Developing a business into a franchise is an exciting period for an entrepreneur. Once a business owner begins franchising, there are some important decisions to be made about the company’s digital infrastructure. Franchisors must determine their process for bringing in quality leads and converting site traffic to new franchisees.
What Are the Options for Franchise Websites?
At minimum, most franchises will need two websites: A corporate franchisor website for potential franchisees to learn more about starting their own operation, and a customer-facing website that offers information about services, promotions, and locations.
A franchise’s corporate website is essentially a business-to-business website: speaking to potential franchisees about joining your company. This website will have contact information and forms, documentation, photos, and details about what is needed to start a new franchise location.
The second piece of a franchise’s digital presence is customer-facing, with details about where to find a location, current promotions, hours, and services. There are two ways to think about your franchise locations’ websites: one large site with pages for each location, and new websites with their own URL for each location.
What’s the difference?
Individual pages in one website all have the same basic URL:
Separate websites will all have their own URL:
How to Choose Franchise Location Web Design
Here’s what to consider when deciding how to structure your franchise website templates, for the corporate and franchisee sides.
Consistency and Identity
Depending on how much your franchise agreement allows individual owners to offer more or fewer services, the experience between locations can vary. A key part of maintaining a consistent thread through each of your franchisee’s websites is a strong corporate identity, part of the development of a brand identity. This means a logo, as well as logo use guidelines, colors, fonts, and direction in how to design and layout documents within corporate identity standards.
Franchisees should maintain corporate identity throughout all of their marketing efforts: email marketing templates, printed newsletters, print advertisements, and social media posts, for example, should all follow the use guidelines put forward in your corporate identity kit.
If your franchise involves high-touch experiences, it may be best for the corporate franchise to develop a brand book, which communicates the brand’s values, communication style, and ultimate vision. All of these things should continue throughout the entire digital presence of every location.
This way, every content piece put out by the franchise is consistent with the core of your brand, strengthening the franchise so that it can grow in the right direction.
Search Engine Optimization
For Franchises, SEO will have a different purpose on each site. For the B2B, search traffic should bring in potential prospects looking to begin the onboarding process to become a new owner. The customer facing site needs to attract customers. Therefore, the SEO strategy needs to be delineated with these two segments and clear goals need to be put in place to measure the success of each campaign.
Other critical franchise SEO factors to consider:
- • Site size. One large site will be easier to successfully optimize than many small sites.
- • Duplicate Content. For individual location sites with their own URLs to not suffer search engine penalties, the content on their pages has to be unique. This can mean a big writing budget per website!
- • Local SEO. It is easier to handle business listings with unique URLs. One central franchise site with pages for each location provides more opportunity for confusion on local search sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages.
On both franchise and corporate sides of your digital presence should be optimized for visitor conversions. A conversion is any action a visitor can take on your website that brings them closer to being your customer, whether that’s at a franchise location, or a new franchise agreement.
Most commonly, conversions are:
- • Lead Forms. These can be effectively built and tracked with Gravity Forms and Google Analytics, or similar tools. Forms can be as simple as a newsletter subscription, or as complex as a new franchise application – it’s about knowing which form to put in each place. These are commonly handled through an ecommerce platform. If you use Woocommerce or Magento, there are add-ons and customizations that improve buyer experience, like one-page checkout, and email remarketing.
- • Live Chat. This is a relatively new conversion optimization tool, allowing visitors to IM you questions in real time. Live chat tools like Olark allow you to answer questions instantly, and can be programmed with ready-made responses to cut down on your typing time.
- • Continued Contact. Integrating your website with marketing contact databases, so that you can continue to nurture and communicate with your converting visitors after that first form fill. This allows you to widen your net, turning visitors into email subscribers and social media followers for future marketing opportunities.
Franchise Website Security
Website hacking is still a massive concern for any business with an online presence. Secure your sites with SSL encryption (and get an SEO bump!). Arguably the most popular and most effective plugin for securing a WordPress website is Wordfence. Wordfence behaves like an anti-hacker shield, monitoring login activity and locking out malicious attempts.
For an extra layer of security, a two-factor authentication tool like Duo ensures that access is only granted when a user can provide a one-time-use code.
Your priorities and budget considerations for these four factors can help you determine the best structure for your franchise business’s website development plan. A single site for all locations will cost more up front, but offers the corporate office more control over the web presence – but the SEO and customization benefits of independent franchise location sites might make the long-term budget costs worthwhile for your franchise.
For our biggest franchise client, We Rock the Spectrum, the ability to highlight different service mixes and options for each of their locations around the world was a major factor in the decision to give each of their locations independent URLs. Our digital marketing and development teams diligently ensure these sites are always up to date and as secure as possible, so that each franchisee can focus on doing the best for the kids in their community.
If you have questions about how to create a website for a franchise or other business with multiple locations, send us an email and we’ll book a call to discuss your options.