October 21, 2014

3 Steps To Franchise Success in Google+ Local

google+ localGoogle+ 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.

Phone Tracking

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

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Vedran Tomic


Vedran Tomic Vedran Tomic is the Founder of Local Ants, LLC, an local Internet marketing agency focused on helping businesses acquire more customers for less using the web.

7 Reactions

  1. Great tips, Vedran. Google+ is starting to demand attention and is growing pretty fast. It make sense to utilize the platform more because of it’s growing popularity. I still struggle with getting used to using Google+. I’m still more of a Twitter gal myself.

    Ti

  2. Thanks for the info, Vedran.

    I have to tell you; I don’t see individual franchise owners using Google+ as a way to drive sales.

    A. They don’t have time

    B. They would need a lot of education-and that takes time.

    But, franchisors need to get on the Google+ bandwagon, for sure!

    The Franchise King®

  3. Whoever does it you will need to make a +Profile under an email for the franchisee and a + Local Business page under that.

    And then use Google authorship to get the best local search results for the franchise in the future.

    Also some one needs to garner true local backlinks.

  4. Vedran, great stuff -thank you
    We have a new online tool to help small business owner’s repair and manage their online customer reviews. Most Online reputation management sites help by monitoring what’s said on the web. Millions of small business owners are affected by what’s being said about their business online . Reviewbalance is different because address how to get more positive online reviews. We make it easy for happy customers to share with the world and unhappy customers to share feedback directly to the owner. After reading the horrible reviews of my favorite restaurant, it got me thinking how many people don’t eat here because of this review? In today’s transparent world “happy customers tell 3 people ,unhappy customers tell 4,000” The fact of the matter is most people leave online reviews out of rage and frustration with the business. This phenomenon causes many great companies to have an unbalanced online presence.

  5. Good article, even though I only have one location I read the article anyway and found the listing of the 3 main information providers helpful. Now I can just go to these 3 to provide information instead of all of the individual directories I was working on.

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