Creating a strong digital presence for your franchise system is important for success. How does your website compare to your competitors? Find out how you can stand out with our best practices.
A website that reflects your brand and ranks well in search is important no matter what type of industry you operate in. This is particularly true for franchise systems because the website needs to simultaneously achieve the goals of the franchisor and all the franchisees.
Think of a website similar to a storefront – you want it to have some curb appeal, but at the same time, be easy to access and organized in a way that best meets the needs of your customers. A franchise website needs to be a place where a franchise can clearly express who they are and what they offer, but in a way that is meaningful, memorable, and motivating.
- Meaningful: What do you want your customer base to know about you? Are you communicating that within your website and through your web copy? Make every word count.
- Memorable: You want a website to stand out, particularly so that visitors can recall your company/products/services. This can be through certain design elements like colour combinations and logos, or copy, such as through taglines and storytelling etc.
- Motivating: How does your website convert viewers into customers? What’s encouraging them to complete the sale? A franchise website should highlight what the differentiators are from the competition so that potential customers feel more motivated to do business with you.
A franchise website needs to serve both local and national audiences. This is why individual, local websites (aka microsites), in addition to a main corporate website, can be a great way for franchise organizations to meet the needs of both of those audiences. At a local level, a location-specific microsite can reach current and prospective customers specific to that community, and it can also rank on a search engine results page (SERP) for the local terms used on the site (i.e., using the city name or town). At the same time, the main corporate website acts as a way to communicate general knowledge of the franchise itself, while the industry-specific terms used on this site can also help it rank higher on a SERP.
At Reshift, we start from the “ground up” when we build franchise websites. This means that we ensure the location-specific microsites are well-built and rich in content in order to provide a strong base to build from. The local template allows for scalability because it can be used for all of your other locations (and future locations) using the same website infrastructure, but with customized content that is specific to each location. Creating microsites for each location using a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy helps strengthen and grow your company’s search authority, as we ensure that the individual locations out-rank competitors, which creates greater search authority that benefits the entire franchise system.
Since your company website already has great search authority, when you deploy a new location microsite as part of your network, it gets indexed much faster than it would typically. As well, one of the best practices when creating a franchise website is to set up your website’s structure to enable both national and local indexing. Find out more about these two concepts here.
Now let’s get into some of the specific best practices of a franchise website. There are several elements that a franchise system should consider, which we have begun to uncover below.
About the Company & Service
A franchise website should clearly communicate who the company is and the products or services you offer. This might seem obvious, but how this information is structured plays a large role in its effectiveness.
To start, add an About the Company section to your website if you don’t already have one. This can be a great way to add storytelling to your content, which current and prospective customers can appreciate. Adding team information and company history can help build better relationships with customers, which is important long-term.
From a company website perspective, it is important to include the services you offer that are standard to your franchise. Since this website reaches a national audience, a more general approach should be considered. In other words, only cover the main products and/or services that you know all your locations offer, or indicate that some products/services are available at select locations only. From a local microsite perspective, listing the specific products/services that each location offers is a good way for customers to find out more about the specific location they are interested in visiting.
Include info about your products or services to inform customers and act as a basis for your national SEO strategy. Ideally you should include everything you offer, and use terminology that your customers will use in search engines.
On the homepage, you can include a little bit about your business, a little bit about your products/services, and some customer testimonials, with lots of links that drive deeper into the site. Think of it as the front page of a newspaper – you are providing a bit of the whole story and then allowing the reader to find out more and dig deeper. Let the homepage be a means for someone to explore and learn about your business with further exploration interlinked throughout.
Imagine if a company website displayed everything about the products and services they offered, who they are, and where they are located all on the homepage – not only would it be a lot of copy, but a user likely wouldn’t have the time or patience to read through it. Pages on a website make it easier to break up important information about the franchise into chunks, and a menu bar that displays the pages helps the website remain structurally organized as the user navigates through to find what they are looking for, while also allowing for better tracking to determine which page receives the most traffic.
There are various types of menus to choose from, the most common being the hover or drop-down menus. These can be as detailed as you would like, but usually the more specific the better, especially for the more task-oriented individuals who visit your website and know exactly what they are looking for.
A menu helps provide an overview of what the website will offer a user, which is why adding the services the franchise offers within the menu is recommended, as potential customers will have a better understanding of what you offer in a much more simplified way.
It is critical that the main franchise website has a store locator that is easily accessible and search engine optimized. Often when we develop websites for brands, we add a button in the header or the ability to find a location in the navigation. We are trying to create a path for a customer to find a location near them as quickly as possible because the local website is where the conversion tends to happen. Additionally, from an SEO perspective, a store locator section of the main company website provides search engines with a “roadmap”.
Tip: Make it easy for your customer to find a location near them, such as in the form of a highly visible call-out button within the navigation.
On the location page itself, listing things like each store’s address and contact information are important. But you can also add a map feature to make navigating each location that much easier. As well, each location should have its own website URL for potential customers to easily access. This helps increase conversions and allows for a greater user experience.
When it comes to franchising, consistency is a major element, and this can take shape in a number of different elements. Branding, in particular, is something that should remain constant throughout every franchise location, as this can be one of the ways your company remains recognizable to the public, including on a digital front. This is where style guides can come into play.
Style guides, or the guidelines each location follows, can include several elements, such as how a franchise location should appear when it comes to web design, signage, logos, advertising, etc. Ensuring that you have a tight style guide that can be applied, but that still remains flexible for your franchisees, is key. For instance, a local microsite can follow the style approved by the franchisor, but at the same time, it can also have room for content specific to that location. For example, using the names of nearby locations or landmarks can be a great way for prospective customers to identify with the franchise location and vice versa.
Strong Content Strategy
There are several factors involved when developing a strong content strategy. Firstly, it is important to understand what terms you want the franchise to rank for on a SERP, which can be determined by finding out what your competitors are already ranking for. As well, discover what your blogging strategy is in conjunction with your service or product page, and then develop a dedicated local content strategy accordingly.
One of the best strategies to devise local content is to discuss a franchise’s relationship within its community. For instance, how are they tied into the community? Are they part of the Better Business Bureau? Do they put on any events? Have they contributed to any charities? Whatever community aspect you can emphasize is an ideal topic when devising local content as part of your content strategy.
Page Loading Speed & Mobile Optimization
Since we have brought up various pages that a franchise website should incorporate, it is important to discuss the speed at which each page loads, which plays a large role in the success of your website. 40% of consumers will leave a website if the load speed takes longer than three seconds. Page loading speed also has an impact on conversion rates – if your webpage takes less than 2.4 seconds to load, you will end up with a 2% conversion rate, but if it takes longer than 3.3 seconds, your conversion rate drops to 1.5%. Time literally is money in this case.
It is also important that each page on your website, including your navigation and location pages, is optimized for a mobile device. Within the last several years mobile use has significantly increased as more consumers use their phones to look up businesses and purchase items. This means that ensuring your website is optimized for a smaller screen is important in establishing a positive user experience.
Mobile optimization also impacts Google search results, as the search platform announced in 2019 that they enabled mobile-first indexing and they predominantly use the mobile version of a website rather than the desktop version to determine indexing and ranking.
As well, with Google’s recent core vitals launch, the search engine has updated its ranking signals. As a result, several factors need to be considered, such as a mobile-friendly webpage and a quick loading speed to ensure users have an optimal experience.
Implementing these best practices when creating or updating your franchise website can lead to greater results when prospective customers access your website, and it can seamlessly flow to your franchise locations at the same time.