At Bright Oak, we specialize in working with franchise brands on not only designing and building their website, but also running a lot of the ongoing SEO, PPC, content strategy, and a variety of other digital marketing initiatives for each location. We’ve built hundreds of websites and have managed SEO campaigns for hundreds of more locations across North America. So with that as the backdrop, I’ve put together a list of the top 5 reasons you should consider before building or rebuilding your franchise website that will propel your franchise brand for success where it matters most — at the local franchisee level.
In writing this article, there are 3 main things that I’m hoping you take away:
Now I realize that on the surface, writing code and optimizing a website for Local SEO can appear to be very complex and overwhelming — and it is — but before you even think about hiring a marketing agency or bringing on an internal staff to start focusing on SEO and other search engine marketing initiatives — you have to get your site in order. And chances are, you will be in one of these two scenarios:
Brand new franchise brands: If you are a brand new franchise, you probably have a website. If you don’t, perfect! Read carefully. If you do, I’d be willing to wager that it likely has some shortcomings. So before you go out and start investing money to bring on new franchisees, stop. If you follow these steps, you will not only save thousands of dollars down the road from having to rebuild the site, but you will be able to attract more franchisees — and even more importantly — you’ll be able to keep them happy.
Established franchise brands: If you are a well established franchise brand, you will probably have one of two reactions after reading this: relief that you did it right (to which I’d call your CMO, CTO or marketing agency and thank them), or heartburn, knowing that you are going to have to dip into the ad fund to turn things around. And if that’s the case, remember that you will get what you pay for, but more on that later.
I’d say that about 70% of the time, when we bring up WordPress as the recommended platform to build a franchise site, I usually get some sort of negative reaction. Yes, WordPress was originally built for blogging, but that was nearly 13 years ago. Fast forward to today, and WordPress powers more than 27.1% of the web. And while 2.7 million websites sounds like a big number, numbers are just numbers — see if you recognize any of these brands that use WordPress:
So now that I have your attention, let’s dive into why we highly recommend building your franchise site on WordPress.
WordPress has an amazing feature called “multisite.” The WordPress multisite framework allows you to build a site that will scale with you. So whether you have 10 locations, 100, or 1000 — this is where the multisite framework will save you a ton of money and a decrease in headaches for your marketing team or agency down the road. Without getting too technical, a site that is built with this technology will allow you to control the content, data, and analytics at the local franchisee level. It is essentially a stand alone website, or microsite, built as an appendage to your main website while keeping all of the franchisee microsites on one domain (ie: example.com/portland & example.com/san-clemente),which is what search engine algorithms prefer to see.
The alternative would be creating scores of individual websites that all require a unique login/password to go in and manage content. And heaven forbid there is a UI or design change — well with a microsite, you just push the updates to a single codebase, and then all x amount of microsites on that multisite get updated simultaneously instead of manually updating every. Single. Franchisee. Website.
Main takeaway: It allows you to manage all of your franchisees microsites in one place and will end up saving you an innumerable amount of time if you were to set up websites for each individual unit.
Within WordPress, you have a the ability to create page templates that can be used by all locations. From a user experience standpoint, it is critical to have your entire site look consistent regardless if you are on the Los Angeles franchisee’s page, or New York’s. In addition to that, you are able to code in set data points that you just have to type in without having to code for every-single-location. Below are some examples from AlairHomes.ca:
• NAP information (more on that later)
• CRM integration
• LiveChat control
• Location Owner Information
• Social Media Links & Integration
Contact information: So when a new lead comes in, this tab controls who it goes to
Social Media: Pretty straight forward. Without having to code anything, all we have to do is go in and type in the social media links for the franchisee and voila — they appear on their microsite.
Scripts & Analytics: I can’t tell you how important / cool this part is. By creating a WordPress multisite, you can easily plug in Google Analytics or other scripts for each location. If you do not have a multisite, you cannot do this (easily).
Trust icons: This is specific to their service pages. Each franchisee can highlight 4 trust icons — icons/badges that establish trust with the user. This could be Google+, Houzz, BBB, Yelp, etc.
Once you build out all of these settings and functions once — every microsite after that gets to utilize that same code. So rather than having to charge new units thousands of dollars to build them a proper website, you should expect that number to come down significantly to launch a new microsite. On average, depending on how many pages need to be created, we usually charge around $600+/-.
Main takeaway: Efficiency. Not only will it take less time, but it will cost less money to fire-up and maintain franchisee microsites. A true win-win for both the franchisor and franchisee.
Once you’ve gone through the process of identifying who your target audience is, and then building out what these microsite or location pages will look like — you only have to code them once, and then every location will be able to utilize them… of course with each location’s unique content & information. Then let’s say 9 months down the road (which will happen), you decide that you want to make a tweak to the page, or perhaps build in a call to action… your designers and developers will only have to design in once and code it once, and then all of the locations microsites will be updated. Efficiency at it’s finest (there’s that “e” word again).
Main takeaway: WordPress allows you to scale easily and adapt quickly to new user experience needs.
An Example: Let’s say you want to add a email newsletter signup that is tied to each locations Mailchimp or Marketo account in the footer of the website. And let’s say you have 100 units. If you were to do this manually on 100 websites, it’s going to probably take you around 200 hours to update all 100 sites. Now on a WordPress multisite infrastructure, this is how it would break down:
Step 1: Write the code with the proper 3rd party API integration (Mailchimp, Marketo, Etc.). This should take about 3-5 hours.
Step 2: Push it to a staging server to test verification and then test to confirm with one of the locations that everything works properly and people are being subscribed to the right list, drip campaign, and other details that may be unique to your organization or email marketing provider. This should take about 1-2 hours.
Step 3: Once tested and verified, push the new code to the live site and voila — all 100 locations will now have a email newsletter subscription box in their footer. This should take 10 minutes.
Step 4: Have someone from your team, or your agency then follow in behind step 3 and paste in the proper API key and/or List ID for each location. This should take about 5 minutes per location, so let’s just be safe and round up to 10 hours total for this (for 100 locations).
Step 5: Rejoice, because you just saved about 183 hours!! Most agencies who are capable of this type of work will likely be charging you around $100-$300 per hour so you can do the math and see why this is a no brainer.
Unless you are a massive franchise brand, and even then, you likely are not in a hurry to invest in the premium Google Analytics version that will cost you $150k+ per year… and so you get by (perfectly fine) with the free version.
Main Takeaway: Being able to track analytics at the local level is absolutely critical to being able to diagnose problems and monitor the success of ongoing marketing initiatives such as SEO, PPC, Social Media, and more.
Google / Yahoo / Bing are in the business of providing their users (almost 4 billion of us) with the most optimized, personalized, and accurate user experience as possible. In order to do this, they collaborated to devise a tagging system that is referred to as structured data or rich snippets.
Structured data is highly specific metadata that lives on your website that allows search engine algorithms to easily parse out information about your business. And even tho it’s been around for awhile, only 0.3% of websites take advantage of it.
Did you know only 0.3% of websites taking advantage of structured data? Learn why structured data is critical for Franchises.Tweet this
So if you’re not using structured data, take heart, not only are you among 99.7% of other websites, but some of those are big national brands with 1000+ franchise units who didn’t even know it existed (until we did audits for them), and therefore, they were not using it.
What does structured data tell search engines? That’s a good question. Some examples of the information structured data can pass on to search engine algorithms are:
If you are not utilizing structured data, there is a good chance you will never show up on the Google Map for organic search results.
Main Takeaway: By building out the site properly on WordPress, your developer will be able to build into each location’s microsite the proper structured data that is important to each of your units. Again though, no additional coding is necessary. Take a look at point #2 about the different settings that your developer can build into the site that will be picking up by search engine algorithms.
Although this information can come off as overwhelming and a bit too technical for you to fully grasp, the main thing you should take away from this article is that there is a right way and a wrong way to build your website, and if done the right way, your website will not only last a lot longer, but it will save you massive amounts of time and money as you continue to focus on scaling and growing your franchise.
If you build your website on the WordPress multisite infrastructure, you should expect to experience the following main benefits:
We have found that the keystone to creating lasting business relationships with franchisors is to focus on the individual unit. The happier we can make the franchisee, the happier head office will be, and the longer we stay in the picture — the ultimate win-win-win.
We are confident that WordPress is the most scalable and efficiency focused platform out there for franchise brands, but if you would like to talk in more detail about why or how it directly applies to your brand, we’d be happy to talk! Click here to set up call.
These articles are mostly going to be centered on writing about stuff going on internally here at Bright Oak, about various topics on web design, technology, and overall best practices for marketing. We hope you enjoy them, and look forward to connecting in the comments!
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