This is a guest blog post by John Murray.
One factor that’s really reshaped the way we operate here at Engage Web is the increased importance of making sure that a website is suited to mobile devices. As we’ve worked with more and more franchise companies in recent years, it’s certainly occurred to us that the value of mobile optimization is even greater within this particular sector.
In July this year, analytics company comScore confirmed that mobile is now accounting for the majority of Internet traffic. In total, phones and tablets were responsible for 60% of traffic in May 2014, up from 45% just 15 months earlier. While most analysts predicted this would happen, the speed of it has surprised many.
As you would expect, Google has been swift to react to the trend of ‘Internet on the move.’ The search engine giant has started trialing a scheme whereby any sites in its results that aren’t optimized for mobile use are heralded by this rather unsightly graphical representation:
This means that, even if a desktop-only site is ranking highly for a certain search term, those searching via mobile are instantly warned by an off-putting icon showing that the site is going to be a chore to use on their tablet or smartphone, potentially putting a huge dent in the number of web users actually clicking through to the site via what is now the most popular platform.
Where do franchises fit into this?
Franchises are, by their nature, an ‘on the move’ style of business. The most well-known franchise companies are probably the major fast-food restaurants, like McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. We all recognize these names, so we rarely need to sit down at a desktop computer and look into the services they provide.
What is much more likely, however, is that we end up in an unfamiliar town and think to ourselves, “you know what, I really fancy a [insert name of your favorite branded fast-food item], I wonder if I can get one ’round here?” They’re not going to do that by sitting in front of a PC; they’ll whip out their trusty smartphone and let your (hopefully) mobile-optimized site act as their navigation aid.
This is of particular benefit if you create pages within a site for each individual store or branch within a franchise. That way, people can also check for particular attractions from the outlet they intend to visit.
Sticking with the example of a fast-food restaurant, Internet users could find out if their local one offers car parking, baby changing facilities, and disabled access, as well as what the ‘Burger of the Day’ is and so on. The upshot is that the more information you provide and the more mobile-friendly your site is, the greater the chance of people who have not planned their day out in advance recognizing your name, and settling on the products and services they have come to expect from the brand.
After all, the ultimate aim behind a franchise is to get the brand as widely recognized as possible, to the extent that people will look out for branches of it in their home area, or anywhere else they visit, and instantly know what to expect. By giving mobile-optimized space to each branch within a network, people don’t need to sit at home and do their research on what particular offerings and facilities to expect from a particular location, and can instead make a spontaneous decision to visit that location.
Mobile optimizing a franchise website
What often puts company owners off optimizing their site for mobile is that they presume it will mean a whole new website, and imagine the drain on their time and resources likely to result from this. Creating a stand-alone mobile site is an option but, usually, it’s not a very good one. It basically means that you have to do twice as much work and, coming at it from my perspective being involved in content writing, Google may penalize them for duplicating each other’s text.
It’s more advisable to use a tool like Bootstrap, which can convert an existing desktop site into a mobile one. It’s not always a smooth process, and you are likely to have to do some tidying up of the site, so you may prefer to consult a web development professional before you go diving in with such tools.
The effort and expense is rapidly becoming a necessity, however, because the reality is that mobile devices have made us lazy and casual. “We’ll meet here at seven o’clock” has now become “text me when you get here,” but franchise businesses can give this procrastinating generation exactly what they’re looking for: a recognized brand on their doorstep and at their fingertips.
John Murray is the Content Team Leader at Engage Web, a UK online marketing agency specializing in the franchise industry. John heads up a team of journalist-trained editors and a global network of writers based across the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.