September 15, 2022

How to Understand the Pillars of Digital Franchise Marketing

In the most recent TruPresence Talks Webinar, Jeremy LaDuque sat down with Raakkel Sims from PromoRepublic to highlight structure and strategy around four key digital marketing pillars: Organic Search Engine Optimization, Paid Advertising, Organic Social, and Directory Listings; and how to pull the information from these pillars together to extract the value of the collected data.

The First Pillar: Organic SEO

The first pillar of franchise digital marketing is organic SEO. Organic SEO pertains to how well a website ranks in a list of search results for a search query, looking for general information and is not specific to a single location. In the early days of eCommerce, organic SEO was king. Even now, while there are new, equally important pillars, organic SEO remains the bedrock of any franchise’s digital presence. Franchisors need to know how their URLs are structured on the main site as well for each location webpage under the corporate domain. Creating a uniformed structure can make it easier to track location metrics like traffic and bounce rates, for example, in Google Analytics.  

It’s imperative that franchisors not only track this artifact data, but also be aware of website performance. For instance, franchisors need to understand what type of experience their website is offering their visitors once they enter the site. The better the experience, whether it be on the main corporate website or the individual location webpage, the better organic SEO ranking. If a website is underperforming, and the experience becomes negative, then your ranking will fall. One way to gauge website performance is by evaluating the Core Web Vitals (CWVs) for both the corporate site and for each location webpage.  

Franchise Core Web Vitals  

Core Web Vitals have a significant impact on a franchise website’s ability to surface both organically and locally. CWVs were a part of a Google Update that sought to make sure results not only provided the most relevant information as possible, but also offered a positive experience to Google’s users. CWVs specifically look at three metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint
  • Cumulative Layout Shift
  • First Input Delay  

These metrics track how content on a webpage interacts with one another and how long it takes for the content to interact with the user. Using tools that can regularly track the performance of the website overall, analyze these metrics and offer insights on how to improve them will help a franchisor ensure that each location is strengthening its organic SEO to the best of its ability.

The Second Pillar: Paid Advertising  

The second digital marketing pillar is paid advertising. Paid advertising is still very much a cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy and should be prioritized appropriately. That said, it’s also imperative to find a balance. It can be tempting for franchisors to overuse paid advertising because the analytics and returns are so immediate and targeted audiences are easier to reach. However, if we overuse paid advertising, then the other digital marketing pillars go underutilized.  

That said, if a franchisor underutilizes paid advertising to focus on the other pillars, then they are leaving marketing and revenue-generating opportunities on the table. With so many different online and social platforms, paid advertising as a digital marketing channel has ballooned to a massive scale. Social media platforms will prioritize paid advertisements since paid advertising is their main revenue generator.  

Business Intelligence tools like TruPresence and PromoRepublic can help a franchisor monitor ad spend and track essential Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). A new paid advertising trend is franchisors putting ad spend behind the high performing organic posts on the franchise social platforms to further engagement by creating a pathway to dive organic social media traffic to the website and increase specific KPIs.  

Avoid becoming over reliant on paid advertising, use the Pay Per Click (PPC) fundamentals to engage with an audience and ensure that every campaign connects to trackable metric, like a landing page, so you know where your franchise marketing dollars are going and where your audience has the most engagement outside of a social platform.

The Third Pillar: Organic Social  

The third pillar is organic social. Organic social is organic, natural engagement a franchise has with its audience across social platforms. It goes hand in hand with paid advertising and is a fundamental part of any local SEO ecosystem, because like organic SEO, organic social is here to stay. This pillar works off the idea that as a franchise, you need to be where your audience is; for example, as Raakkel points out, 54% of Gen Z research products on a social platform as opposed to a search engine like Google.  

Gen Z is more likely to search for, review, and be convinced to purchase a product through a platform like TikTok than to search for that product on a website first. So having a presence on social media will be essential to your digital marketing strategy.  

Additionally, organic social plays a key role in any local SEO strategy. A franchise operation can present its name, phone, and address across every social page on every platform. Franchisors can use these social platforms to promote local content. For instance, Facebook/META’s platform lets franchisors build pages for each location. Those pages will have the same relevant name, address, and contact information for each franchisee. This presents a franchise operation with the opportunity to create meaningful, consistent, localized content that benefits an audience, getting more attention to any paid advertising and driving traffic to a landing page.  

Organic social is an essential pillar that can help build a relationship between a user and a franchise’s brand. It’s also an easy way to test new marketing ideas and quickly gain insight into whether they work. If you haven’t done so, now is the time to prioritize your franchise’s social presence.

The Fourth Pillar: Directory Listings  

The fourth main pillar is the use of maps or directory listings. A goal for every franchisor is to drive both online and physical, offline traffic to individual locations.  As stated in the webinar, an estimated 75% of people rarely search past Google’s first SERP (Search Engine Results Page); so, it is mission-critical that if a potential buyer needed to go to a physical franchise location, they could quickly and easily find out how to get there online. Franchises that aren’t appearing high on the SERPs due to a lack of optimization or outdated information are leaving revenue on the table.  

Proper directory maintenance is important for other reasons as well. As we all learned during the height of the pandemic, stores with changing business hours or contact information need to keep their updated information consistent across all platforms.  

Additionally, using maps and directory listings to their full potential has a substantial impact on local SEO. Allowing Google more opportunities to validate a location’s address will help boost a franchise’s ranking for any local search queries. Search engines are shifting gears, prioritizing hyper-localized information to benefit the user experience, as a result, franchisors now need to make sure that their profiles and maps are as optimized as possible.

Building Off the Pillars  

While all these digital marketing pillars work in tandem, their disciplines are very different. Some franchises are large enough to be able to afford experts with knowledge specific to each pillar or can outsource. Other, smaller franchises are in a different boat, and should focus on their core competencies and build teams out to cover the areas that are weaker.  

Despite how different these pillars are in practice, they share the same goal, which is to help a franchisor fully understand the customer. Franchisors can use each pillar to collect mountains of data, but they need methods and tools to bring it all together into a cohesive manner. Marketing ROI, lead generation, financial data, etc... all needs to be structured so a franchisor can focus on making better business decisions.  

Franchisors should prioritize Business Intelligence (BI) tools that aggregate as much, if not all, data as possible into one report. Raw data is intrinsically valuable, but that value becomes even greater when it can be refined. Tools like TruPresence, PromoRepublic, Tableau, or Google Data Studio can help pull data from several different places into one center location. It may help to narrow down which tool to use by trying to find out which one acts like more of a partner to the franchise operation.  

What tools add to the franchise culture? What tools benefit the franchise and the customer? The franchise industry is shifting, and franchises need to go to where the customers are already. To do that, no matter what the BI dashboard is, franchise operations need to collect data, analyze that data, and use it to remove any hurdles or blind spots within the customer’s journey.  

Use these digital marketing pillars to create a fully optimized marketing strategy for your franchise and use the data you're able to collect to continue to grow and engage in an organic way.  

Nick Zerbst

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