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How Google’s Latest Updates Affect Franchise Websites

Big changes are coming for mobile users as Google prepares to unveil new algorithm. Take stock of your website and be prepared.

By Chris Marentis

 

Want to get the most out of your website? All businesses should put special emphasis on overall user experience to get the best results from their web presence. Google’s announcement of its latest algorithm update reflects the company’s desire to provide a great mobile experience to users conducting searches on mobile devices. If you’re not mobile-responsive, it’s time to catch the wave.

What’s the Target?

One of the latest updates focuses on what are referred to as “doorway” pages. These are landing pages that are built predominantly as gateways to a site, often for SEO purposes. A business may create multiple pages that are virtually identical except for location or city names, for example. When visitors land on these pages, they are redirected to the main site.

What’s the Problem?

Franchise operations have good reason to create microsites for different locations or service area pages with minimal unique content. It’s an efficient way to create geographically-specific sites for what is essentially a fusion of franchise location and brand.

However, other single-location businesses have no business (other than trying to outsmart Google) creating this kind of structure. Yet this is precisely what has been happening. From a user perspective, it is all too common to click on a link from a search result page and find it is not what you are looking for. That’s not so bad, but then when you return to the search page and click the next link in the list and are taken to the same site, you have reason to be frustrated. This is what Google wants to stop.

Identifying Doorway Pages

If you are not sure if a particular page could be considered a doorway page, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of this page?

If the reason for a page’s existence is to capture visitors via search and funnel them to another page or site, it is a doorway.

  • Do ranking terms match the page’s content?

Doorway pages often use generic “catch-all” terms designed to boost their search rankings, but then have very specific content on the actual page. This discrepancy is a sure doorway flag.

  • Does the page have logical, unique content?

A page with only a different city or service area listed and no other unique content will be flagged as a doorway.

Similarly, local directory sites with geo-search engine results pages can fall into the doorway category.

What Should Franchises Do?

Before you start to panic and think that you will be forced to create completely unique sites for every franchise location, let’s take a closer look. First, while your franchise can make a case for a microsite setup, there is no reason you should use the kitchen sink approach to your ranking terms only to get more click-throughs. Every ranking term for every page should match the content on that page. If that is not the case for your site, you have your marching orders here.

Next, it’s time to examine your backlink profile. Local pages for individual franchise locations should have minimal external backlinks and a predominance of internal links to the main site. Pages that have this reversed are all but sure to be adversely affected by the update—and well they should.

Another strategy to consider would be to eliminate individual location pages and create a consolidated locations page that lists all service areas. This approach should include a complete NAP and schema markup as well.

Be On Alert

While much is yet unknown about the latest update, including the name, one thing is sure—big changes are a-comin’. Take stock of your site and your rationale, and be prepared for the journey ahead.

Chris Marentis is founder and CEO of Surefire Social. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.

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