Google+ Local seems to be a product in perpetual development. Local business owners sometimes find it gut wrenching. For franchises, it can be even worse than that.
Anyone who knows how complex the local search ecosystem has really become has to cringe when they think about how franchises deal with Google+ Local.
But there is hope.
The key to franchise success lies in understanding Google+ Local on a franchisee level.
3 Steps to Franchise Success in Google+ Local
1) Training is Everything
From an organizational perspective, Google+ Local can be handled in two ways:
- It can be left to franchisees.
- Or be handled by the franchisor.
Either way, everyone wins if all franchisees have a basic understanding of Google+ Local. Especially this – your listing is not exactly yours. It’s Google’s.
This may sound counterintuitive, but Google uses information from many sources to form its listings. Data that a franchisor or franchisees provide Google about their locations is just a source of information for Google. It’s a trusted source, but not the only source. It also means that your franchise locations probably already have listings that Google created.
This is the reason why no amount of franchisor control can save franchisees from issues if they think that only what they provide Google can be a part of their listing. Almost anything a local business does can reflect on their Google+ Local listing.
Google Is Looking For Consistency
You want data (especially name, address and phone number) about franchisee locations to be accurate and consistent everywhere on the Web. It makes Google perceive your locations as legitimate and prominent. This is one of the most important ranking factors in Google local.
Besides that, every brand manager will tell you that you need to be consistent in your messaging.
It Matters What People Say About You
Getting good reviews will not only make people want to do business with you, but also help you rank in local search. Do you have a review strategy in place?
2) Avoid Technical Pitfalls
Running Google+ Local for a large number of locations is not fun. Traps are everywhere.
Those of us who love to measure everything will get disappointed. Tracking phone calls may hurt your performance in Google+ Local. For call analytics to really work, we need lots of phone numbers. One for Google organic search, one for paid search and then one for Yahoo and Bing. Before you know it – your data consistency is compromised.
Not Keeping Up With Google’s Guidelines
This can be costly. A few months ago, a number of businesses that serve customers at their location decided to merge Google Places listings with Google+ business pages. Many of them lost their listings only to get them back after they deleted their Google+ page.
Google changes their guidelines. They never notified anyone so it’s your job to keep on top of this.
Using Toll Free Numbers
Google doesn’t hate toll free numbers. They just don’t prefer them so you should use local phone numbers whenever possible.
Using Bad Words
Google has developed filters that prevent using specific words and phrases in a listing. Not all of those are obvious. Mike Blumenthal, an expert on Google Places, talks about it in detail here.
Your Business Is Not Eligible
To be more specific, your business model can make your franchisees ineligible for a listing. For example, the following situations make your business not eligible:
- Your location is not permanent.
- You/your staff don’t interact with the customers in person.
If You Centrally Manage A Substantial Number Of Locations
Your only practical option is to bulk verify everything. Google recommends it if you have more than 10 locations. Read Google’s guide here.
If You Don’t Have A Lot Of Locations And Savvy Franchisees
You might consider training your franchisees to manage their own presence. Knowledgeable, motivated franchisees will do more for their local search visibility than any franchisor could. This is not without risk, however.
3) You Will Need Some Help
There is literally no franchisee in the world that can do everything needed for success in local search inhouse.
- Embrace Data Aggregators: Data aggregators like Acxiom, Localeze and InfoGroup are the key to business data consistency that is so important in local search. These aggregators are primary sources of data for Google. They also feed a lot of business directories. This means you can scale your data distribution. However, it’s neither fast nor free.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Use Tools: You don’t really have a choice. You must track performance. It wouldn’t hurt to track reviews, segment the data, and have an ability to create reports. We recommend you give the allLocal tool a test ride.
Things To Remember
Your performance in Google + Local is important. However, it’s not as important as the performance of the website tied to your local listings.
These are the times of blended local search where everything counts for something and nothing can be overlooked.
Map Photo via Shutterstock