This is the 7th installment this year of our Deep Dive Into Local series. For the week ending Friday, February 22nd, Mary Bowling, Ed Reese and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video, including links and commentary on critical happenings of the previous week is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In the second half of that video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week.
In this discussion, we explore the difficulties that franchises have in implementing an effective Local Search campaign due to their structure.
Mary: And lastly, Andrew Shotland wrote a post at Search Engine Land about the typical problems that we experience when we're trying to market brands that franchise local operations. And I think we're gonna shift into that for our deep dive today.
Unfortunately, in my experience, I find quite often that the brand is so focused on either internal politics and stuff that's going on at corporate headquarters, or on gaining new franchisees, or on trying to prove its worth to existing franchisees and sometimes in kind of odd ways, that it really doesn't do a good job of marketing individual locations to the people nearby them. And unfortunately when this happens, the local operators are pretty much incentivised to actually compete with corporate trying to promote their own location online, so it does make quite a mess.
Mike: Yeah, it's a lack of a well thought out local plan and they haven't gotten out in front of it more often than not. And so a lot of times, too, the local people sort of took the lead where corporate was behind. Ideally there should be a... Okay, cut that dog's head off. [laughs]
Mary: I'll mute myself.[laughter]
Mike: I just want to get back at you for me shuffling, that was all. So in the ideal world, corporate should do what corporate does best which is create a really powerful website that has really great local landing pages that are optimized, and distribute and maintain the canonical list of locations, make sure that that base location data gets distributed correctly. And then the local people should do what they do best which is capture the essence of the local market, post pictures to Google and Facebook and ... they should work together on reviews.
But I think most franchise organizations are behind the curve on this. I was talking to a newly-founded franchise organization and they are ... have a really strong local marketing plan in place. And they will then bake it right into their agreements with their franchisees as to how it's gonna be, which I think is critical.
Mary: I think it's critical, too, because I've seen some that have these weird hybrids that some of the locations are owned by the company, some of them are franchises, some of them are grandfathered in to all kinds of weird deals if they've been around awhile. And it is something that the franchise -- the brand needs to, as you say, get a handle on it and get control of it and drive the train instead of having the franchisees keep tooting the horn saying, "You're not helping me enough. You're not helping me enough."
I've found that probably about 5% to 15% of franchisees usually are very motivated to try to help themselves. And unfortunately, they're the ones that usually go out there and start their own websites and start competing with corporate. But you can see why they do it because Mike and I have been involved with a couple of big brands where their store directory was so bad that the locations were having a very very hard time ranking because age rank was not being distributed and pushed throughout the location website.
Mike: Now where's that noise coming from?
ED: That is my dog trying to get into the conference room.[Laughter]
Mike: Well we've lost Ed there. I think with Scott, Maven Marketing or Buzz Maven. Buzz Maven did a great article on how it should work ideally. I think that there really needs to be -- the lack of canonical data is a killer and then the lack of a powerful website at corporate is a killer. Where corporate has the strongest opportunity to excel and provide value is there. But if they don't, if they miss the opportunity, then they're gonna fracture their user base because that 15% of the most successful businesses are gonna assume that role for themselves creating this -- setting up a conflict that is not really easily resolvable. I think that corporate needs to be aware of what they should be doing, could be doing, and doing it well, and doing it quickly and getting the local people to do what they do well, and getting some sort of agreement as to who does what.
Mary: Right, and I think that for the most part big brands do not devote enough resources to trying to help individual locations rank. They seem to be always looking for the cheap and easy way out as far as what content they're gonna put on those location landing pages. And in reality, if your sales are taking place at the locations, those locations really deserve enough resources from corporate to help them rank well.
Mike: I agree. Well I think with that, that's a wrap. And I wanted to thank you for joining us. And I'm sorry Ed had to drop out to take care of his dog, but thanks to Ed as well. We'll see you again next week.