Promoting a multi-location business online means competing in many domains – and there are many variables you need to take into account.
Local SEO offers a versatile toolset for businesses of any industry, size, and model. Franchises and enterprises benefit greatly from local SEO – see our guide on that here.
However, it’s not all about the conventional local SEO tactics that most businesses are aware of. There is an aspect of local marketing that’s extremely important for multi-location businesses: branding.
Branding is rarely mentioned as part of local SEO, but it can offer an edge over the competition. A proper branding strategy will help not only with conversions but with actual SEO efforts as well.
What is more important, you can miss out on a lot if you get multi-location branding wrong. Branding is hard to measure and is surrounded by misconceptions, so most multi-location businesses either do minimal branding or none of it.
This post will give you ideas on leveraging the power of branding in your local SEO strategy.
What is Branding - the Checklist
Whenever branding is mentioned most business owners think about design woo-woo and colors, but there’s a lot more to it. Branding is especially important for franchises and enterprises that need to penetrate multiple local communities.
Branding helps understand what your customers experience with you, why they do that, and what is the framework for delivering that experience to them.
There are several major aspects of branding – we’ll go through them in brief before we move to the local SEO connection:
Mission statements for brands are like platforms for political parties.
A mission statement defines the purpose and goals of all your business activities beyond just “making money”. The mission statement clearly formulates what your brand’s contribution to the world is. Why exactly does your business exist and how does it make life better?
A mission statement is a framework for marketing decision-making – cross-check your every marketing activity with your brand’s mission and understand what to do next better.
In a nutshell, core values are things that your brand does or doesn’t.
Values are necessary to inspire your employees and to synchronize their actions as those of independent decision-makers.
With clearly communicated and strongly embedded core values everyone’s actions become more coordinated and uniform. In turn, this helps engage customers better and improve brand reputation.
These values need to be authentic and realistic because they are the foundation of your company culture.
Logo, Trademarks, Tagline
This is actually the part that everyone thinks about when they hear the word “branding”.
You need to work with branding and design professionals for this – and trust their expertise.
Brand Identity - Colors, Fonts, and More
A strong brand identity makes you recognizable to both customers and partners, and that’s where the most benefits of proper branding come from.
Consistent and recognizable branding of all online properties of a franchise or an enterprise helps you engage consumers effectively. That leads to easier management of online reviews.
Similarly, if you are running an outreach campaign to build local backlinks for your multi-location business, branding can have a huge impact on your ROI. Getting backlinks is a lot easier to a consistent and professional looking brand rather than to a sloppy and inconsistent one.
Multi-Channel Branding Consistency
Consistency across every local division, every messenger, website, and every social media account – this is what proper branding is all about.
Similar tone, identity, graphics, and degree of professionalism – all of that makes all the difference in local SEO.
Are You a Strong Local Brand?
Being a strong brand as a local business means creating a unique identity that resonates with your target audience in the local community.
Each of your franchises or regional branches needs to act and feel like a local business, even if you are not only operating locally.
A strong local brand can help a business differentiate itself from competitors, build customer loyalty, and establish a positive reputation in the community.
Branding and Link Building
Trust for Links
Branding can have a positive impact on link building. A lot has been written about branding evoking trust in general – and you can apply that to local SEO campaigns.
When you align branding and social media activity you will strengthen the public perception of your brand and build trust between the brand and its target audience, which can lead to more links from authoritative websites and other sources.
And vice versa, good link building can help build a brand and establish it as an authority in its niche. If you are a recognizable multi-location brand working on local link building, you get even better ROI.
The Snowball Effect
Being a consistent brand helps you create a snowball effect where the more authority links you get the easier it is to get new ones.
You can pitch local SEO achievements of one local division of your business while promoting other branches (“content from our franchise in AREA was featured on Men’s Health”). When you give your linking partners the impression that you are a part of something larger, they feel safer linking to your website.
Another great advantage of marketing a larger multi-location business is you can pick where most of your link building efforts go.
For instance, when you run an outreach campaign trying to turn your brand’s text mentions online into links, you can decide what local websites to pitch.
Whichever location needs a local SEO boost more – can be pitched more often.
Brand Real Estate
Another great advantage that multi-location businesses have in local SEO is the amount of online “real estate” they can accumulate and use with time.
If each of your local branches or franchises has a website, several social media profiles, blogs on Medium, columns on other websites, GBP listings with posts – all of that becomes your own private network of web properties.
Interlinking your brand properties is absolutely natural and organic, businesses are expected to do that. This gives you an advantage – you can sculpt link building campaigns using only your brand’s properties and have great linking power at your disposal.
So make sure every regional entity of your business creates and develops online properties as soon as possible. You can even include the prerequisites for online presence in your brand guidelines for franchisees.
Branding and Reputation Management
Branding plays a critical role in the online reputation of your business as a whole and each individual local franchise on its own.
If you have your mission statement and core values set up properly, your company culture will naturally cause fewer reputation incidents. In this regard, proper branding will serve as a foundation for your online reputation in ways you can’t predict in advance.
Here are some of the ways branding can help manage the online reputation of multi-location businesses:
A strong brand can help a local business establish trust with potential customers.
By consistently delivering on its brand promise and values, a business can build and maintain a bulletproof reputation that will give you an army of loyal customers and evangelists.
Naturally, in times of reputation crises, these people are likely to side with you.
Make sure your franchises or regional divisions are aware of your core values, share them, and follow them in their daily operations.
Positive Customer Experience
A strong brand can help create a positive customer experience, which can lead to positive reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, and increased sales.
When branding is on point, businesses create memorable and positive experiences for their customers.
Mitigate Negative Reviews
A strong brand can help mitigate the impact of negative reviews. By responding to negative reviews in a professional and empathetic manner, a business can show its commitment to customer satisfaction and build trust with other customers.
Improve Search Engine Rankings
A strong brand can improve a local business’s search engine rankings by increasing brand awareness and attracting more links from authoritative sources.
Branding Best Practices for Franchises
There are certain best practices that help make sure your branding activities actually move your business forward and make your online presence more meaningful and impactful.
Remember, branding does not have to be confusing – here’s a set of practical tips that really move the needle:
Have Brand Guidelines for Franchisees
You need to pack your mission and core values into clear, unambiguous, and understandable brand guidelines that your franchisees need to follow to the T.
Your franchisees will be using contractors for copywriting, social media management, SEO services, and a lot more – so you need to make sure everything they do stays within the brand guidelines.
Having detailed guidelines and SOPs also helps avoid mistakes that lead to crises.
Make sure the brand guidelines are clear and actionable, without too much abstract marketing talk. Everyone in the local branches needs to be able to quickly check what needs to be done in each scenario.
Make Sure all Franchises Have Good Websites
Slow, inoperable, or even missing websites of local chapters – we see that more often than we want to.
Make sure every franchise has a functioning website with at least minimal technical and on-page SEO done to it. An impeccable mobile version is a must – see the mobile-first indexing article for more details.
Reach out to franchisees and oversee web development, or even better have a trusted contractor do all the web dev work for all of your locations.
Technical usability of all your websites is a key component of your brand consistency.
The same goes for Google Business Profiles – follow GBP best practices for franchises and make sure every listing from your brand network is well-maintained, consistent, and effective.
Monitor and Oversee
You need to always be aware of the state of things in the network of your brand’s web properties.
Use bulk rank-tracking software to monitor the health of all franchise websites. Have all of the websites added to your Google Search Console account to detect indexation errors early – and inspect rankings and impressions data.
Use local SEO software to ensure profile consistency too.
Look for convenient solutions that will give you the most data with the least amount of effort.
If you need help getting the branding of your multi-location business to work the way it should – get in touch with us and share your challenges!