To bring in leads, your corporate website must perform well, and so must your franchisee sites. To improve the performance of your websites, you must improve your search engine optimization (SEO). Simply stated, SEO is the use of technical and creative components to enhance a website’s performance in organic (unpaid) search rankings.
Google acknowledges that its ranking algorithm considers more than 200 factors. To further complicate things, the factors that affect SEO seem to change all the time. So where should you start? Right here, with four specific, concrete steps you can take to boost SEO for your franchisee sites.
1) Make sure they’re responsive
This may sound obvious, but local websites really must be mobile-friendly. More than half of all website traffic last year was generated through mobile phones – and that percentage will only increase. Google has recommended that sites be fully responsive and has said it is indexing mobile-first, which means the mobile version of your site is what is used for indexing and ranking. You need to ensure that no content is hidden on mobile views. Designers tend to pare what is visible on mobile because they want visitors to have a great, quick experience. However, it does not help with SEO if you “hide” content full of keywords.
2) Post awesome content
You’ve undoubtedly heard the adage, “Content is king.” Not only is that still true, but it may be more important than ever to fill your web pages with high quality, relevant content. Content should be fresh and include smart use of keywords. (Caution: Google bots can discern the difference between well-written content and keyword-stuffing.) Blogs are useful because they drive more traffic than anything else to your site. They also add pages of keyword-rich content. Think about what users will search for, and write as if you are answering their questions. Use “long tail,” conversational keywords because users search in sentences, not with just a word or two. This will become even more important as voice search increases. Blogs also provide opportunities for internal links to other content on your site, which helps Google bots understand how the content goes together. However, Google bots cannot read text on an image, so any data or words on a graphic should be repeated in the text.
3) Keep them secure
If the URLs on your websites do not start with https://, you should consider migrating to a secure site. Chrome and some other browsers are warning users about insecure sites, and some users do not understand how to force their way into a website. Google has announced that it’s important to have secure sites, and that non-secure sites could expect to see an increase in bounce rates. A higher bounce rate could negatively affect SEO. Note that most hosting companies give free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates that allow the site to be secured.
4) Consider user experience
The easier a website is for visitors to use, the longer they will stay on that site. And the longer they stay, the better for SEO. Your pages must be easy to navigate, named properly, and content must be kept up to date. Your calls to action should be clear and easy to locate. Be careful with images. While they can make pages more attractive, if they are too large they could slow your load time, which hurts SEO (and sends users to other sites).
SEO may seem like a moving target, but it is an important target. Without spending more on advertising, your franchisees’ websites can perform better by improving SEO. Taking these four steps will be a great start.
Lora Kellogg, CFE, is president and CEO of Curious Jane, an ad agency specializing in franchises. With more than 15 years of experience and a portfolio of top brands, she and her team work with established and emerging franchises to grow sales, increase traffic, build brand awareness, and generate leads.
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