While a separate web page for each location might be the best way for franchisees to compete locally, chances are that each offers similar or identical products and services with few distinctions between locations. There has been a lot of buzz in the SEO world about duplicate content causing problems for websites. How are franchises affected by this and what can they do about it?
Consistency vs. Originality
Consistent branding is essential for franchise marketing because the power behind the brand is what drives the success of the individual franchisee. Each franchisee must be able to present a uniform voice and experience to the customer to give them the best experience. In an attempt to achieve this consistent branding, many franchisees have web pages with identical content, and that is where the problems and worries start to crop up.
When Google and other search engines come across multiple instances of the same content, they have a few decisions to make. First, is the content duplicated in a malicious way in an attempt to game the system? If not, which of the pages is the “real” page? In other words, which page should it serve up to its users in a list of search results? If the answer is not clear, the page that is displayed may not be the one you want it to be. Or, worse, all of the content is passed over, and your competitors are served up instead.
Dealing with Duplicate Content
First, and most importantly to franchisees, there are many good reasons why some web pages would have identical content from page to page. Consider, for example, a boilerplate legal disclaimer across an attorney’s website. Google is not going to automatically drop every attorney with a disclaimer or it may not have very many attorneys left. If your web pages have a certain amount of templated content, it is not going to be an automatic penalty.
According to Google’s Matt Cutts, unless the duplicated content is “spammy or keyword stuffing,” then Google is not going to pay attention to the content. Instead, it will consider the part of the content that adds value. The trouble with franchisee web pages is that the duplicate content can sometimes look spammy because it is usually the part of the content that contains keywords and other search engine signals.
Solving the Problem
So, how can each independent franchisee have both unique content and consistent branding? For starters, it is okay to use a consistent design across each of the websites or web pages. Using the same layout, color scheme, fonts, and logos are a great way to achieve a consistent feel so visitors to each site or page know they are visiting pages of the same brand.
Second, for each product or service that a franchise offers to a local market, the product page must be highly tailored to that location. That will begin to send the right cues to the search engines that the pages are not duplicates (while giving the page a natural boost in local search results, too). To get the best results, each franchise’s product and services pages should also have unique product descriptions and other content.
Collaborative Project Management
Even with the focus being placed on unique content across the board, it is still possible to maintain a collaborative project management environment when managing franchise websites to maintain consistent messaging and branding. Tailoring each franchise’s website to the specific location is the essential step to separating duplicate content. By adding local value and unique content, each franchisee can benefit from the power of the brand without being dragged down by duplication.
Robin K‘s favorite industries to write about include real estate, marketing, and green living. She enjoys long walks, Oxford commas, and hot coffee.