So Google completed a core update as of June 3, 2019. There has been a lot of things written on the subject. However, there is one thing that seems to have been overlooked so far. How does this core update change the game online for Franchise Owners and Realtors? The reason this comes up is the consolidation of sub-domains under its root. This impacts every franchise owner that has a web page tied to their national company.
So the objective was to alleviate duplicate content that was often found under the sub-domains. Take someone like planet fitness that has multiple locations with all the same info and the only deviation is the name of the franchisee (business owner)
Now teaching SEO for as many years as I have I’ve come across many franchise holders and the story is always similar. First, they are not allowed to alter the content or the info they are given to display is a cookie cutter. The contracts often prohibit the use of individualized websites, but that does not mean that the location is not an individual. As any business owner, some do it far better than others.
Some of the people I talk to are grateful that they don’t have to maintain a website. And although I appreciate their sediment, they are very short sighted in some ways. A sound general business tip would be to always make your business stand out and to do it better than anyone, especially those that represent the same franchise as you do. I see it this in business coaching. Those that are aggressive and unique come out the winner and those that just ride a coattail get lost in the flood of sameness that tends to pollute the internet at large.
In addition, there has been a long time trend of realtors that also have felt compelled to give up their own websites in lieu of using their Houston Area Realtors page (HAR). What that has done is negate the position of the local agent in the google listing. Or using the web page provided by their broker.
So when I looked for best real estate agent in Kingwood I was met with a page that does not tell me anything other than one actual agent who has taken the time and put the investment in her business and is handsomely rewarded.
Other brokerage houses like Keller Williams have issued their agents subdomains and again the waters there will be murky because they have all been sanitized to be under the main directory or only reachable from the brokerage page.
The problem with realtors that give up their sites in lieu of these subscription sites are doing nothing to set themselves apart from both the end user. Although the realtor situation is not a forced situation like a franchise owner, the net result is the same, they have been wiped off the face of Google if they have done nothing to set their business apart. The good news is that their sitution is easily fixed.
So what did Google Change Exactly?
What has changed is the use of a subdomain and how it now is consolidated as part of the root. So from Planet Fitness to Action Coach has been consolidated with a search box now present in the SERP. This makes it next to impossible for the small business owner to differentiate themselves, just like our friends that are realtors.
So what are options Franchise owners have?
For me I’m often asked what options Franchise owners have to combat this. The way to combat this problem is simple honestly. As a franchise holder in many cases the agreement precludes you from taking actions outside the agreement. And I urge you to check with an unaffiliated lawyer to confirm this will work for you. But, your ability to run a unaffiliated website or a blog site usually falls outside of your agreement. So let’s use my Planet Fitness example.
If I ran a Planet Fitness, I would be putting up an SEO friendly website about physical fitness. How to exercise; fitness programs for Seniors…programs for body builder and so on. This would allow me to build an audience of people in your area that have a common interest with your local gym. Mentioning that gym, recommending that gym should not violate your agreement nor would an ad for your own gym on the side of the website.
Much of the problem with the franchise websites from Googles point of view is that the content is duplicated thousands of times. From the Franchise sellers point of view they want consistent information and not the brand being bastardized or in some cases outlandish claims that they may be liable for. And, for the franchisee, or small business owners take what they are provided and do little else with it.
This plan to put up websites that are unique and live outside the franchise will solve this issue. It gives the business the opportunity to shine and to be an expert. It gives google unique content. And it still allows the franchise to keep its brand.