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Decoding Local Marketing for Franchises

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Once you crack the code, better results are around the corner.

Imagine you’re in New York talking to a close friend. They’re telling you about a great Thai donut shop somewhere in Brooklyn. They can’t remember the name of it, or exactly what street it’s on, but it's clear, these were the best donuts on the planet - and you’re sold.

So - how do you look it up?

According to a recent study by BrightLocal, there’s an 87% chance you’re going to use a search engine with some variation of the keywords “Thai donuts Brooklyn”. From there, there’s a 50% likelihood you’ll be visiting that store within a day, and an 18% chance you’ll end up buying those donuts.

Welcome to modern search.

There are few places where the importance of local marketing is as influential as the franchise industry—particularly for restaurants. As Google continues to position itself as the go-to search engine (it already commands 78% of the market), its recent update, “Pigeon”, has emphasized local SEO as a primary factor for ranking.

Picture Google as the Dean of Admissions to an especially competitive school. If you work hard and play the game of what’s expected, you’ll be welcomed with open arms. However, if you neglect what’s necessary to get in, you could be left standing outside the gates.

How Google Ranks Local SEO

When it comes to ranking on a search engine results page (SERP), your business showing up at the top, bottom, or at all depends entirely on the quality of experience you can offer to your visitors—both online and off.

Given this emphasis, Google utilizes a variety of factors to evaluate both digital and physical experiences into its local SEO ranking metrics, including:

  • Relevance – Are the results relevant to what was searched for?
  • Prominence – The best Thai donut shops are ordered by number and accuracy of local business citations (more on this later) and user-generated reviews.
  • Distance – The best and closest locations to a searcher’s physical location will win out.

Say you’re the owner of a pizza restaurant in Chicago near Wrigley field and someone searches for “Wrigley field pizza” (a highly competitive search to say the least). Google is going to organize its list of results based largely on proximity to the user and customer reviews.

If you’re thinking that this type of customer behavior is largely irrelevant to your business model, think again. Mobile search is the future - and it’s taking over quickly.

The Growth of Mobile Search

A few eye-opening statistics on mobile search:

  • 87% of smartphone owners use a search engine at least once a day
  • 78% of local mobile searches resulted in offline purchases
  • 60% of adults use smartphones to search for local product and service information
  • 1 in 3 smartphone searches were made right before a store visit
  • 46% of all searches on Google are local

As the prevalence of mobile search rises—along with the ability to connect consumers to any information at any point in time—the role that digital visibility, discovery, and differentiation plays in the success (or failure) of local businesses is more apparent than ever.

The Importance of Online Reviews and Reputation Management

There’s little doubt you’d run out of fingers trying to count the last time a friend recommended a new TV show, movie, restaurant, or album to try out. We trust the opinions of those close to us because they know us and our tastes. But “word-of-mouth marketing” takes on an entirely different meaning when we get into online reviews written by complete strangers.

  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 90% of consumers read online reviews
  • 92% of users will use a local business if it has at least a 4-star rating
  • 72% of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review

Here are a few more compelling stats.

And perhaps most pertinent to the franchise industry…

A single negative review can cost you 30 customers

In the digital landscape, strangers connect based on common interests—restaurants, products, and services—and via this connection, they seek and share their experiences, leveraging the wisdom of the crowd. The quality of a product and service are becoming increasingly important (as well as increasingly transparent) as Google continues to place a greater emphasis on local search results. It’s not enough to just have a good burger anymore. In order to compete and thrive today, you need a good website, quality content (such as articles and photos), and positive digital word-of-mouth.

When dealing with negative reviews—which aren’t all bad, as a few here and there can add authenticity to the overall score—here’s a general guideline to addressing them:

  • Reach out to the reviewer immediately
  • Be humble and forthcoming
  • Address any inaccuracies
  • Focus on your strengths
  • Write with a personal touch (no “PR speak”)
  • When in doubt, take it offline and call them directly
  • Offer restitution if it’s warranted
  • Be consistent

Tips on Improving Local SEO

So, if it’s so important, how do you improve your local SEO?

Here are 4 Tips to Remember:

  1. Ensure your business information is listed accurately throughout the web. Google your business for any references, mentions, or citations, and change any listings if necessary. Any variance can mean a drop in ranking. This includes your business name, address, hours, telephone number, website, etc. Also, make sure your business information is constantly pushed out to the web to a) combat any manipulation of your local data by competitors (it happens) and b) more confidently validate the accuracy of the information (there is frequent turnover across the local business landscape, so Google considers fresh data more valid than old data).

  2. Visit local directories and claim your local business profile. The most significant directories include:

3. Regularly generated content (articles, social media posts, videos, etc.) should be keyword-targeted to your neighborhood/region/city.

  • For example: “5 Best Pizza Toppings in Hyde Park, Tampa, Florida”.

4. Make a point to guest post on local blogs, send press releases to local news outlets, and attend local events with the goal of gaining mentions on their pages.

For those without extensive experience in the field of digital marketing, concepts such as SEO, PPC targeting, and responsive web design can understandably sound alien. However, all of these concepts and associated best practices are vital to the growth of your franchise and the success of your franchisees.

At Scorpion, we take the burdens of driving digital marketing success off your shoulders and give you back the time you need to grow your business.

Are you looking to develop your franchise marketing? Contact us today to discover how an emphasis on local marketing can produce big returns for you and your franchisees.


About the Author
As Senior Vice President of Sales at Scorpion, Justin Mink focuses on developing and growing Scorpion’s national business across a variety of industries. Prior to joining Scorpion, Justin was the Chief Marketing Officer at New Frontier Data, a start-up technology company that provides responsible operators and investors in the legal cannabis industry with real-time data and analytics. Some of his other previous roles include co-founder and VP of Strategy at Music Audience Exchange, National Director at ReachLocal, and Brand Marketing Lead at Gannett.

Justin is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington, where he received a B.A. in political science. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling, cooking and wine, hiking and the outdoors, and spending time with his family. He is also a major Washington Redskins fan, spending a couple of seasons at FedEx Field on game days as an official team “flag guy.”