Hello, and welcome to the second installment of Local Search at Scale! This series is devoted to helping large enterprises and franchises tackle the world of local SEO.
The first installment, ‘How to Best Tackle Local SEO as a Large Enterprise or Franchise Business‘, was an overview of the topic at large, and included the top five problems that enterprises/franchises often face when trying to boost their local SEO efforts, as well as five tips for how they can improve them. Here’s a refresher of those key challenges:
- A lack of understanding of where their marketing dollars can be most impactful in terms of local SEO (this is what we’re tackling today)
- A lack of communication between all involved parties at every location or branch
- Too many involved decision-makers can grind the approval process to a halt
- The difficulty of deciding who should actually do the work
- The difficulty of making sure the plan is executed across all locations
Moving forward, each installment will look at one of the problems or tips and do a deep dive into that particular issue. Today, let’s look at why these large organizations seem to have a fundamental challenge in understanding why investing (smartly) in local SEO is so important.
Big Solution = Big Meeting
Franchises and enterprises often use their size to their advantage. They have bigger budgets than independent operations and will often flex those financial muscles to drown out the competition when it comes to digital marketing.
They also have bigger staffs, which means the odds are good that they have a roster of capable and talented people to help get the job done. But bigger staffs present an issue that underlies this problem of not knowing where to spend: larger organizations have more difficulty getting all the stakeholders in the same room, in the same meeting, and on the same page.
Let’s say you own a single, independent retail clothing store and you want to start a marketing campaign. You likely only need to have yourself and a few other people in this initial meeting to decide the best strategy (probably just the store manager and the person who handles your digital advertising).
Now, imagine you operate a retail clothing chain with dozens of locations in the Western United States. You’ve got to have all the C-level executives, directors, managers, social media team, your pay-per-click (PPC) team, your SEO team, and each store owner/franchisee in this initial meeting together so you can jointly determine what your KPIs are going to be and who is responsible for what. That’s easier said than done.
And speaking of KPIs…
The Difficulty of Proving Local SEO ROI
We previously mentioned the typically large budgets that enterprises and franchises deal with. And while digital advertising has changed a lot over the years, PPC is still king. In fact, according to research from Social Media Today, PPC spending hit the 11-figure mark for the first time in 2017 with just over $10 billion invested… and it’s only been growing since then. According to Statista, in 2022 search advertising spending is expected to amount to 164.6 billion U.S. dollars worldwide.
When it comes to marketing spends, big organizations tend to be enamored with PPC because it is relatively easy to determine ROI in a quick period of time. The CFO can approve a spend of X amount of dollars, which relates to Y amount of clicks, which in turn leads to Z amount of increased possible conversions online. It’s cut and dry, and you can see the full results of a 30-day campaign just a few days after it’s over.
But while you can judge the ROI of that PPC campaign from a global perspective, it is much harder to quantify on a local level. Large enterprises are notorious for throwing a ton of money at a PPC campaign, looking at the boost in metrics, and calling it a day.
But for many brick-and-mortar enterprises and franchises, what they most want to see—the biggest KPI—after an investment in local SEO, is an increase in foot traffic to individual locations. Which makes sense, right? After all, more foot traffic in the stores leads to more sales.
But how does an effective PPC campaign translate to footfall? Often, it’s a difficult task to associate the two since the footfall teams at many large enterprises don’t work hand-in-glove with the online team. While there may indeed be a footfall person or even team measuring foot traffic and comparing that against in-store sales, it can be difficult to track the increase or decrease in footfall to anything you’re doing online.
The real difficulty for any brick-and-mortar store is measuring foot traffic to conversions. What KPIs should we be looking at, then, to determine if a local SEO campaign is effective? Let’s examine.
Evaluating Local SEO Success
Admittedly, this can be somewhat of a challenging process. There are many guides out there that will offer competing metrics for evaluating the success of your local SEO efforts, but here are the ones that are worth really honing in on.
Phone Calls from Google Business Profile
While not available to all businesses, Call Tracking from Google Business Profile (GBP) is an excellent way to see how your local SEO efforts are progressing. There are a lot of great additional features, but the main takeaway is that you’ll be able to glean peak days and times in which your customers are using the “Call” button directly from Google search.
An alternative to Google’s call tracking is to get a number with a provider like Call Rail or Call Tracking Metrics.
Overall GBP Impressions and Website Clicks
The GBP for each individual franchise or location is likely the first stop for any customer searching locally for the goods or services the business offers, and the insights Google offers profile managers are invaluable.
In your locations’ Google Business Profiles, you can compare the number of people who found your page by searching for the business directly versus general searches for a category, product, or service. You can track how many people are requesting driving directions and see what is a better generator of traffic: people who find your listing on Google Search vs. Google Maps.
Impressions on Photos
According to Google, businesses or locations that have good quality, regularly updated photos see a 42% increase in requests for driving directions. That’s nothing to sneeze at! People that are requesting directions from a local search are extremely likely to come into the business, especially if you keep accurate opening and closing hours on your GBP.
Finding a quick and easy way to regularly upload photos to your GBP can go a long way to boosting your local SEO presence, and give your potential customers a better idea of what to expect at your business and what’s new.
So we’ve established that the favorite method for a digital marketing campaign (a massive PPC spend) isn’t necessarily the most effective route for enterprises and franchises to see a local SEO boost. We’ve also highlighted how a dedicated effort to optimize each individual GBP can make an appreciable difference (here are some helpful tips from Google on how to do just that).
Considering this, it should be easy for enterprises to focus on local locations, direct people to do the key things to optimize each GBP, and watch the increase in impressions, driving directions, and foot traffic… right?
Eh, not so much.
Going back to the first point, it’s all about communication. Again, this is more difficult the larger and more unwieldy the enterprise is. Let’s look at how complex something like the marketing budget can be for a business that has numerous franchises.
More Locations, More Complexity
Some franchisors have a marketing budget that each individual franchisee can use. Some do not. Some franchisors will allow each individual franchisee to essentially do whatever they want on a marketing front (so long as it’s with approved vendors). Others do not.
At the end of the day, the majority of franchisors want franchisees to invest more in local marketing efforts so they can make more money and pass it back up the chain to the franchisor. But when the franchisee is in charge of the marketing, they often don’t have the time (they are busy running the business) nor the inclination (few franchisees have significant experience in local SEO or digital marketing) and will often let it fall by the wayside.
Even if the franchisor and franchisee can agree to a division of labor, so to speak, there is still likely going to be a lack of buy-in from the top at the corporate level. One big reason why bigger companies love PPC is that it’s a near instant level of gratification. Proving that for local SEO spends is much more challenging and takes time to build.
Here’s a quick example
I was speaking with a very large franchisor in the HVAC industry which had several locations with GBPs that were out of compliance and suspended. Thankfully, my team and I were able to get both franchise locations reinstated in less than two weeks—this was particularly appreciated by the franchisor as they had been trying for over three months to do the same but with no luck.
The conversation naturally progressed to how we could help them get all of their (well over 100) GBPs in compliance, optimized, and with a plan in place to deal with future suspensions. However, when it came time to make the decision, both the CFO and the marketing director (who wasn’t even working on anything digital) declined the plan, stating that it was worth the risk to the franchisees to be out of compliance if it meant that they had to divert funds from their PPC campaigns.
You can probably guess what happened next: three months later, 33% of their GBP profiles were again suspended.
To help enterprises and franchisors understand the value of investing in local SEO, the most valuable thing one can do is to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Not to sound like a broken record, but you’d be surprised how difficult this can be for larger organizations.
It’s critical because all involved parties (directors, managers, franchisors, franchisees, CFOs, etc.) need to understand what is going on. They need to understand the KPIs that will move the needle, and they need to understand that it may take some time to see ROI.
But if efforts can be made and the time is put in, everyone will be happy as footfall increases, conversions rise, and GBP impressions increase on a regular basis.
Next Up on Local Search at Scale: How to Tackle Poor Communication Across Locations or Branches