they are getting requests for SEO help from the field. So they bring on a SEO vendor without knowing much about how it works.
Often, this then requires the vendor to push the program through the organization without having the knowledge of where the landmines are. This often leads to stepping on said landmines.
Franchisees can have their own local marketing strategies that may or may not jibe with corporate’s plan.
And often, franchisees have their own preferred local vendors who may or may not be a better option for them than a national vendor selected by corporate, which makes for a fun conversation about why you are better than their often cheaper local option.
Corporate often has its own idea of what each location should be doing and how they should be presenting the brand to potential customers.
This can cover anything from how the local brand is named to minutiae like specific words and images that can be used on their websites.
And in cases where corporate controls the franchisee’s website, implementing SEO improvements is often up to corporate’s schedule, which almost always is not the same schedule as the franchisee’s.
Even the best partnerships have some drama. In our experience, the franchise/franchisee relationship is a never-ending soap opera. One of the advantages to being an outside consultant is that you are not carrying corporate’s baggage so much when you are talking to franchisees.
That said, if you are representing corporate, you may get assigned that baggage regardless. As consultants working on behalf of corporate for the franchisees, you will often have to walk the fine line between prioritizing each party’s interest and keeping your eye on the ultimate goal, which is to make the business as a whole successful. Not an easy task.
Okay, so the world is screwed up. What else is new? So how can franchises get better at SEO, and how can SEO consultants get better at serving franchises? Some modest proposals:
Ultimately, doing SEO for franchises is not too different from any other local SEO program. You are often dealing with clients with low information and high expectations. That’s what makes SEO fun, right?