Making effective use of on-line marketing can give your franchise business a competitive advantage in your local market.

Jason Decker is a Local Search Specialist at SmartSearch Marketing.  He contributed the following article to Search Engine

Local search marketing is a complicated system. Standard SEO techniques such as keyword-rich content, well-optimized meta tags and a strong backlink profile are always important. For multi-location franchises, add the complications of Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) accuracy, maintenance and distribution of local business listings, proactive management of Google My Business data and citation development, and you have a real challenge, especially for large franchises in competitive markets.

This article addresses three significant opportunities that are often overlooked by digital franchise marketers.

1. Proactively manage local business listing data

Possibly the biggest challenge in local search is keeping your local business data accurate and consistent across the web. With Google and various directories frequently making automatic updates, proactive review and management are a must. To do so, franchise marketers must start with an accurate list or database of NAP, hours of operation and other critical business data for every location.

In the United States, there are four major data aggregators across which it’s very important to ensure data accuracy and consistency: Localeze, Infogroup, Acxiom andFactual. You must frequently review your local business listings on these sites and eliminate duplicates and data inaccuracies.

For the tall task of monitoring a business with many locations, I highly recommend using a tool to streamline the process of finding missing or inaccurate citations. A few of my favorite tools are Bright Local, SweetIQ and Whitespark Citation Finder.

Proactive management of business data is an opportunity that many franchises miss. Due to the complex systems, the large volume of work associated with managing multiple locations and frequent market changes, many franchises don’t allocate sufficient time and energy to local listings.

2. Create individual local business pages with unique content

Every multi-location business and franchise should have a location finder integrated into its website. Where many franchises miss the mark is in the results displayed for these location searches. Often the search results are not indexable by search engines (missing a huge local SEO opportunity) and only offer very basic information that isn’t a ton of help to the potential customer.

Each business location should have its own indexable webpage with important local information like name, address, phone number, hours of operation, a Google Map of the business and customized content.

Local content on each of these pages should be unique. Too many businesses use the same copy on every page with only the business location being different. Franchises have a huge opportunity to make sure that each one of these local store pages offers unique content about the store’s location, neighborhood, nearby landmarks, parking and anything else that makes this location unique. An image of the front of the store is also very helpful to potential customers.

3. Implement a review monitoring & response strategy

Another very important digital marketing strategy many franchises ignore is reputation and review management. The days of calling a business to complain are long past. Today, people often share their frustration (or praise) via local business listings.

It’s important for multi-location businesses to proactively monitor reviews for all locations and respond to reviews — especially negative ones. On Yelp and Google My Business, a star rating is now displayed in the knowledge graph located in the upper right of the SERP when people enter a branded search for a specific local business.

Again, third-party tools are very helpful when managing reviews for many locations. Bright Local and SweetIQ have great platforms for review monitoring. It’s also important to have a solid strategy for bringing in new, positive reviews via local business directories. Start by selecting a handful of the most important directories for your business, and then expand. Google My Business is always a great place to start.

Create a competitive advantage

Many franchises are not doing these three things:

  1. Proactively managing all of their local business listings
  2. Creating individual location pages with unique content
  3. Managing customer reviews

And that means that those multi-location businesses that are willing to do the work can achieve a real competitive advantage.

Stay on top of these important items as frequently as possible because changes, problems and updates are inevitable. For large franchises, I recommend utilizing third-party tools to manage the volume of individual business location data.

Best of luck to multi-location marketers. You may not win every battle, but implementing these three suggestions will give you a great start on winning the local marketing war.