The gist of this franchise website project:
Having been a client of mine for years, this franchise needed a website that could grow with them as they sold new franchises across the country. They needed Canadian franchise web development & design that would both accommodate new company locations, while also maintaining strict control over their brand. To solve this problem, I employed the use of WordPress Multisite, built right into WordPress, to create a website structure that could scale up. In essence, the site would allow the addition of many sites within one ‘overhead’ domain, which would be controlled by company’s head office. This, in turn, would have many SEO and organizational benefits in the use of the site’s back end, too.
I wrote about this, and other methods, of setting up a franchise network website. That article is published on one of the largest WordPress blogs on the internet. You can read it at the link below:
My advice in that article came from years of having worked with this franchise company, and others. You can see by the detail of that piece that I had realized the pitfalls and hardships that came with managing a multi-location website presence. And I had also sought out solutions! For this franchise company, I got to employ many of those tactics, and more, to create a smooth web management experience, that would also be effective at online marketing.
You may also want to see a case study of another franchise web development project I worked on, which started out for a designer, at the following link:
Planning for future growth: creating a franchise website with the ability to add new, location-based, ‘mini sites’ easily and quickly
Although I had made this company’s prior site, bringing it up to modern standards already, it was clear it needed a reboot, when more franchises were being sold. For years, I acted as this company’s only web marketer and web master. I did all content updates, and wrote most of the content on the site – both for sales pages and blog posts. I was responsible for technical features required by the head office administration. For example, the system needed to allow tutors to pay their dues online, and to download forms.
As the one performing these updates, I can say that the back end was getting very ‘crowded.’ It simply was not manageable to support multiple locations of a company’s operations within one single WordPress install. Every location in the franchise needed its own marketing and services explained. It also needed admin pages for sub contractors to use. And contact forms that would lead specifically to one franchise office. Creating multiple pages (even if they had been custom post types) for this sort of thing was getting arduous.
In addition, like with other franchise networks I’ve worked with, some owner-operators wanted control over their location content. However, it doesn’t take long to see that when several owners are managing different types of content and accounts online, a company’s core brand can quickly become at steak. It was my advice to this owner (and others) that going forward, only head office would control the company’s online presence. The independent franchisees could help, but all their promotional efforts would go through head office approval first. We would support them, however, by giving them their own, standalone sites, that stayed within the company’s root domain. That said, simple things could be managed by franchises (if they had the capacity to do it). But giving all franchises access to a single website would create an obvious security hole. So, a solution was needed on that front as well.
Enter WordPress Multisite! I can’t remember if it was this franchise site or another I had worked on first. But boy, is WordPress Multisite the way to go when structuring a network-based website! It allows some parts of all sites in the network to remain the same, while giving leeway to the content variations that would be needed. Since, of course, not all information about local services would be relevant to all geographic audiences.
However, there was one very big ‘plus’ to going with WordPress MU: it would allow us to quickly and easily ‘clone’ our core template, and create a new website automatically. This meant that if a new franchise location was sold, we could, within a few clicks, copy a site in the network to create the web presence for the new location. I would say it is an ‘instant’ process, but to be honest, it wasn’t really, only because all the content needed to be changed. That said, it is a much faster process than doing this from scratch every time. So, efficiency was a plus.
Having the multiple sites in the network also gave us a few more efficiencies:
- Each location would have forms lead to the independent franchise office, and not the head office. This meant that head office would not have to relay messages to the franchisees. While this could be done on a single-site install of WordPress, the separation of sites in the MU system made this much, much easier.
- Each franchise owner could be given certain capabilities to be able to edit their own sites, or perform promotion activities on it, if necessary. This is because they’d be logging into their own site, instead of a single site that would affect all other franchises. But, their site would still exist within the domain (and control) of head office.
And, there was a huge SEO benefit to this method of franchise web development. Since we’d be building pages off of one domain, using the sub-path option in WordPress Multisite, we’d be creating a massive site. This can be a good thing – having a high index count of quality content pages that are related to each other.
This way, if the root domain were attracting backlinks, or if any URLs on the site were being linked to, they would, in effect, benefit the SEO of the whole site (to a degree). Of course, this can have counter-effects. Such as, if a franchisee did bad off-site SEO for their URLs. That could have the opposite effect we’d intend for these SEO benefits. So, to combat that problem, SEO strategies would need to pass through head office first, as explained above. This is more an administrative issue.
By blogging almost weekly, the head office would also be helping the network of sites. This would help by increasing the link-ability of the domain, the sharable content, and the index count of the site (as mentioned above).
What about local SEO? This was also going to fit right in. Remember, it is pages that rank, not websites. So in this case, each individual franchise website that had geographic information on it would help its local SEO too. Plus, local SEO can also have a lot to do with citations, which happens off-site. On-site, individual service pages were written for the locations, containing information relevant to their geographic audience. Then, in addition to keyword localization for services offered, I used custom json+ld tags to help search engines identify the location information for each franchise business, too.
While it never ended up being used, this site was built with a future ability to list locations on a map feature. The idea was that as the company grew, we would be ready with technical requirements to demonstrate its size. And, we’d make it easier for users to find a franchise location nearest to them.
The blog was another major area of online marketing for this website project. While each franchise location site had the ability to have their own local blog, it was the head office, top-level website that did the majority of blog marketing. At the end of each post, we included a call-to-action to encourage users to sign up for the company’s services. The surrounding template of the blog was branded with the company’s logo and other calls-to-action. That would reinforce the brand visibility, as people from various traffic sources were expected to come to the site for quality blog content.
Web development & design features made for this WordPress franchise website:
- WordPress Multisite web development, using the Genesis Framework.
- ‘Global’ footer feature, to maintain company brand info across the network of sites.
- Individual sites built into the Multisite network for franchise locations. These included their own navigation menus, content, and localized footers, which went above the ‘global’ footer.
- Typography and colour palette design.
- After-post call-to-action area on blog posts to encourage signing up for services after building credibility. A sidebar call-to-action was also implemented on every page.
- Custom-designed sign up forms. Each form was designated to reach a specific person, be it the owner franchisor, or the individual franchisees, based on its purpose.
- Strong call-to-action ‘short’ form in the above-the-fold area of the home page on each franchise network site, to encourage sign ups and higher conversions.
- Custom ‘benefit’ icons to display the main features of the educational service to users.
- Custom-designed newsletter subscription form widget with call-to-action, located on sidebars of the site.
- Implementation of a ‘clone’ feature to copy sites in the network easily, for new franchise additions over time.
- Structured data implementation for each location site using JSON-LD tags, custom coded.
- Implementation of event tracking in Google Analytics, to measure the effectiveness of calls-to-action, buttons and form submissions dispersed throughout the site and in body content.
- Content structure and planning.
- Ability to find locations on a map feature (never used by this client).
- File type icons for downloadable forms and documents.
- Default featured image for a placeholder to keep the site design consistent in areas that required images, if no other featured image was selected.
Other work done for this client:
For years, I managed all the online marketing for this client. This included:
- Running online ads (including re-marketing ads)
- Managing the e-newsletter. This included setting multiple autoresponder series with UTM URL tracking, to be able to track effectiveness in Google Analytics.
- Working on SEO (due to the client’s situation, this was done for short, intermittent periods only, apart from foundational SEO built into the site and content writing services, which did help ranking).
- Social media management, content posting, and setting up of profiles.
I also wrote most of the content on this site. Content writing included:
- Service pages for individual locations and types of services offered. This was done for SEO effectiveness.
- Regular blogging (4 articles per month on educational and parenting topics).
- Newsletter content editing and occasional writing.
This client also hired me for ongoing maintenance and content updates to the site, as needed. I was in charge of all technicalities to do with the website.
This company was eventually sold to another organization. I helped them transition the site to new ownership needs.