Will Google's Algorithm Update Affect Your Franchise Sales?
More and more, would-be entrepreneurs are using smartphones to study and reach out to franchises at a rising rate. Consider the Landmark Interactive study analyzing 139 franchisors and about 36,000 units for the year ended August 2014.
According to that study, the percentage of prospective franchisees using smartphones to research and contact franchise opportunities online nearly doubled, to 42 percent, up from 23 percent.
Along the way, many of these mobile prospects likely used smartphones to view these franchise recruitment websites. Franchisors also likely received new lead opportunities thanks to being highly positioned in Google’s organic or “natural” search results for lucrative, nonbranded search queries.
Jersey Mike’s Subs, for instance, has likely acquired new franchisees in part because its franchise information site ranks within Google’s top five organic positions. These positions result from competitive, nonbranded search queries such as “sub sandwich franchise opportunities” and “sub sandwich franchises.”
Clearly the first takeaway is that because more people are using smartphones to research franchise opportunities, franchisors should offer excellent mobile-friendly information websites, set up for optimal viewing experiences from desktop computers, tablets and smartphones alike.
The second takeaway is that this month -- April -- such sites are more important than ever. The reason: Google's new search algorithm update.
What the Google update entails
In February, Google stated that it would be expanding mobile-friendly factors as ranking signals in its mobile search algorithm. In early March, a Google representative stated that this algorithm update would have a larger impact on the company's search results than two of its previous, more well-known updates, Google Penguin and Google Panda.
The lesson here is that if franchises don’t have mobile-friendly franchise-information websites when Google’s update launches, their sites' organic rankings on lucrative, nonbranded search queries are more likely to drop. In situations where a franchise recruitment site's ranking drops from number two to number eight on key mobile-search queries, the result will be a decline in quality traffic to the site.
So, the question is, how many franchisors have prepared their sites for Google’s algorithm update?
The current sorry state of franchise information sites
According to a Process Peak study discussed during the 2015 International Franchise Association Convention, 83 percent of franchises do not have mobile-friendly franchise information sites.
This means that the vast majority of franchises are not equipped for Google’s impending mobile-search ranking algorithm update. Those that are will improve their chances of receiving more, quality-lead opportunities thanks to their web presence. Those that aren't prepared stand to see a decline.
Evaluating your own situation
What can you do to determine how this mobile search algorithm update will affect your franchise sales?
To get started, use this Google Mobile-friendly test to see if your site is mobile friendly.
Log in to your franchise information site’s Google Analytics account and see how much traffic has visited your website from mobile devices over the last year or two.
Determine where your site currently ranks, organically, on key search queries that are likely being performed by people searching online for the type of franchise opportunity you provide. Some search queries should be pretty intuitive (example: “fondue franchises” for The Melting Pot). For additional options you can utilize Google’s Keyword Planner Tool.
Think about your target audience. Millennials? People in their 50s? People who are Internet-savvy?
Review any information that provides data on the origins of your franchise sales. Try to figure out the number of current franchisees who: 1) used a mobile device to visit different franchise information websites during their research process; and 2) originally found your site thanks to a high organic ranking on a nonbranded search query.
As an example of factors to consider, compare two franchise concepts that currently lack mobile-friendly information sites.
Its ideal candidate is someone between the ages of 45 and 65 with a military background.
Its franchise information website currently ranks on page five or below on key search queries.
Some 3 percent of its recruitment website’s traffic is coming from mobile devices.
A majority of its franchise sales have been the result of franchise brokers and trade shows.
I wouldn’t expect a meaningful impact, positive or negative, for Concept A’s franchise sales from this algorithm update.
Its ideal candidate is someone between the ages of 35 and 50 with a background in the hair salon industry.
Its franchise information site ranks within the top four organic positions for several lucrative search queries.
Some 35 percent of its information website’s traffic is coming from mobile devices.
A majority of its franchise buyers originally contacted the brand via the web.
This algorithm update might result in Concept B missing out on quality-lead opportunities this year and beyond; the company should consider implementing a mobile-friendly franchise information website. A great place for Concept B, or any franchise to start this process is Google's Webmaster Tools Help site.
People are increasingly using mobile devices to research franchise concepts, and Google’s search algorithm will soon favor mobile-friendly websites. If your franchise information website is not mobile-friendly, you may be hindering your ability to generate franchise sales.
In a marketplace where every new sale is an important deal for everyone involved, it’s worth franchisors' effort to review their web properties and determine how the update may affect their specific situation.