Learn how to level up your franchise SEO tactics in this handy go-to guide.

Here you’ll find:

  • What makes franchise search engine optimization (SEO) unique
  • Common franchise SEO challenges
  • Steps to building an SEO plan for franchise businesses
  • Local SEO considerations like NAP and Google profiles for franchise owners 

Proper SEO puts your franchise on the digital map of the search engine results pages (SERPs). 

But do you include all your locations in your franchise SEO strategy? 

You might find yourself overlooking duplicate content, sharing inaccurate Google business profiles, and cannibalizing your keywords, which can limit your visibility and potential.

At HawkSEM, we’ve supported many franchise clients with the technical and local SEO expertise needed to maintain top SERP status.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the most common challenges we’ve seen and how to fix them. Plus, we’ll lay out clear steps to maintain a kick-ass franchise SEO strategy.

When you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly what to do to ensure you’re firing on all cylinders.

Franchise Growth Corporate Business Branch Retail Concept

You can swap content ideas with other franchise locations, then put a spin on it to make it your own. (Image: Rawpixel)

What is franchise SEO?

Franchise SEO is a collection of digital marketing practices that improve a franchise’s search engine visibility while garnering relevant local leads for different locations. 

But how does a franchise SEO strategy differ from a regular SEO strategy? 

Well, franchise owners need to stay on top of specific technical SEO elements like:

  • Updated business profiles
  • Local landing pages
  • Duplicate content
  • Geographic performance tracking

Let’s dive deeper into some of these differences. 

3 franchise SEO challenges

Don’t get us wrong — we know SEO is filled with challenges for regular businesses, too. But here are a few items that make things especially tricky for franchisors. 

1. Keyword cannibalization

Say you put significant hours and dollars into keyword ranking efforts for your franchise website landing page. Your SERP position looks good, so you figure you’d use the same approach for the second page. 

Then, bam! Both pages tank on the SERP. 

What gives? Sounds like a nasty case of keyword cannibalization, which happens when you compete for the same search terms on two of your web pages. 

Does that mean you can’t use similar keywords on different branded URLs? Not necessarily. But Semrush offers a quick test: Do the pages fulfill the same user need? 

If so, it’s likely you cannibalized a keyword or two. Maybe you even duplicated content in the process (which we’ll touch on below). It happens, and it’s important to be mindful of this to ensure you’re not limiting your online visibility.

To combat this, check to make sure you’re not targeting the same keyword (or one of its variants) on more than one page of your site.

2. Duplicate content

If you publish the same content in multiple places on your website, search engines regard this as duplicate content.

Of course, your industry, expertise, and services remain the same across multiple franchise locations. 

But if your content is the same, Google won’t index those pages. This is often a side effect of keyword cannibalization, but sometimes it’s more than just repeating keywords that causes this. 

We often see this in mission statements, quotes, or descriptions for products and services that migrate to multiple pages.

Look at your landing pages. Are the templates exactly the same besides the location name? 

That’s not personalized enough for your readers. Your content marketing strategy should indicate how you’ll make each location’s page content unique. 

You can absolutely adopt the same concept and angle throughout various web pages, but the copy itself should be unique to avoid duplicates.

3. Managing the details when scaling

The nuts and bolts of all the important SEO details can be a pain to maintain for ecommerce businesses without physical locations.

Now, imagine the feat for franchises with multiple locations. New content, business profiles, relevant keywords, title tags: these tasks probably won’t feel as important as training new staff or getting city permits. 

The average franchise has five locations, but others have plenty more. Take our client Escape the Room as an example, with locations spread across 18 different cities.

They worked with us to market 16 of their locations to their vastly growing audience. With that many new target audiences, business processes, and staff to manage, it’s easy to see how digital marketing efforts could fall by the wayside. 

The solution?

We optimized their multiple location-based websites with unique content, updated title and meta tags, and location-based web design to differentiate them from one another. 

Now that we’ve identified a few franchise marketing SEO challenges, let’s tackle them all with our step-by-step franchise SEO guide. 

8 steps to a killer franchise SEO strategy

1. Optimize localized web pages for E-E-A-T. 

Google wants to make sure you’re the best source for the info you’re shelling out. And if you don’t distinguish that content across locations, you’re missing out on opportunities to display your Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, or E-E-A-T. This acronym is what Google uses to help rank content. 

If you want to give your localized pages a boost in rankings, optimize E-E-A-T with these steps: 

  • Garner local testimonials – Find local reviews and place them on your website, or invite patrons to share a review about a specific location. Facebook, Google, and Yelp online reviews will make Google Search’s algorithms very happy. 
  • Share employee profiles – Most franchises have a wide employee base across locations. Considering posting employee or manager bios on each of your franchise location websites to add human faces for relatability. You can also create separate social media accounts to share Reels and video content from each location. 
  • Include geographic details – Each location might have niche geographic attributes you can write about. Or, include directions for each location on individualized web pages. Ideally, you should embed Google Maps into your site. 
  • Pics – Your storefront exterior will look different across multiple cities or neighborhoods. Display those differences and improve your E-E-A-T with high-quality photos.
  • Local resources – Add some external links to local government resources or nearby businesses to serve different customer needs. You might win a backlink or two from it (more on that later).

Bottom line? Your local knowledge demonstrates your E-E-A-T as a franchise owner. 

2. Get Your NAPs in order 

Name, address, and phone number (or NAP) — they should always be updated for each of your locations. But franchise expansions can throw these out of whack in two ways: 

  • Info on Google Business Profiles and other directories may be automatically synced from the franchise’s headquarters.
  • Website templates for each franchise might not allow for differentiation between individual locations.

Here’s how you can up your franchise SEO game with NAPs: 

  • Formatting – NAPs should look uniform across each location’s website. For example, phone numbers should all be written with no spaces, or all with hyphens — no inconsistencies. 
  • Accuracy – While you’re busy expanding, your web page updates might take a back seat. Don’t let that happen, or else Google won’t rank your pages. Make sure all your NAPs for each location are correct and regularly updated, even if things update automatically. 
  • Individual websites and social media – Always include individual location NAPs for localized web pages and social media profiles—not just your corporate NAP. 
  • Review sites and directories – Check any local sources where your NAPs might show up and ensure they’re correct. 
  • Google business listings – Get each of your franchisors to create separate Google profiles for each location. This way you can implement location-based keywords, information, photos, and more. 

Imagine looking up directions to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts franchise location and Google sends you to their corporate headquarters. Not ideal, right? That’s why NAPs matter.

3. Balance niche and local content

You might publish a high volume of informational content to share expertise in your industry. This isn’t a bad thing. As a franchise owner, it’s definitely important to include that niche content. 

However, you should balance it with localized content to capture local leads and drive engagement in your community. 

Let’s say you run a franchise of fried-chicken restaurants. You might post content about your business’s local chicken sources, cooking methods, and business history. But you can also share: 

  • News releases about food drives or other charitable events in the neighborhood
  • Location-specific video content
  • Staff profiles and stories from each location
  • Neighborhood roundups for related products
  • Insights on local farms and methods

Imagine reading a blog post with street names and community members that you recognize from home. Trust us: that content will resonate more deeply with your audience. 

4. Appeal to potential customers with local keywords

Any business with physical locations seeks local business. But you can’t catch those customers in your franchise digital marketing strategy without localized keywords. 

Here’s the thing: your one-location keyword research just won’t cut it anymore. You need to scale up the process and make sure you catch high-intent local keywords without letting the low-intent ones sneak through. 

For example, a flower shop would use “flower shop Seattle” and “flower shop Boston” instead of more broad keywords like “best flower shop” or “flower shop delivery.”

Our recommendation? Conduct some in-depth competitive analysis to find out which keywords your competitors are slacking on. Then, assess which of your existing keywords are slumping your leads and pumping up bounce rate. 

That’s why we love using our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ. Its automation capabilities help us narrow down web elements and keywords that are fostering irrelevant leads, so we can discover what will perform better. 

Pro tip: Focus on location-based long-tail keywords that prevent your websites or pages from competing with each other. 

5. Create high-quality, branded websites

Franchises have two options for their websites:

  • One central website with dedicated web pages for each location
  • A separate website for each location

Both options come with pros and cons. For example, a centralized website is often less expensive, garners more traffic, and offers more linking opportunities. 

Meanwhile, SEO and PPC strategies are generally easier to implement for separate websites. You’ll need to keep a few things consistent if you go that route, though. 

For starters? Design and layout. Imagine a repeat customer from one location goes onto a sister location’s website and sees an entirely different color scheme or font. It just won’t feel right. 

Confusing them with inconsistent branding or messaging could result in diminished brand awareness.

Now, we’re not saying you have to keep each site exactly the same outside of its own content and contact info. But keeping the major design and navigation elements cohesive will create a more seamless user experience.

It’ll also make things easier if your company decides to conduct an overhaul or brand refresh.

6. Build local backlinks with strong networking

While quote callouts on platforms like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and cold emails are a strong start for backlinks, they just don’t offer that local touch. You’ll need to get out into your community and make connections with other local businesses.

Partner with a neighboring retail shop for a food pop-up, or offer donations to community websites. 

When you connect with neighboring brands, you’ll appear on their websites and on community events pages.

The more local link building you achieve, the more Google will rank your local franchise websites. With that heightened visibility, you’ll see an uptick in web traffic and leads.

7. Maintain a centralized content calendar

We already discussed the important combination of industry/niche and local search content. But managing all that becomes tedious when you’re working with several websites.

That’s why you need a bulletproof content marketing calendar to keep track of:

  • Published content
  • Articles and pages that needs updating
  • New topics to consider
  • Duplicate content

For franchises, it could be beneficial to have a cloud-based, company-wide content calendar (using Google Sheets, for example). Each franchise could have its own Sheet or tab.

This way, locations can glean inspiration and insight from one another, while making sure they’re not doubling efforts unnecessarily. 

And if you still have trouble managing it all? Don’t worry. 

Consider leveraging franchise SEO services from an SEO company like HawkSEM. Content marketing is one of our fortes, as we meld top industry wisdom with SEO know-how from our staff of experts. 

We’ve covered the do’s and don’ts of franchise SEO, and having all that intel in one spot will help you optimize your efforts and keep things organized.

8. Optimize on-page SEO

SEO is a long-term strategy for search marketing success. And with any long-term SEO method, optimization is key. Using schema markup on your website is as close as you can get to a “quick win” in SEO, plus, it’s an excellent way to stand out in the SERP. 

Think of schema as “search engine language”. Including this microdata on your webpages makes it easier for sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex to understand the content on your page and properly show it to users.

Using schema markup creates an enhanced description of your page, increasing visibility and even improving click-through rates, according to our friends at Search Engine Journal.

Franchise SEO campaign checklist

E-E-A-T optimization
Online reviews
Employee profiles
Google Maps and geographic details
Internal links and external links to local resources

Google My Business (GMB) profiles
Consistent NAP/contact information formatting across location websites
Citations and directories<
Location-based keywords on separate profiles

Niche and local content balance

Local keywords

High-quality websites
Consistent design and branding
Content appealing to local community

Local backlinks
Backlinking with charities, community groups, and other local businesses to boost online visibility

Content marketing calendar
Multiple content formats
Review to catch duplicate content
Organized calendar for each location’s social profile and blog

The takeaway

With franchise SEO, the devil’s in the details. A poorly executed second-location website can tank years of SEO efforts for your corporate site’s online presence. 

Organic traffic? Out the window. Especially when duplicate content and keyword repetitions in title tags and meta descriptions shoot friendly fire across your existing rankings.

So, what should you aim for? High SERP status and a hypervisible online presence for all your franchise location sites. 

And an average 4.5x ROI doesn’t hurt either—which you can achieve by working with HawkSEM’s SEO experts. 

If it’s time to expand, or you need to iron out your existing franchise SEO, let’s talk and figure out how we can help you sail past your most ambitious goals. 

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This post has been updated and was originally published in April 2022.

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