The First Annual TruPresence Franchise Marketing Benchmark Report
Benchmarking is a vital business practice. No matter what the industry is, if we don't take the time to compare and reevaluate our data, then we fall behind. That's the main takeaway in the latest TruPresence webinar, where Jeremy LaDuque and WooRank's Nils De Moor unveiled a preview of the first annual TruPresence Franchise Marketing Benchmark Report.
This report was a labor of love for the franchise industry, comparing over 1400 franchise systems and scoring them using over 75 data attributes as criteria. The benchmarking report aims to provide insight into current trends and technologies used within the franchise industry and to help franchise systems better understand how they compare to their peers and competitors.
TruPresence's Benchmark Partner
The TruPresence Benchmark Report was made possible with the combined efforts of TruPresence and WooRank, an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) audit tool. WooRank has helped audit millions of websites throughout its history and actively provides insights and recommendations on how to better optimize website performance.
TruPresence and WooRank are both divisions of Bridgeline Digital and were able to work together harmoniously to direct WooRank's capabilities toward aiding franchise systems. This benchmark report is the product of two years' worth of work between TruPresence and WooRank, to provide value to the franchise industry.
TruPresence is one of the first digital marketing tools specifically tailored for franchise systems. Working with WooRank, TruPresence offers franchisors the ability to collect Location Analytics. Franchisors use the individual location web pages under the corporate URL to act as the website for franchisee locations. TruPresence understands this and monitors those web pages to provide the same level of insight and data as a traditional analytics tool for the whole website.
Location Analytics has been integrated into the WooRank software, helping franchisors understand location performance at a glance. This level of technology and insight into the franchise industry has made TruPresence uniquely qualified to build this benchmark report.
The Benchmark Report
TruPresence's benchmark report analyzes over 1,400 franchise websites, looking at prevalent industries within the franchise space, current trends, and the technology being utilized. Franchisors can learn from the highest and lowest-performing franchise systems to help improve their performance.
The industries within the report represent how diverse the overarching franchise space is, ranging from Home Services, Hospitality, Professional Services, Education, Construction, and Transportation.
This type of industry impacts the need for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Home Services make up a more massive portion because the nature of that industry relies heavily on building an organic presence online. For example, as Jeremy points out, Home Service franchises need to tell a rich, local story to engage better the communities they serve. SEO can help them achieve that. As opposed to a quick-service restaurant franchise that might not need as much of a backstory to drive traffic and revenue.
The WooRank Score
Each franchise website in the benchmarking report was given a WooRank score. WooRank's scoring system allows website owners and franchisors to quickly gauge their site's SEO performance and how to improve it as needed.
WooRank determined each franchise's score by assigning a weight to each of the 75 data attributes TruPresence uses as criteria for its benchmarking report. The more critical an attribute is to SEO performance, the greater the weight it'll have. WooRank then evaluates how well a franchise system performs against that attribute. Adding their performance in all 75 criteria together, WooRank can give each franchise a final score.
Of the over 1,400 franchise websites audited by WooRank, 35% scored excellently, 55% achieved an average score, and 10% earned a poor score and need significant improvement.
WooRank's algorithm looks at essential attributes for both on and off-page SEO. Franchise systems can improve their scores by building out their local presence. That local presence is a "secret weapon," as Jeremy puts it in the webinar. Driving local engagement across all locations, which sometimes can amount to hundreds of sites, can drastically improve your score and brand awareness online and offline.
A franchise system can improve its SEO, and not every attribute requires significant technical expertise on the franchisor's part. However, to consistently earn a top-ranking WooRank score takes skill and persistence. Of all the franchise systems within the benchmark report, these top 20 obtained scores in the high 70s to low 90s, achieving excellence in almost every attribute.
These franchise systems' scores are due to franchisors and franchisees working together to monitor performance and incrementally improve SEO strategies that enrich the brand's online presence and the user experience.
The Benchmark Criteria
Jeremy and Nils highlighted several critical criteria from the 75 data attributes in the webinar. The areas of focus were the top ten criteria in four categories:
- Top Ten Most Optimized Criteria
- Top Ten Contributors to a Positive Score
- Ten Least Optimized Criteria
- Top Ten Opportunities for Improvement
These criteria have a significant impact on SEO and vary in levels of technicality. For example, mobile optimization and compatibility were highly weighted criteria that contributed to a higher score. Additionally, image optimization and utilization of social media platforms are attributes where the benchmark report sees room for improvement. While these criteria might not be as heavily weighted, optimizing them can improve performance in a meaningful way.
Top Three Criteria
All these criteria listed in the benchmarking report are essential. Still, some have a more significant impact or sense of urgency, whereas not optimizing them sooner can hinder performance. Three incredibly influential criteria that any franchise can improve upon are:
- Mobile Optimization
Backlinks are still a significant factor for any successful SEO strategy. Especially as new Google updates start to prioritize high-quality content, a strong backlink strategy can help franchisors demonstrate expertise over a topic. More backlinks linking back to a franchise website, or an individual location web page, can build credibility, drive organic and local SEO traffic, and increase engagement within a community.
As previously mentioned, mobile friendliness is a heavily weighted criterion. As mobile devices continue to evolve and advance, most online searches are conducted on a mobile device. Franchise websites that can engage with a local audience on the devices they prefer will be able to outstep the competition and drive an SEO ranking higher.
Thirdly, regarding the user experience, there is an expectation that the franchise website is secure. Franchisors should ensure that their HTTPS sites are properly SSL-certified and protected to improve the user's experience.
A Roadmap for Franchise Systems
So, you have access to the criteria and know what to fix. Now, the question becomes how to get started setting it. These bench markers and standards create a roadmap to guide franchise systems toward building a more significant presence.
With these criteria' diversity, one of the first steps on the roadmap is to build a dedicated team and use the right technology. For example, as a franchisor or even a franchisee, if you have access to the backend of your website, you can optimize the criteria within your skillset. If you're unable to manage the more technical aspects of optimization, then it becomes necessary to find a trusted developer that can help.
As Nils points out, it may make sense to bypass department barriers for larger franchise systems. Franchisors that can help disparate teams, like marketing and development, work together can optimize their sites to rank higher faster than the competition. Follow the roadmap, check off optimizing criteria, and use your people to your franchise's advantage.
The Opportunities from the Data
Franchise systems have a unique opportunity for growth, more so than any other type of business, because they can simultaneously be present at the local and national levels. The roadmap this benchmark report provides allows franchisors to capitalize on opportunities for growth based on data.
Optimization, vertically across every data attribute and horizontally where franchisor and franchisee work in unison, helps establish that omnipresence that leads to growth. If developers and digital franchise marketers can work together to satisfy criteria like image optimization, they can build unity between teams. The same can be said between the franchisor and the franchisee.
For example, working to optimize a franchise website's Core Web Vitals is something that can be a shared responsibility. Core Web Vitals (CWVs) are three important metrics that Google uses to determine user experience on a website. CWVs are more technically challenging, so it will take effort from the franchisor, franchisee, or other internal teams to ensure everything is properly optimized.
The data shows that social media is an underutilized optimization tool for franchisees. Franchisors and franchisees can capitalize on that opportunity to build a unique marketing and advertising strategy that drives online and offline traffic to that location.
Content Delivery Networks
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are another tool franchise systems can use to build a more robust presence. A CDN is a series of servers located in several geographical locations; rather than traditional hosting, these servers temporarily store content and send it to the nearest server to the user. This allows any website visitor to have fast access to a webpage, no matter where they are in the world.
Franchise systems can extensively use a CDN, especially if they have a growing number of national or international locations. This allows franchisors and franchisees to ensure that they can properly engage and establish their presence no matter what local communities they find themselves in.
MarTech Stacks for Franchise
Technology doesn't make or break the business; however, if a franchise system can use the right technology to its advantage, it can quickly grow its presence and remain competitive. The TruPresence Benchmark Report looked at what technology was trending across over 1,400 websites to see which types offered the most benefit to franchisors.
Marketing technology (MarTech) offers new ways to collect data, build campaigns, and engage with an audience. Franchise digital marketers are well known for their expertise in producing a MarTech stack to better the operation. Here are some of the leading technologies being used by franchise systems.
Content management systems (CMS) are the foundation of any website. A proper CMS can make producing, editing, and publishing content across multiple websites more accessible. The major CMS platforms include systems like WordPress and Wix, while newer CMSs like HubSpot CMS are gaining popularity.
Franchises that can effectively use a CMS have an easier time generating content at the corporate and individual location levels. CMSs often have simple and intuitive interfaces that make it easier for franchisees to go in and build custom content for their locations.
An underused technology integrated into franchise website maps can help drive local SEO and offline traffic. According to the data, Google Maps is the dominating force compared to the other map technology used by franchise systems
Maps help drive conversion by assisting users in finding specific locations from the corporate website. Maps also help franchises appear in "near me" search results for Google users looking for assets close to their physical location.
The embrace and utilization of personalization technology is a new trend that franchisors should be aware of. Personalization technology works to offer a unique experience for the user, which in turn can help drive conversion and average order value while boosting brand loyalty.
Another exciting trend is integrating site search solutions outside the CMS platforms used by franchises. Site search plugins and connectors can improve the user experience, keep data organized and indexed, and drive conversion by providing more relevant information to the user faster.
For example, the site search solution HawkSearch can offer product recommendations guided by machine learning. Google also recognizes site search plugins and makes note that it's available on a website.
Analytics technology was by far the most utilized technology. Approximately 90% of the franchise websites audited had some analytics integration. Surprisingly, it was not 100%, as analytics should always be considered an essential priority to any franchise operations.
Analytics help direct marketing efforts and detail where improvements can be made in any business strategy. Tools that help build uniform digital reports can vastly improve a franchise's ability to design and use its data.
Google Analytics was the dominant tool used by franchisors. Franchisors should know how Google Analytics plans to evolve, with the permanent transition to Google Analytics 4 in July 2023. Franchisors need to get ahead of this shift to GA 4 from Universal Analytics by implementing GA 4 as soon as possible.
Franchise systems were also found to be adopting new types of advertising technology, specifically social media. Advertising on social media puts franchisors and franchisees in direct communication with their audience and helps them engage at a local level, even while online.
Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn were gaining popularity with franchisors as a means of advertising.
Marketing automation technology, for example, CRM (customer relationship management) tools, is rapidly gaining popularity with franchise systems. Tools like MailChimp and HubSpot were the tools of choice for most franchisors.
Despite the data suggesting that only 30% of franchise systems were using marketing automation, it can be safe to assume that a franchise might be using some automation means. Whether through a third party or a CMS platform, marketing automation is an essential technology that franchisors can't afford to ignore.
AB testing technology is one of the technologies that franchise systems should have the easiest time implementing. In many ways, a franchise system is consistently AB testing, monitoring the different performances and strategies used by other locations simultaneously.
AB testing technology would allow franchisors to quickly collect the test results and measure the different outcomes in a streamlined manner. The primary AB testing technology used by franchisors was Google Optimize.
The Full Report
This webinar with Jeremy and Nils was a sneak preview of the full report yet to come. Franchise systems that want to be added to the index and receive a WooRank score can do so by adding their URL here. Additionally, franchise systems can run their report on WooRank.com.
Benchmarking is essential; it helps us see where we are in relation to where we need to go. The industry is changing for franchise systems, and more technology and SEO trends are being embraced daily. Stay informed on how the industry is growing and adapting to change and watch as your franchise's presence grows.
Stay tuned for the full report.