Franchises – Tips on how to improve your local search presence.

More than 50% (and growing) of all web queries are now performed on a mobile device.

Why is this significant for franchises?

Well if someone uses a mobile device to search for services, the results are tailored to their immediate location. This is called Local Search. Most franchise businesses are “local”.

Local search is different to conventional web search as it is influenced by your address and phone number more than your website. In fact, a business without a website but is listed on local business listing sites can appear higher in local search than a business with just a website.

The implications are huge, a business with a local physical presence has a strategic advantage over web only business.

Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) Consistency is king.

For local search, Google, Bing and other search engines look for NAP data (Name, Address and Phone Number) on local listing sites to verify that a business exists in a given location. The more consistent your NAP details on local listing sites, the greater your chance of appearing higher in local search. Inconsistent NAP data, for example same name but different telephone numbers listed at the same address, or different names but same telephone number listed at the same address will confuse search engines. As important as NAP consistency, is Category consistency. A miss categorised business will not appear in local search for its category.

You should also add rich brand content to the listing sites including photos, logo, opening hours, business descriptions, weblinks, etc. which further enhances your search performance and raises your brand profile.

The process of cleaning and adding content to local listing sites is known as “Local Listing Optimisation” LLO and is an essential part of Local SEO.

Finally, customer reviews written in Google + Local and other local listing sites (associated with your NAP) can further enhance your search performance.

Most franchises operate as a local businesses, and as such, need to have a local search strategy.

Every franchise is different, with different local search challenges, for example, some have multiple branches, others operate out of a van, or have a call centre with one number, etc. There is no one solution fits all, however it is true to say that every local search strategy must have a NAP policy and ideally local listing optimisation. Without this, franchisee listings will be inconsistent resulting in sub-optimal search performance and the brand compromised. Local Listing Optimisation is a highly effective way of raising your brand profile across hundreds of free local listing sites, but if it is done incorrectly, it can look amateurish and even damage the brand. You must control your brand in local search.

An effective local search strategy needs to include the franchisee.

Franchises that leverage their local network can significantly improve their overall search performance. This means that the franchisees play an important part in the franchise search strategy and need to be included in every aspect of the local search optimisation process.

Here are a few tips on how to improve your franchisees local search performance:

The 5 Cs of Local Listing Optimisation

1. Consistent NAP

NAP is King! Ensure your branch Name Address and Phone number are consistently listed across all local listing sites. The more consistent the NAP the better.

2. Categories

Ensure you are categorised correctly on the listing sites. If you are a plumber you need to be categorised as a plumber. Use listing sites that specialises in your sector.

3. Content

Enhance the listings with content including:

  • A logo
  • Photos
  • Business descriptions
  • Opening Hours
  • Weblinks – this should link to the branch specific landing page on the website
  • Social media links (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
  • Products and services
  • Email

4. Customer Reviews

Customer reviews written on local listing sites are permanent and also have a big influence on your local search performance. Encourage customers to write reviews in Google + Local and the listing sites.
Monitor the reviews and respond to them; it shows that you care.

5. Continue

Occasionally refresh the content with new images and wording. If you must change your NAP, make sure this is done across all the listings. (However, avoid changing your NAP unless it is absolutely necessary)… remember consistency is king!

These simple tips can go a very long way to improving your local search performance.