Hello and welcome to the second installment of Large-scale Local Search! This series is dedicated to helping large businesses and franchises tackle the world of local SEO.
The first installment, “How to Best Tackle Local SEO as a Large Business or Franchise Business”, was an overview of the topic in general and included the top five issues businesses / franchises often face when looking to scale up. their local SEO efforts, plus five tips on how to improve them. Here is an update of these key challenges:
- A lack of understanding of where their marketing dollars can be most impactful in terms of local SEO (this is what we are addressing today)
- A lack of communication between all parties involved in each location or branch
- Too many involved decision makers can stop the approval process
- The difficulty of deciding who should actually do the job
- The difficulty of making sure the plan is executed in all locations
Moving forward, each episode will look at one of the problems or suggestions and delve into that particular problem. Today, let’s take a look at why these large organizations seem to have a fundamental challenge in understanding why investing (smartly) in local SEO is so important.
Great Solution = Great Reunion
Franchises and businesses often use their size to their advantage. They have larger budgets than independent operations and will often flex those financial muscles to stifle the competition when it comes to digital marketing.
They also have larger staff, which means there’s a good chance they have a roster of capable and talented people to help get the job done. But larger staff have a problem that underlies this problem of not knowing where to spend: Larger organizations have a harder time getting all stakeholders to the same room, meeting, and page.
Let’s say you own a single independent retail clothing store and want to start a marketing campaign. You probably just need to have yourself and a few other people in this initial meeting to decide on the best strategy (probably just the store manager and the person running your digital advertising).
Now, imagine running a retail clothing chain with dozens of locations in the western United States. You must have all the C-level executives, directors, managers, social media team, your pay-per-click (PPC) team, your SEO team, and every store owner / affiliate in this initial meeting together in so you can jointly determine what your KPIs will be and who is responsible for what. This is easier said than done.
And speaking of KPIs …
The difficulty of proving local SEO ROI
Earlier we mentioned the typically high budgets that businesses and franchises deal with. And while digital advertising has changed a lot over the years, PPC is still king. In fact, according to research from Social Media Today, PPC spend hit 11 figures for the first time in 2017 with just over $ 10 billion invested … and has only grown since. According to Statista, research advertising spending is expected to amount to US $ 164.6 billion worldwide in 2022.
When it comes to marketing spending, large organizations tend to be in love with PPC because it’s relatively easy to determine ROI in a short period of time. The CFO can approve an spend of X dollar amount, which refers to the Y amount of clicks, which in turn leads to a Z amount of higher conversions possible online. It’s cut and dry, and you can see the full results of a 30-day campaign just a few days after it’s over.
But while you can judge the ROI of that PPC campaign from a global perspective, it’s much harder to quantify locally. Big businesses are known for throwing a lot of money into a PPC campaign, watching the metrics rise, and get it over with.
But for many brick-and-mortar businesses and franchises, what they want to see the most, the biggest KPI, after an investment in local SEO, is an increase in pedestrian traffic to individual locations. Which makes sense, right? After all, more foot traffic in stores leads to more sales.
But how does an effective PPC campaign translate into footfall? Often times, it’s a difficult task to match the two as footfall teams in many large companies don’t work hand in hand with the online team. While there may actually be a person or even a team measuring foot traffic and comparing it to in-store sales, it can be difficult to track the increase or decrease in traffic relative to whatever you’re doing online.
The real challenge for any brick-and-mortar store is measuring foot traffic versus conversions. What KPIs should we consider, then, to determine if a local SEO campaign is effective? Let’s examine.
Assess the success of local SEO
Of course, this can be quite a challenging process. There are many guides out there that will offer competing metrics to gauge the success of your local SEO efforts, but here are the ones that are really worth honing on.
Phone calls from the Google company profile
While not available to all businesses, call tracking from Google Business Profile (GBP) is an excellent way to see how your local SEO efforts are progressing. There are many great additional features, but the main one is that you will be able to collect the days and peak times that your customers use the “Call” button directly from Google search.
An alternative to Google’s call tracking is to get a number with a provider such as Call Rail or Call Tracking Metrics.
Overall impressions in GBP and website clicks
The GBP for each individual franchise or position is likely the first stop for any customer looking locally for the goods or services the company offers, and the information Google offers to profile managers is invaluable.
In the Google business profiles of your locations, you can compare the number of people who found your page by searching directly for the business with general searches for a category, product or service. You can track how many people are requesting directions and see which is a better traffic generator – people who find your ad on Google Search versus Google Maps.
Impressions on the photos
According to Google, businesses or locations that have good quality, regularly updated photos see a 42% increase in requests for directions. There is nothing to sneeze! People requesting directions from a local search are extremely likely to walk into the business, especially if you keep accurate opening and closing times on your GBP.
Finding a quick and easy way to regularly upload photos to your GBP can go a long way in increasing your local SEO presence and giving your prospects a better idea of what to expect from your business and what’s new.
Get the Buy-in
So we’ve established that the preferred method for a digital marketing campaign (massive PPC spend) isn’t necessarily the most effective path for businesses and franchises to see a local SEO boost. We also highlighted how a dedicated effort to optimize every single GBP can make an appreciable difference (here are some helpful tips from Google on how to do it).
With that in mind, it should be easy for businesses to focus on local locations, direct people to do the key things to optimize each GBP, and watch the increase in impressions, directions and foot traffic … right?
Hey, not that much.
Returning to the first point, it is about communication. Again, this is all the more difficult the larger and more cumbersome the undertaking. Let’s take a look at how complex something like the marketing budget can be for a company that has numerous franchises.
More positions, more complexity
Some franchisors have a marketing budget that each individual franchisee can use. Some don’t. Some franchisors will allow each individual franchisee to do essentially what they want on the marketing front (as long as it’s with approved suppliers). Others don’t.
At the end of the day, most franchisors want franchisees to invest more in local marketing efforts so they can make more money and pass it back in the chain to the franchisor. But when the affiliate is in charge of marketing, they often don’t have the time (they’re busy running the business) or the inclination (few affiliates have significant experience in local SEO or digital marketing) and will often let their eyelid drop. of the road.
Even if the franchisor and the franchisee can agree on a division of labor, so to speak, there is likely to be a lack of consensus from top management at the company level. One of the main reasons why larger companies love PPC is that it is an almost instant gratification level. Proving local SEO spending is much more challenging and time-consuming to build.
Here is a quick example
I was talking to a very large franchisor in the HVAC industry who had several locations with non-compliant and suspended GBP. Thankfully, my team and I were able to restore both franchise locations in less than two weeks – this was particularly appreciated by the franchisor as they had been trying for over three months to do the same but with no luck.
The conversation naturally continued on how we could help them get all their (well over 100) GBP in compliance, optimized and with a plan in place to deal with future suspensions. However, when it came time to make the decision, both the CFO and the marketing director (who wasn’t even working on anything digital) rejected the plan, stating that it was it’s worth the risk affiliates not to comply if it meant they had to divert funds from their PPC campaigns.
You can probably guess what happened next: three months later, 33% of their GBP profiles were suspended again.
To help businesses and franchisors understand the value of investing in local SEO, the most valuable thing you can do is make sure everyone agrees.
Not to sound like a broken record, but you’d be surprised how hard it can be for larger organizations.
It’s critical because all parties involved (directors, managers, franchisors, franchisees, CFOs, etc.) need to understand what’s going on. They need to understand the KPIs that will move the needle and they need to understand that it may take some time to see the ROI.
But if you can put some effort and time in, everyone will be happy when the number of visitors increases, conversions increase, and impressions in GBP regularly increase.
Next on Large Scale Local Search: How to deal with poor communication between offices or branches