Quality Content is Important in the Battle For Search Rank
Digital marketing and SEO take time and effort, but the rewards can be substantial.
By Austin Fiascone
Earlier this year, Google announced that it had released and begun to implement a new version of its search filter. Panda 4.0 is the latest version of the algorithm of the same name that Google first implemented in early 2011 to provide users with higher quality websites in searches based on a website’s content. Panda’s goal is to push sites that Google deems high quality to the top of searches while sites with more static and lower quality content will suffer and not be shown in the top rankings.
Panda 4.0 is Google’s newest shot directed at websites with poor content. Gone are the days where websites with duplicate copy, replicated keywords and static images appear high in Google searches. This shift toward rewarding sites with higher quality content is logical for Google given its objective is to provide users who are searching specific key words with what it deems to be the best sites to satisfy the user’s query.
Assessing Site Value
Google Webmaster blog offered a series of criteria it uses to assess whether a site is of high or low value. Within this list are some important items of note for franchises, many of which deal with the penalties in search rank a site can acquire by having duplicate content on its website. Additionally, Google is now paying attention to “whether the content on the site is mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care.” More importantly, Panda 4.0 has now put an emphasis on keeping the content on your website fresh while it competes with other websites related to your industry.
Content is King
So what does this all mean for a franchisor? Moving forward, it means that content is king and the more original content you can showcase on your website, for both consumer and franchise recruiting purposes, the more successful you will be when fighting for page rank.
Keeping content original can be a challenge when dealing with any business that has multiple locations. Franchises are inherently meant to have their processes replicated, which does not translate well on the Web in terms of search rank. As a franchisor, you shouldn’t view this challenge as negative, but more as an opportunity to distinguish your locations and spotlight your individual franchises, leading to a unique higher visibility both for the franchise recruiting efforts and marketing at a local level.
Maintain Your Brand and Strong SEO Campaigns
In the wake of Panda 4.0, TopFire Media has developed strategies that allow a franchise to maintain its brand message on the Web, while still facilitating strong search engine optimization campaigns. For a franchise, increased Google page rankings start with how you structure your website.
We recommend always separating your consumer- or business-facing website from your franchise-recruiting website. This solves a couple of problems that Panda 4.0 poses for franchises. First, it allows you to develop two different sets of original keyword-rich content in two different places that relate to your company. Second, a separate franchise recruiting website with its own individual SEO campaign will typically lead to higher quality traffic coming to the website since its search rank will be tied directly to the franchise-rich content. This means that organic visitors to your franchise recruiting site will be those who generally have a better understanding of the franchise world and are more interested in the franchise opportunity.
So how do you keep your website’s content fresh? It would be a hassle to continuously rewrite all of the content on your website to keep it fresh and new. To combat this, we recommend that a blog be incorporated on your site. A blog will not only keep content fresh, but offers another space to add keyword-rich content. Blogging is also a great way to get your franchisees involved in the marketing process and can be leveraged as a promotional tool.
The blogs should be added at minimum twice a month, optimally one a week. The blogs provide an opportunity to share the unique selling proposition of your brand or franchise, talk about brand values, focus on trends in your industry, share community or charitable involvement or spotlight individual franchisees or locations.
To really take advantage of the new Panda 4.0 algorithm, franchises can go a step further and utilize each location to make separate micro sites for each franchise. While these micro sites will have some of the same content, they can host lots of original content related to the location and community. These micro sites will not only add to the SEO value of your entire site, but will allow each franchisee’s location to have its own Web presence that will provide a significant boost when a location is used in a search.
Using geo-specific targeting in your SEO campaigns can also give your website a giant step up in search rank. While the more general keywords that are associated with your business might be highly competitive, when you couple those keywords with a location, your website has a much better chance of rising significantly higher in a given search.
Finally, for franchises that sell a tangible consumer product, it is important that your website renders on a mobile device. With more searches initiating from mobile devices every year, more of your consumers will be searching for your services from their phones and tablets. If your site is not mobile compatible, even the best SEO will not help drive business. Responsive website designs are a great solution. With such, the desktop version of your website, with all of its rich content and accurate information, will automatically resize to fit the screen dimensions of the device being used. This eliminates the need to develop an app or a completely separate mobile website, saving both time and money.
Google is notorious for changing the way it indexes websites, but it seems the trend of higher quality, original content driving search rank is here to stay. The habit of copying and pasting basic sales pitches onto a website is no longer a viable strategy. Digital marketing and SEO take time and effort, but the rewards can be substantial. Be original and keep your content fresh, and Google will reward you with a better search ranking and more traffic.
Austin Fiascone is a digital marketing manager at Homewood, Ill.-based TopFire Media, a digital marketing agency. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.