Experts Blog

Franchises Get D- in Local Search

By Mary Bowling on Aug 21, 2012 - 01:21 PM

I never ceased to be amazed at the number of big, huge, enormous brands out there that just don’t get Local Search. They tend to do okay with ranking in the results for brand names, but often fail to appear in the Local Pack for category-type searches. There is really no excuse for this since big brands usually have powerful websites that can provide considerable lift in helping all of their individual locations to rank for queries made by searchers nearby them.

Two simple questions that can reveal how well a brand is working for its franchises or in-house store operators: Are the individual locations appearing for brand name searches? And are the individual locations appearing for the company’s main product or service type searches? If the answer to both of these questions isn’t yes, they need help from someone who understands Local Search better than they do.

It’s an ugly truth, but sometimes the root of the problem is that the goals of the brand don’t really match up well with the goals of the operators. Many times what the brand is most concerned with is one or more of these factors:

  • Getting more franchisees
  • Finding new employees to manage stores
  • Attracting more investors
  • Impressing current investors
  • Massaging C-suite egos
  • Proving that it is helping the owners/operators with its online marketing



Meanwhile, the store owner/operator:

  • Wants more people to buy from her/him
  • Needs people to be able to discover their location online
  • Needs people to be able to find the store in real life
  • Needs to communicate what their phone number is, when they are open, where to park, what products and brands they carry, how to make reservations/appointments, etc.
  • Wants people to know that his/her store is one of the good ones by showing them reviews and testimonials

You can see how there might be a startling disconnect in the alignment of goals between the brand and the locations. And since the brand owns the site, the scales are almost always tipped in corporate’s favor.

To see a good example of this, let’s take a look at the results for the query car insurance with my location set as Orlando, Florida:


Progressive Insurance scores big with the top two organic spots. Those appear above the Local Pack, which is another plus. Which, if any of the agencies appearing in the Local Pack represent Progressive Insurance? Certainly, not any of the top 5 and you can’t tell about the last two from what you see in the results. But it’s obvious that the site isn’t helping any of its agents to rank locally.

Meanwhile, back in the Local Pack, Geico, State Farm, All State, Brightway and Direct all show the phone numbers and addresses of local agencies that sell their products.

If you look at the Progressive site, you quickly see that its primary purpose may be to sell insurance directly to consumers and not necessarily to promote the agents selling its products locally, although that appears to be a secondary goal. The query progressive car insurance (location setting still Orlando) pulls up 18 organic listings, all for pages, before these 3 listings appear in a Local Pack:


It’s of some interest to note that the top ranking listing is for a virtual office address and that the listing link points to Further digging, by searching for the phone number, reveals that the Maps listing is probably for a Progressive office that doesn’t exist, but that’s another story for another day.

The third listing shows us the site that is supposed to promote the Progressive agents is where searchers are prompted to find an agent using this form:


So, if you sell Progressive auto insurance, the powerful website pretty much competes with you, with a home page title page optimized for

Car Insurance: Auto Insurance & Insurance Quotes - Progressive

which doesn’t help you out at all in ranking for Local Search. Instead, corporate is helping to promote your agency with a less powerful site,, which has a home page optimized for

Insurance Agent: Independent Insurance Agent | Progressive Agent

with no mention of car insurance. It’s fairly easy to see that when it comes to online marketing, Progressive and its agents may have some conflicting goals.

This is exactly the kind of thing you need to be aware of and prepared to deal with when you are promoting a big brand online.