By LORA KELLOGG, CFE
Your corporate website needs to perform well to bring in leads, and so do your franchisee sites. To help your websites perform better, you need to improve your SEO, or search engine optimization.
SEO is the use of technical and creative components to enhance a website’s performance in organic (or 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 be changing all the time. So where should you start?
Here are four specific, concrete steps that you can take to boost SEO for your franchisee sites:
Make Sure They’re Responsive
This made 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 is only going to 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 the user to have a great, quick experience, but it does not help if you “hide” content full of keywords.
Post Awesome Content
You’ve probably 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. 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 just a word or two, and that will be more important as voice search increases. Blogs also provide opportunity 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 text.
Keep Them Secure
If your websites’ URLs 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 in to 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. Please note that most hosting companies give free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates that allow the site to be secured.
Consider User Experience
The easier a website is for visitors to use, the longer they will stay on the site. And the longer they stay, the better for SEO. Your pages have to be easy to navigate. Pages should be 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: They can make pages more attractive, but if they are too large they could slow your load time, which hurts SEO.
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, and 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.