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Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Ideas for Brands and Franchises

If you own a local business or franchise, here are some local search engine optimization tips and best practices from SEO guru Shari Thurow.

Franchises and local SEO image

I have implemented local search engine optimization (SEO) for large brands as well as small mom-and-pop shops. Most challenges are the same for both types of businesses.

Unique website = unique content

The #1 problem that franchises and brands have for their local websites is lack of unique content. If small-, medium-, and large-size businesses (or franchises) are to succeed with local SEO, each business or franchise MUST have unique content.

For every franchisee or prospect that either (a) carries brands or (b) is a brand, I want to know any limitations on creating and maintaining unique content.

I knew the unique-content part when I first became an SEO professional in 1995. I became aware of the brand and franchise limitations through experience. What I did not initially know was how important it was for franchises to put in a lot of up-front work on establishing and maintaining personas.

Here are some changes I often recommend to local businesses:

Product page descriptions

Using the same product descriptions for 20 websites, for example, will not help each of the 20 websites. Waiting for user-generated content (such as product reviews) will not help each local site out of the starting gate.

Franchises and brands should allow some modifications of product descriptions (with permission, of course).

And if a franchisee can make the product image look better? Then allow that franchisee to use a modified graphic image with better alternative text and a caption (if needed).

Customer support pages

ALL local websites need a Support, Help, or Customer Service section of the website. In this section can be a set of FAQs (frequently asked questions) or Q&A (questions and answers), whichever label the local website owner prefers.

I have physically been to many local businesses. Customers and prospects ask different questions at each local business. Put the most common, unique questions in the FAQs section for each local website.

Sometimes the common questions might be similar, but the answers are different. For example, how to get to the physical location of the business. One if my clients (located in a major metropolitan area) provided locations for nearby parking garages. That type of content is highly desirable for his type of business.

Another example? One of my clients has multiple local-store websites. Each product has a set of FAQs that is unique to the product in each store. The Customer Service section also has a separate set of FAQs.

In a larger site, people in the Marketing Department can conduct reviews of customers’ concerns at each store every week, month, or some other timely interval. Then content is adjusted accordingly based on each local store.

Additionally, since the local websites have different seasonal trends, the sets of questions at each store site tend to be unique.

In other words, there are many opportunities to present unique content in a Help or Support section of a website.

Digital content assets

A set of Q&As is a type of digital content asset. So is a location finder (it's a tool). A digital content asset is essentially content that your target audience finds useful, desirable, and valuable. A content asset is both link-worthy and share-worthy.

Ideally, a content asset helps a local website generate high quality link development.

The brand and the franchise owner should allow the local websites to have unique content assets. Other types of content assets include but are not limited to:

  • Coupons / discounts
  • Articles
  • Guides
  • Fact sheets
  • Blogs
  • Tools
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Slideshows

Each local business owner should be able to select the best types of content assets for his/her website.

If permission is required before publishing each content asset? That’s fine. Communication among a franchise and franchisees should be open and honest.

Unique photos of the business / franchise

If you want users to come to your physical location, they want to know what the entrance looks like…especially if they have never been there before.

Take photos of the entrance to the physical business. Put those photos on the website and in any trustworthy organization that allows photos in local listings.

In addition, if your local business is located in a place that has 4 noticeable seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter), then change the location-entrance photo to align with the seasons.

User-generated content (UCG), such as reviews, can make your website have unique content that other business locations or other franchisees don't have. However, local websites should have unique content before that additional UCG can exist.

Do your homework. Write and maintain unique UGC per website.


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