Overcoming Duplicate Content on Franchise Sites
A small business owner in the Indianapolis area recently came to me wanting help in getting his site to appear more often in Google search results. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a common request from many small businesses and there are some straight-forward steps one can take to improve the SEO for their site, with fresh content and unique content being top priorities. But this client was different. This client was a franchisee and their site was furnished by the franchise and contained the same content as every other franchisee’s site out there. So what was this franchisee to do in order to break from the pack of duplicates and improve their SEO?
When I first checked out the client’s site, I did a quick check on Google where I grabbed a couple lines of copy from the site and searched for it on Google with the lines being in parentheses. This quickly showed me that the same lines of copy were appearing in over 400 other sites. The first thing I would recommend a client do is to rewrite every page with unique copy but in most cases with franchises, as was this one, the franchise doesn’t want you to change or switch up the copy. This makes sense since the franchise probably spent lots of money paying a marketing firm to come up with just the right copy for their brand strategy. So if you can change the copy and content and make it unique to your business, do it as it will help your site greatly with its SEO. So what’s the next step if you can’t rewrite the copy?
If you can’t change the duplicate content that you find on the home page and the services pages and other duplicate pages, you may find there are some pages where the franchise will allow you to add unique content which will help with SEO. In this client’s situation, the franchise had a testimonial section, a before/after section and a blog section where each franchisee could add their own content as long as they followed certain brand rules. In taking a look at the client’s site as well as the other franchisees in the area, I noticed some took advantage of the easier sections like testimonials and before/after pictures but none of them took advantage of the blog section. This was my client’s opportunity to stand out from the rest of the franchisees and to increase SEO to help them rank for the services they offer. By writing blog posts on a regular basis talking about the services they offer and what areas of town they service as well as educational and best practices blog posts, my client can slowly but surely start to rank higher in search results and eventually with continued focus be able to show up on page one of Google search results for the keywords that they are targeting.
If you are unable to change any of the duplicate content on your site, you may not be completely penalized by Google for duplicate content. Google has stated that they have an understanding of franchises’ duplicate content issue and are a little more lenient with their sites. With most franchises serving a certain area, their sites are optimized to show up when users search for their services or products in the specific areas. With that said, it is important to make sure that your contact information like the businesses address is on the site somewhere. You also want to make sure you submit your business to Google Business and associate your site’s URL to your business. This will help Google to know where your business is and be able to serve up your site when users in that area search for you.
There are other options to consider in getting your site to appear in Google searches. The easiest but most expensive way is to pay Google for your site to appear in one of the first 4 spots on the search results page with Google Adwords. These are CPC or Cost Per Click ads which means that you pay Google every time someone clicks on your ads. This can be really good ROI or terrible ROI for a business depending on competition in your area and the popularity of the keywords you want to be listed for. By spending some time researching the best keywords and best areas of town to advertise using tools like Google Keyword Planner, you can get some great results with Google Adwords. And Google Adwords isn’t the only CPC ad network that you can use. There is Bing Ads, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other ad networks out there. I recommend doing some research on your demographic to find out the best ad channels to use to target them before jumping into any of them.
Another option that I would look into is social media marketing. Whether you are a B2B or B2C business, your customers and clients are most likely on social media in some capacity. You can participate in the social media channels that they are active in and contribute to the conversations they are having. While social media marketing primarily costs just time, you can promote your social media content and advertise on most of the social media channels. I would personally start out by joining the channels where your demo is, add content to the channels, follow and interact with your demo on the channels, and build up a community before spending too much on advertising on the channels. If you add helpful and educational content, your followers will think of you when they need a service or product that you provide. Or they may refer your business to a friend as you have gained their trust by being a part of the community and not an outsider advertising to the community.
So whether you can remove duplicate content or you have to live with it, there are many options to overcome it and help your business show up in searches and elsewhere. Some options are easier, some are cheaper, but they all will help grow your small business and increase sales online via your business’s site and its social media pages.