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A house divided cannot fall, or Honest Abe’s take on websites


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Mark Siebert

llustration by Jonathan Hankin

If you’ll forgive me, I’m going to blatantly misquote one of our most storied presidents, Abraham Lincoln, for the sake of this column.

In 1858, Lincoln famously told more than 1,000 delegates attending the Illinois Republican State Convention that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln borrows that quote from the Bible, but still today, it’s a common phrase that remains applicable to so situations.

For our purposes, though, I propose the opposite: When it comes to whether franchisors should separate their franchise website from a consumer-facing site, a house divided is a good, even important thing. While it may seem counterintuitive, when it comes to the web, a united house is weaker.  

Building a second site—with a separate URL containing the “franchise” keyword and specifically targeting a franchise candidate—is much more effective than simply adding a franchise page (or several) to your existing site. It helps boost your franchise SEO efforts, improves pay-per-click returns, and organizes your messages for an audience of franchisee prospects.

According to web analytics firm Chartbeat, the average reader only spends 15 seconds on a website before deciding whether to leave or stay to find out more. If you want to convert website visitors to franchise sales leads, you’d better make sure your content strategy is not serving competing audiences.

Emancipate your website

When you create a distinct franchise site, you’re setting it free from the shackles of your consumer site. Logistically, you won’t simply be adding one “franchise” page to your site, but an array of pages highlighting distinct facets of your franchise offer. Those may, and probably should, include a page introducing the brand, a page detailing the franchise program, a page compelling the viewer to submit contact information, and more.

Put that all on a single franchise page located on your brand’s consumer-facing website, and your bounce rate will climb higher than a stovepipe hat.

Of course, you could put all of those pages on your existing consumer-facing site, right? True enough. But a separate franchise site also allows you to liberate your franchise message from your consumer message, allowing you to use specific search engine optimization techniques to target your franchise audience (and Google) more effectively.

Imagine, for a moment, that a searcher Googles “widget franchise” in the hopes of identifying a great business opportunity.  Remember, when Google applies its algorithm to your website, it is looking to deliver a search result that most closely delivers the content the searcher has requested.  And, a site that delivers two messages (the benefits of widgets and the benefits of a widget franchise) will be seen as less focused on the searcher’s needs than a single site that is laser-focused on the widget franchise message.    The reverse is true for your consumer site.

Think of it from a messaging standpoint.  As a franchisor, your underlying message will be “you can make a lot of money selling widgets.”  But will your consumer be more motivated to buy if they know how high your margins are?  

One of the basic tenets of good SEO is to write your website copy based on both high-ranking search terms and the specific message you want to deliver to your audience. As you may imagine, the terms on a franchise-focused site should be different than the terms that would be relevant to your consumer site.

Fooling Google some of the time

SEO is about much more than messaging and content these days.  Some of the biggest factors influencing search rankings include backlinks, social media signals and coding. And again, the separation of church and state will have substantial benefits.  

With a separate franchise site, backlinks can effectively be optimized. Links from franchise portals, business publications, franchise-related press releases or other sites referencing franchise-specific content can be directed to the franchise site—sending a message to Google that the franchise site is particularly relevant to those who value business- or franchise-related content.

But while the separate but equal doctrine will work when it comes to backlinks, franchisors will want to reconsider when it comes to social media, which has a profound impact on SEO. Since social media typically gets the most engagement from consumers, the creation of competing social media pages (one focused on consumers and the other focused on franchising) would diminish the performance of both the consumer-facing and the franchise-facing website. Instead, the savvy franchisor will create a singular social media presence which will point to both the franchise and consumer-facing websites—thereby optimizing both.

One of the most effective pillars of a strong franchise lead generation strategy, especially with a newly launched site vying for traffic, is the use of pay-per-click advertising. And while Google’s algorithm for serving PPC ads relies most heavily on the amount of the advertiser’s bid and the keywords chosen, it is important to note that Google also incorporates a “quality score” into its ranking system.  

Incorporating factors such as your URL, click-through-rate and the text of your ad—your quality score will influence both what you pay for a PPC ad and where on the page it is served.  

Sharpening the axe

In a nod to proper preparation, Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  The importance of taking the time to craft the best possible stand-alone franchise recruiting website cannot be understated. If your website does not contain the messaging and professionalism required to convince someone your concept is worthy of a sizable investment and complete lifestyle change, your franchise marketing will suffer.   

While keeping everything under one roof is certainly easier and less expensive, a divided message provides a better foundation upon which to build.

Mark Siebert is CEO of consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or info@ifranchisegroup.com. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”

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