The very nature of a franchise leads to uniformity and standardisation. When a business decides to franchise their successful business formula it is backed up and reliant on a system which new and existing franchisees must follow.
From a franchisors perspective this is vital to the development and recognition of their brand. If each franchisee did their own thing, the brand would quickly become diluted and it could ultimately be disastrous for a network. The strength in franchising is that a business can recruit, grow and develop within a ‘template’.
Whilst a tried and trusted template may work from a business perspective by providing new and existing franchisees with a support and growth framework, the same approach is not always as successful in the digital world. Most franchisors will provide their franchisees with a digital template for websites which is likely to include standardised descriptions for the company, its products and services. Google and other search engines aren’t keen on duplicate content so this can be problematic.
Without guidance some franchisees want to manage their own separate website or may even “go rogue” and set up their own. This should be avoided if possible. The domain name may be different but this can lead to many different sites that all have the same content with only a slightly different, or sometimes identical, format.
Search engines can struggle to identify which is the right content and which site they should show in the results. As a result they may show the wrong result or, even worse, not show any at all. Many franchisee sites not only duplicate content across the web but also compete with the franchisor and other franchisees for the same keyword results. A number of different websites can also be difficult for a franchisor to monitor and manage.
The ideal solution from a franchisors perspective is to have one main website with separate pages for franchisees. A certain amount of duplicate content is inevitable in a franchise network but duplicate pages across a site aren’t as potentially damaging from an SEO perspective as duplicate content across the wider web.
The downside of this approach is that if your website isn’t effective enough or your digital marketing strategy isn’t coherent, you could put off potential franchisees. You need to make sure that your website and digital presence reflects the strengths of your brand and digital marketing so that potential recruits want to invest.
One main website doesn’t mean that franchisees can’t create their own content or manage their own web presence. Franchisee pages should be tailored for each local area and franchisee as a minimum. Unique customer testimonials, regional descriptions and links to other local businesses and franchise blogs should be actively encouraged and used within the franchisees pages.
Unique video or user generated content can also be included. A good example of this is Greensleeves, where franchisees pages have a URL which includes the location, a list of areas covered within the page, personalised contact details and recommendations from local customers alongside unique images.
Whether you have one main website or lots of separate sites, franchise websites have to have a degree of consistency and standardisation. Images, logos, and a consistent design incorporating the same colour scheme, font and layout, can be used throughout to reinforce a brands consistency but pages can and should be personalised where possible to avoid duplicate content.