Are you setting your franchise website up for success? Implementing ways to boost your local search results with each of your franchise locations can create an opportunity for greater overall success of your franchise system. Keep reading to find out how you can start achieving search success today.
Franchise websites are very different than “typical” websites because they need to support all of the company’s franchise locations, as well as the brand overall. This presents a unique problem from a search optimization perspective because the website needs to rank well in search, both at the national level and in every local market where the franchise system operates.
Local Search is Critical to Franchise Success
When consumers search for brands, the majority include a local component, such as “near me” or by inserting their city or neighbourhood. This means they are conducting a local search, and their first introduction to a brand is typically with a local store page. Here at Reshift, we see that as an opportunity to reach valuable audiences. Therefore, we begin the website design process by identifying the optimal customer experience at a local store level, which helps ensure their first interaction with your brand is optimal.
When franchise systems prepare for this by optimizing their website using an effective local search strategy, such as by strengthening structured data, listing optimizations, and implanting unique content creation, they are creating an opportunity to reach audiences at both national and local levels.
To create maximum search authority, franchise systems should start at a local level. When locations perform optimally and out-rank competitors in their local market, search authority skyrockets for the entire franchise.
Before inserting copy, both your website and each microsite must be structured in a specific way that won’t cause them to compete with each other – yes, that’s a real thing! If you are wondering how that is possible, that’s where subdomain vs. subdirectory comes in.
When it comes to building a site for your business with multiple locations, you should create a clear URL structure to boost SEO and rankings for each location, and there are two common approaches for franchise systems: subdomain and subdirectory.
What is a Subdomain?
A subdomain sits before the parent domain. Here’s an example of how this can appear: location.storeabc.com. There is a major problem with this structure because it is creating an entirely new and different website. Yes, it has your brand within it so that users will recognize that it is tied to you, but from a search perspective, it is not so clear.
When creating a website for each franchise location using a subdomain, you are telling Google that this is an entirely different entity that is separate from the main domain. Therefore, the content hosted on a subdomain is not being considered by Google’s algorithm when ranking the main website, and this leads to fragmentation and reduced search authority. This is where every location will fight with each other to rank because Google thinks they are different websites, rather than it being connected to the main (national) website.
This is why we do not recommend franchise systems using a subdomain when creating websites for their locations. It will not increase domain authority, since the content and links are split between a subdomain and the main domain, and the brand-new local website, minus links or connections from trustworthy sites, is not likely to rank high on a search engine results page (SERP).
What is a Subdirectory/Subfolder?
A subdirectory or subfolder is part of the website’s structure associated with the domain name. Just like the way you organize your folders on the computer, a subdirectory setup will look like this: storeabc.com/location.
The biggest advantage of subfolders for local franchise websites is a higher probability of increasing SEO rankings with higher domain authority. This is because it is viewed by Google as part of your main website. Subdirectories allow your website to be focused and streamlined, while also creating excellent search authority for the entire franchise system.
Instead of having separate websites for each location, having all your franchise content in subdirectories allows your local sites to inherit the domain authority of the main site. Since they don’t directly compete for the authority with the main, national site, it enables your local sites to rank better in search engines while lending even more credibility and content to your main site.
Also, while you need to manage multiple entities using subdomains, subdirectories make it much easier to organize and optimize your franchise pages under the umbrella of one domain than multiple sub-sites under subdomains.
From a tracking perspective, the insights for subdirectories will be in the same place as your main website’s analytics, making it easier to track than having to look at the separate analytics of each subdomain.
So, what is the best URL structure for multi-location websites from an SEO perspective? Subdirectories are highly recommended over subdomains. Adopting this centralized strategy is especially good for businesses with limited resources. In short, creating a subdirectory for each of your individual locations can bring these key benefits:
- Higher domain authority and ranking in search engines
- Greater control over consistency and brand guidelines
- Easier management and optimization in terms of content, media libraries
- Easier tracking implementation to gather insight
How to organize the URL Structure for your local pages
When it comes to the URL structure, consistency and simplicity are key things that can help your sites get more efficient search results. It means all of your new URLs should follow a logical, consistent pattern that is always linked back to your main domain. You can use a location name or geo-specific term for all of your business locations. For example:
Your local franchise pages’ content
A local website is designed to attract potential customers in that market using location-specific SEO strategies. The content of a local site should be as unique as possible and include key elements to help Google rank it higher in neighbourhood-specific search results. These elements include:
- The location’s phone number, address, email address, working hours
- Location-specific title tags and meta descriptions
- Directions to the business location (transit, parking, nearby landmarks)
- Information about the local team (About Us, Our Story).
- An embedded Google map element
- Unique images from that location
Structured data, also known as “schema markup,” similarly plays a major role to help set your franchise websites up for success with search. This is the information (aka code) that is added to the backend of your website, and this is what search engines use to crawl and properly index your website’s content.
Similar to how you want your customers to fully understand who you are as a brand through your website’s content, you also want search engines to do the same, and that is what adding structured data can help accomplish. The more a search engine can understand your brand, such as the products and services you offer, pricing, and your locations, the better likelihood your brand will appear on a SERP for potential customers searching using similar keywords.
Owning a franchise organization with multiple locations carries the unique challenge of building and maintaining multiple location-based pages. However, this challenge can be made easier with the right URL structure and by optimizing your website “behind the scenes” using structured data. These are critical steps to boost your franchise’s online presence and drive more traffic to your local sites.