What Is the Best Way to Build and Manage Websites for Franchises?
In 2019, the value of websites for franchises is tacit.
What’s less clear is how best to build and manage websites for franchises.
Franchisors have several options. They can:
- Give franchisees free reign, allowing them to build and manage their sites without any specific guidelines in place;
- Let franchisees establish websites individually, but use templates, guidelines, and corporate copy to unify their appearance and content;
- Build and maintain websites for all locations on their own.
Let’s review some of the advantages and disadvantages of each:
1) Independent Websites for Franchises
The laissez-faire approach is simple: give franchisees absolutely no guidelines, and let them fend for themselves.
As the description suggests, this is the least attractive option of the three for a number of reasons, including:
- The independent approach makes SEO and search visibility an uphill battle. Different locations compete with one another, even when the user conducts specific brand name searches. Moreover, you miss out on all the collective ranking power that a franchise-wide powerhouse site provides.
- The independent approach muddles your brand message. With no guidelines to unify the messages being broadcast by various franchisee websites, your brand message gets diluted. In extreme cases, brand messages can conflict.
- The independent approach puts trade secrets at risk. In the past, franchisees have inadvertently leaked trade secrets via unregulated website content that was meant to read as a value proposition. The risk of this grievous error multiplies when multiple unregulated websites are pressured to publish regular content.
While there’s always a chance that everything goes right with the laissez-faire approach, the time saved on oversight simply isn’t worth the risk of damaging your brand and SEO visibility. Option #1 is certainly not recommended.
2) Independent Websites Created Using Templates and Guidelines
This approach is far superior to option #1 because it offers all the time-savings with only a fraction of the risk. Franchise owners are not burdened with overseeing the production of websites for franchises, franchisees get a bit of creative freedom, and the templates keep everyone on the same page.
Unfortunately, since the franchisee is still responsible for developing and maintaining their site, this approach doesn’t solve all your problems.
With option #2, the franchisor still needs to address the following issues:
- Template sites still require oversight. Even the best templates need to be tweaked to fit the individual, which leaves plenty of room for human error. What’s more, copy-and-pasted templates actually get punished by Google’s anti-duplicate algorithms, so the franchisee will still need to write some of their own content. So while templates will save you time, they don’t completely cut out your site management duties.
- Template sites leave room for brand inconsistencies. Like we said, even the best templates need to be properly installed and integrated. Even something as small as using different fonts or heading colors can hurt your brand consistency.
- Website oversight can strain the business relationship. Nobody likes to be micromanaged. But when you give the franchisee the freedom to build and maintain their own website, you’ll invariably have to request changes and keep them in check. Over time, these negotiations over site content can be tiresome for both parties.
- Template sites can still compete with one another. Without proper coordination, websites for franchises can compete with each other and confuse searchers, even when they’re built off the same templates.
3) Build and Maintain All Websites for Franchises Yourself
The advantages of this approach are too many too name. It guarantees consistency in appearance and brand message; ensures trade secrets are protected; boosts SEO performance via collective page power and coordinated campaigns; consumer feedback to the system can be facilitated, and so much more.
The main drawbacks, of course, are time. There are better things for you to be doing as franchisor than overseeing websites.
ClickTecs can help. Make the big decisions and let us handle the web wizardry. We specialize in SEO and building/maintaining websites for franchises. Call 905-564-0020 for a free consultation with our team.