Personal franchisee websites are detrimental to brand, organic search, and sales strategies
The question of whether or not franchisees should operate personal franchise websites divides the franchise world into two camps. Those that allow it, and those that don’t. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and it’s ultimately up to the franchisor if they are going to allow local websites or not.
The advantages to a franchise brand operating one, central website far outweigh the disadvantages to individual, fragmented local websites for several reasons.
First, when you think about why you purchase a franchise, the reasons usually have to do with the strength of the franchise’s brand, processes, and opportunity for profitability. Personal franchisee websites break down all three of these advantages for franchisees, ultimately impacting sales and business growth. Let’s take a closer look at why.
Personal franchisee website fragment and dilute the brand story. This usually serves to confuse or deter potential new customers. Say a potential customer heard about the company from a friend or colleague, or maybe they read about it in an article. When they begin to research the company, they’ll find multiple different websites that are saying different things. They’ll become confused about which site they should go to, which person they should reach out to. They may not understand if this is indeed the company they were looking for in the first place.
Fragmenting the brand story in such a way is like playing the telephone game. As the message gets passed around from the franchisor to the franchisee, key messages and positioning can get a little skewed. Then, the franchisee—and/or their website designer—will decide to take some liberties with the message. Then, perhaps another franchisee sees what the first franchisee is doing and decide they’re going to incorporate that as well, but with their own little spin on it. Little by little, the key brand message is lost and the brand story is diluted.
Personal franchisee websites also impact brand quality. Great websites are more difficult to develop and maintain that most people realize. You need to make considerations such as infrastructure, user experience, load speed, structure, security, stability, and more. That is all in addition to brand story, copywriting, design, and calls-to-action.
Most people don’t have the technical capabilities to maintain a website. You could outsource that work to a freelancer or agency, but you will end up spending a lot of money for no (or, more likely, negative) value to your business. So, what happens if a website isn’t being properly maintained?
Websites that are not regularly updated will usually experience accessibility interruptions as the user interface is outdated and/or hackers hijack the site. Imagine if you had potential customers going to your personal franchisee website and the site is down. Not only are they not going to get the information they were looking for, but they’re also going to have a poor perception of your franchise brand. This impacts both your local franchise business, and the franchise network as a whole.
There are also the issues of poor website design and user experience. If a potential customer lands on your personal franchisee website and it’s poorly designed, running slow, confusing to navigate, and doesn’t provide the information they’re looking for they’re going to have a poor perception of the brand.
Organic Search Rankings
A common reason for franchisees to want to own a personal website is for local search engine results. The argument has been made that personal franchisee websites rank better for local search engine optimization (SEO). If you’re operating a brick-and-mortar store with an address and business hours, this argument has some validity—but not much. Further, Google search algorithms have been penalizing duplicate content and heavy cross-linking endemic in individual local franchisee websites since 2012.
For home-based professional services franchise business models, the reasoning holds no value because you have little local information to use beyond on-page keywords. The better search strategy is to focus all efforts to a central domain. This way, a comprehensive keyword strategy can be most effective in competitive organic search results. Centralizing the brand keyword strategy promotes higher domain authority because its consistently publishing new, high-quality content, and maintaining evergreen content, among other important structural and social SEO considerations.
Ultimately, your franchise business all comes down to sales. If you’re not making sales, you’re not making money and you’re not growing your business. Personal franchisee websites harm local sales because they deteriorate the brand and they cannibalize competitive search traffic. When local marketing competes with the centralized marketing strategy, everyone loses. And competitors with a comprehensive, centralized digital marketing strategy win. If competitors are getting more of the web traffic to their website, your business loses out on sales.
When a potential customer does land on a local franchisee page and it’s not well designed, developed, and maintained the chances that your site will work for you as a lead generation engine are slim. A poor website experience could also degrade the public’s perception of the brand and your personal ability to solve their problems.
Sometimes, franchisees think that the idea of building a local website is a good idea. There are few advantages to doing so; however, and far greater disadvantages. The best option from a branding, organic search, and sales perspective is to consolidate efforts so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
If you would like to learn more about life as a franchise owner, contact us today!