No one can deny the power of Google. Its rise from a research project in the mid-‘90s to one of the world’s best known brands is undeniably impressive. A whole new industry has sprung up around it, and more and more businesses are relying on the company’s core search offering as a primary mode of boosting web traffic and, ultimately, sales.
At Engage Web, as we’ve worked with franchises across various sectors, we’ve come to understand the particular importance to franchisees of what is arguably the most significant feature of the Internet.
No business model lays a greater emphasis on targeting local customers than a franchise. After all, you want to be able to pull in as many customers as possible without stepping on the toes of fellow franchisees in neighboring areas. With so many people connected to the Internet, attracting them through the power of Google – instead of focusing on traditional, physical forms of advertising – is now at the forefront of modern marketing.
Won’t you Google My Business?
So, you’ve used Google to look at toys from your childhood and humorous cat videos, but how can you use it to drive the success of your franchise? The first step you need to take is to look at Google My Business. The tool was introduced after a number of existing services were combined to improve the way in which businesses attract attention online.
The tool basically acts as a hub through which a business can update its information on Google’s Search, Maps, and social networking services, in addition to making itself more searchable through mobile devices.
Why is Google My Business important for a franchise owner? You’re operating under an existing brand, so you need to distinguish your outlet against others that may otherwise appear similar. Utilizing Google My Business, you can appear as an individual product or service provider across the various Google media.
Mapping out success
Since it is by a long shot the most popular free map software available today – certainly with mobile devices – it’s important to make sure your franchise is fully optimized on Google Maps if you want to attract local customers. According to Google, more than a billion people tap into the service every month, so the chances are strong that potential customers in your area are using it.
The Google Maps app for iPhone, iPad, and Android actually has its own search bar, used much in the same way as the company’s primary browser-based search tool, only with a focus on local businesses. This means some people use Maps directly, instead of Google Search, for the services and goods they need.
A presence on Google Maps is also important for your rankings in the main Google Search listings. The two services are closely connected – so much so, that geographical displays will often appear alongside the search results when users pose queries about firms that have provided their contact details through Google My Business.
Blog about your town
Given the interconnectedness of all of Google’s products, it’s unsurprising that so much emphasis is given to geographic words and phrases. With this in mind, franchises should blog about topics in their area that are relevant in some way to their field of business. By doing this, you’re organically and intrinsically tying your store to the city or town in which you operate. The all-seeing eye that is Google will take note, and be more likely to list your website in any searches pertaining to your area.
Most people with even a vague understanding of search engine optimization know the significance of keywords, and the fact that including certain words or phrases in your website’s content will have an effect on how your site ranks for those particular search terms.
While Google now favors a much more organic approach from its subjects, it still helps to use the words and terms for which you want to rank in the search listings. Just make sure what you’re talking about it relevant and not spammy, or users will be turned off and Google will yank you from the listings. Tools such as Google Trends, and the keyword facility of Google AdWords, are both free, and both will give you a great idea of what sort of terms the people in your area are searching for.
On the blogging front, you can also distinguish yourself from other franchises by regularly updating your Google+ profile. As with any social media site, use it to engage with your customers and publish interesting, topical and, above all, relevant content. The social approach is essential for a franchise, again because it allows you to attract engagement with fans of your store – and not just fans of the brand.
If you’ve only just set up your franchise, just remember – keep your website active and your approach to Google as natural as possible. Doing so will see the locals pouring in.
Richard Bell is a Senior Editor at Engage Web, a digital marketing agency specializing in the franchise sector. Engage Web has developed a bespoke digital marketing model for franchises, FranchiseXcel, which has helped franchises grow online within the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.