In the ever-evolving digital landscape of 2024, the importance of a franchise's website cannot be overstated. As the cornerstone of your Digital Activation Strategy (DAS) i.e. listings, review, social, paid, direct mail - to name a few, your website is not just a tool, but the heart of your online presence, the source of truth for customers and the digital front door for local marketing. Its role extends beyond being a mere digital brochure as might make you believe; it's a dynamic platform that drives SEO, generates leads, and ultimately, contributes significantly to your franchisees’ revenue.
The Central Role of Your Website in 2024
Imagine your website as the central hub in a wheel, with every spoke representing different digital tools and platforms, from AI-driven solutions to online directories. It's the foundation that supports and connects these technologies. In this context, a website that merely “checks the box,” as our CEO likes to say - is a missed opportunity. The goal is to create a solid foundation site that doesn’t just "check the box" but rather, sets new standards for agencies ensuring core web vitals are met, new pages can be added at a moment's notice, a site can be launched for the new franchisee in minutes, and that budgets for advertising are being accounted for with new leads.
The Elephant in the Room - Google, AI, and the Future of SEO
The future of SEO will be significantly influenced by Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE), an AI-powered search technology that's reshaping the way users interact with search engines and how digital marketers approach SEO.
At a recent conference attended by our CEO, an insightful concept was shared, emphasizing the efficiency of information that a brand already has access to; highlighting that merely 10% of a brand's information can potentially address 80% of customer inquiries. This statistic underscores the importance of strategically organizing and presenting information, in a format easily read and sourced by LLMs (either in-house or through tools like ChatGPT or Google Bard)
Having your structured content aligned with current conversational search trends not only makes information more accessible to customers but also caters to the evolving nature of search engine queries. Leveraging tools such as Semrush's Keyword Magic Tool can be instrumental in this process. This tool helps in identifying prevalent questions and long-tail queries relevant to your business domain, allowing you to tailor your content to meet specific customer needs and search patterns. By focusing on creating content that addresses these targeted queries, you can enhance the relevance and visibility of your brand's online presence.
While the roll-out of Google SGE (currently in beta) will mark a significant shift in SEO strategies, brands and their chosen platform and/or SEO professionals need to adapt by focusing on quality, informative content and aligning with the evolving user search behaviors driven by AI technologies like SGE and ChatGPT. The goal is to balance between optimizing for search engines and fulfilling user intent more effectively.
The Drawbacks of All-In-One Platforms
Specialists vs. Generalists
Often, marketing agencies bundle website development with other DAS services, such as paid advertising. This approach can lead to websites being treated as an afterthought. In contrast, separating each component of your DAS allows for integrating the best marketing technologies, tailored to each specific need.
Today, if you need to spin up an additional page or 40 for franchisees to offer a new service - how long would that take to execute? A day? Week? Month? Three? The opportunity may already have passed, such as the seasonality of hanging holiday lights or a specific type of pest for an exterminator.
All-in-one software-as-a-service marketing technology platforms
In the local marketing category of MarTech (marketing technology) startups are clamoring to add more products to their solutions to add more revenue to appease investors vs. customers. Whether you are 20 locations or 1,000 - everyone gets the same platform. No two businesses have the exact marketing tech stack, so while a lower price may seem appealing, you have to ask - what is missing that our franchisees really need today, tomorrow, and beyond?
Avoid Agency Markups
Many agencies outsource website development, using white-labeled third-party services. This not only adds unnecessary costs but also complicates communication and collaboration, requiring an unwieldy amount of trust in multiple parties to work efficiently without significant oversight.
Additionally, if your agency is running your paid search - they most likely are taking a fee - typically between 10 - 20% of your spend. So while your franchisees are shelling out $1000 only $800 is going to actual advertising - that could be an additional 6 - 12 new customers that are not seeing or choosing your franchisee.
Ensure Proper Updates
Staying current with Google guidelines and core web vitals is crucial for maintaining your site's relevance and effectiveness. Additionally, compliance with standards like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not just a legal imperative but also a moral one. Failing to keep up can have significant repercussions.
Give Consumers What They Want
Consumer behavior is in a constant state of flux. The rise of mobile-first designs, user interfaces (UIs) focused on personalization, and localization are trends that can't be ignored. While agencies can manage these changes, dedicated website vendors, who specialize exclusively in website development, are more likely to be proactive and efficient in implementing these updates.
Maximizing Your Website to Drive Franchisee Success
In conclusion, for franchise brands looking to radically change their approach and thrive in 2024 and beyond, it's essential to keep franchisee websites independent from all-in-one platforms and agencies. By doing so, they can leverage the most effective marketing technologies, avoid unnecessary costs, ensure timely updates, and meet the evolving demands of consumers. An independent, well-maintained, and strategically developed website is not just a part of your digital strategy—it's the linchpin of your franchisees' success. Click here to learn more about making the most of your franchise website in 2024.