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In Latin, it's called consensus ad idem, meaning "meeting of the minds." In layman's terms, or in the case of Mitch Berliner and Peter Buttenwieser, it's simply two guys who turned a chance occurrence into an uber-successful business partnership that has exceeded their wildest dreams.

 

Although Their Paths Crossed By Chance,

Synergy Has Propelled Biz Partners To Top


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Berliner and Buttenwieser are managing partners of CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT, which for the past five years has earned the status of being the No. 1 residential business within the 400-plus offices of CertaPro Painters, America's largest and most-referred painting company. 

What makes their story interesting is that neither ever thought he would be in the painting business, but by happenstance - and most importantly, a lot of hard work - they have turned what Buttenwieser calls a "very synergistic partnership" into a thriving business that has been one of the most successful in the CertaPro Painters' franchise system.

"We refer to ourselves as managing partners vs. owners," said Buttenwieser of the pair, who each hold a 50 percent stake in the franchise. "While we each have our own areas of expertise and specialty, we are always seeking the other's advice and consulting in each other's domains."

In 2004, Berliner was an IT sales executive when he hired CertaPro Painters to stain the cedar siding and paint the trim on his home in Somers. When Berliner's general contractor said the finished work was some of the best he had ever seen, Berliner was so impressed... he bought the company.

Flash forward to 2005 and Buttenwieser was an advertising and marketing executive who hired CertaPro Painters to restore and paint his circa 1908 house in Bedford. Buttenwieser was so impressed... he called Berliner and ended up buying into the company.

"When I got a message to contact Peter, my assumption was that he was calling to complain about something. It turned out he wanted to discuss how we were marketing the company and if I would be open to selling him equity in the business," Berliner said. "I was initially hesitant to take on a partner, but in hindsight, I made a pretty good decision."

Buttenwieser had done his due diligence on CertaPro Painters and the painting industry as a whole. Three things caught his attention: 1) it was a relatively low overhead business; 2) the competition was mostly mom-and-pop businesses with no definitive branding; 3) as people increasingly turned to the internet to make home-improvement decisions, a national brand such as CertaPro Painters was well-positioned to capture internet market share.

Despite their bullishness on the industry, in the early going neither Berliner nor Buttenwieser quit their day jobs: Berliner with Hewlett Packard and Buttenwieser with his marketing firm, I Before E Marketing. "We started out thinking it would be a fun side business and we might make some great vacation money every year. But things kept getting bigger and bigger," Buttenwieser said.

That is an understatement.

Today, CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT has a management staff of 14 and more than 150 painters and tradespeople on its team. Two of those team members - Shawn Gallagher and Alex Ramos - who were the account manager and job site supervisor, respectively, when Berliner and Buttenwieser had their homes painted, are still with the company, Gallagher as Senior Residential Accounts Manager and Ramos as Senior Job Site Supervisor. In 2014, the entire team was honored with the Certa Cup, an award given to the top franchise throughout the CertaPro Painters' network.

"We are very proud of what we have built and for how many families we are putting food on the table," Buttenwieser said.

The majority of CertaPro Painters' franchises are single owner/operator businesses. While there are some husband/wife partnerships and a few where two businesses have merged operations, very few have grown organically as Berliner and Buttenwieser have done with their franchise.

Berliner is general manager, overseeing all sales and operations, while Buttenwieser manages all marketing and customer relationship management.

"It is a rare day when we do not speak at least two or three times," Berliner said. "One of our keys is that we can be really honest with each other because we trust each other, which really says something, given that 10 years ago we had never met. It's quite a remarkable relationship. During this whole time, I can't remember a single situation where we have had a major disagreement."

That being said, each business partner knows how to deliver a subtle message to the other when the circumstance warrants. You know... just the slightest little jab - with a nod and a wink - to get a point across.

"One thing we use with each other is the 'two strokes and a poke' method when we provide feedback to each other," Buttenwieser said. "The other day Mitch gave me some feedback on a piece of promotional literature that went something like this... 'Great job, looks really sharp; though I believe we discussed adding in a minimum job size, but I don't see that in the fine print.'"

More than a decade has gone by since their paths crossed, but the relevance of that meeting has never been lost on the pair. It's something Berliner certainly didn't forget to mention when talking recently about his two keys for running a top-tier CertaPro Painters franchise.

"Follow the system; that is why you bought into a franchise business. You can tinker here and there for your local market conditions, but don't try to outsmart everyone else who is doing this all over the country," Berliner said. "There are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of and landmines to avoid. And the best way to succeed is to get yourself a partner."


CertaPro Painters' best-in-class operational systems and procedures make it the most professional business model in the industry and its satisfied residential and commercial customers are the direct benefactors within the estimated $40 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada. CertaPro has been consistently ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in its category and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent.

         Founded in 1992, Audubon, Pennsylvania-based CertaPro Painters is the largest painting company in North America. With more than 350 independently owned and operated franchises worldwide, CertaPro provides a customer-driven painting experience for both residential and commercial properties that is unparalleled in the industry. The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. 


For more information, visit CertaPro Painters 


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          No one would have blamed Sarah Gabbard if she had curled up in her house with her two young girls and done nothing for a very long time. In fact, most people would have expected it. Come to think of it, if they found themselves in the same situation as the now 39-year-old found herself in almost four years ago, most would have done the exact same thing. But they don't know Sarah Gabbard.

          Gabbard was leading a "very normal life" in her words on May 28, 2015. She was married to her high school sweetheart, Chad, who owned a thriving industrial cleaning company with two locations that he had started while in college with nothing more than a weed eater and a pressure washer. The couple had two girls, Olivia and Ava, and Sarah worked as a speech-language pathologist in the local school district. "It was crazy how successful Chad's business became," Gabbard said. "I always admired what he had done but I was too scared to do something like that for myself, so I chose the comfortable, safe 9-to-5 approach."

Chad had been traveling for business that May day and had stayed at a condo the couple owned in Lexington the previous night. Sarah was having trouble reaching Chad by phone and immediately felt a sense of foreboding. "I knew something was wrong. I could just feel it," she said. "I can't explain it, but I just felt like someone had punched me in the gut." Sarah jumped in her car and drove to the condo, where she found Chad had passed away from a congenital AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation), which is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, usually in the brain or spine. If they rupture, they cause bleeding in the brain. Brain AVMs occur in less than one percent of the population. Chad was 36 years old in perfect health and had never experienced any symptoms.

          Looking back, Sarah has little memory of the weeks and events that followed Chad's death. "I feel like it was God protecting me from what had just taken place," Gabbard said. "The next few weeks were a whirlwind. I had to deal with not only the personal side of just losing my husband, but I also had to figure out what to do with a business that had 30 employees and two locations."

          Though she now faced the daunting task of having to make so many critical decisions on her own, Gabbard was steadfast on one matter. She was holding onto Chad's business no matter what, even though she had several offers to sell. "I can't explain why, but I just couldn't imagine not having this business in our lives anymore, and for my daughters, even though I had ZERO experience with industrial cleaning," Gabbard said. "Again, I can't explain it. It was just my gut feeling."

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Olivia, Sarah and Ava Gabbard

          However, Gabbard quickly discovered there was no such thing as hitting the "pause button" when faced with the daily challenges of running a small business in eastern Kentucky. For seasonal businesses such as Chad's, winters are notoriously slow. "Work just seemed to come to a screeching halt. I couldn't stand it and felt like we were losing so much money by just being idle," Gabbard said. "I knew we had to find something to occupy the guys over the winter."

          One of Gabbard's employees, Josh, was diligent in researching business opportunities, though she said with a grin, "many of his suggestions were terrible and we still laugh about it to this day." But Josh more than made up for all his misses when he came upon an online advertisement for Paul Davis Restoration, one of the most trusted brands in the insurance restoration industry and a company that has been at the forefront of innovation in the property damage, emergency services and restoration industry since 1966. "It looked like the perfect fit and work that we could easily handle," Gabbard said.

          While slow and steady might work for some, that's never been Gabbard's mindset. After contacting the corporate office, Gabbard and Josh were on a plane to Jacksonville, Fla., a week later to attend Discovery Day at Paul Davis. While there, Gabbard met other prospective franchisees, many of whom got a good chuckle when learning how much time she had spent doing her "homework" on the company. "They had researched this company for months, and here I was a week after hearing the Paul Davis name for the first time. It was hysterical to see their faces when they would ask me how long I had been looking at this franchise opportunity and I would reply, 'seven days.' I have no doubt they thought I was crazy," Gabbard said.

          But while some individuals might need the reassurance of reams of research to make an important decision, Gabbard once again relied on an instinct that has never failed her. "I loved what I saw when I was in Jacksonville. It felt like the perfect fit," Gabbard said. "I wanted to buy in that very day. I just knew."

          Gabbard knew and she was right. Again. Almost 3 years have passed since Paul Davis River Cities launched operations in September 2016, covering large portions of eastern Kentucky, southern Ohio and southern West Virginia from its home base in Worthington, Ky.

With more than 375 locations in the US and Canada, Paul Davis is continually growing. Though it remains a largely male-dominated industry, husband-and-wife teams and women are finding that a Paul Davis franchise can be a perfect fit for their particular needs. But that didn't mean Gabbard didn't run into outside naysayers who questioned whether she would be a good fit for the restoration industry, even though Paul Davis welcomed her with open arms and made her feel like family.  "I was told an insane amount of times that 'I couldn't do this' or 'this wasn't a job for a woman,'" Gabbard said. "I had so many people try and talk me into going back into speech therapy because it was the safe choice. That only made me want to become a Paul Davis franchisee even more. It was like pouring gasoline on a fire!"

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Ava, Sarah and Olivia Gabbard

Since its launch, Paul Davis River Cities has gone from initially providing only mitigation services to becoming a full-service restoration company. Obviously not one who relishes idle time, Gabbard also bought a pest control franchise while making sure the company Chad had founded - Pressure Tech Inc. - continued to prosper. Finally having the chance to reflect on the path she has taken over these last few years, Gabbard feels she has lived up to the expectations she set for herself when it came to raising Olivia and Ava - even if it was a whirlwind at times.

"The crazier it got, the more I enjoyed it. I loved the chaos and not knowing what each day would bring. I was still trying to be a regular mom at the same time and I still say that my girls were the driving force behind me wanting to take on so much at once," Gabbard said. "It was very important to me that they had the same security they felt when Chad was still here. I wanted them to know that their mom could handle it and we were going to be just fine. 

I wholeheartedly think Pressure Tech and Paul Davis saved my life. As dramatic as that sounds, I found a love for being an entrepreneur that I never knew I had. These businesses made me get out of bed in the morning when I could have easily made the decision not to and no one would have blamed me."

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When you are a big well respected company like Jacksonville, Florida based Paul Davis, lots of people come to you for your knowledge and expertise. The area of restoration and repairs, particulary after this awful spate of hurricanes, floods and now fires, is a busy one.

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Unfortunately, most of the calls that the EMS division of Paul Davis (Emergency Services--damage evaluation) receive brings them to an unhappy scene.

A house severely damaged or even lost, a teary-eyed family searching through what belongings may be saved. One can't help but sympathize with the emotions and difficulties these victims experience.

A full Paul Davis Restoration team then moves in to clean up and repair the scenes after evaluation. Not a happy time but often it does end up with a happy ending.

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Even without Mother Nature's huge events, common hazards of life can cause chaos. One is extreme cold; but surprisingly, there are easy and inexpensive things to do so you never have to deal with this particular problem.

On December 7th Paul Davis' "flood house", a demo home at their state-of-the-art training facility in Jacksonville, was used by consumer journalist Jeff Rossen to demonstrate all the ways in which one can avoid bursting pipes and other cold weather hazards.

We have shared here: https://www.today.com/home/how-avoid-bursting-pipes-costly-repairs-winter-t119612

Full segment: http://on.today.com/2zX7kTK


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Talked with a startup franchisor recently about his franchise sales.

A really nice guy Bob, who has no franchises sold so far.

And he is going into his 3rd year of trying.

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At the outset, Bob spent a boatload of money with a famous and notorious Franchise Development Company to get his FDD & franchise agreement done.

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Sadly, Bob had to hire another law firm to redo the FDD & franchise agreement.

Which entailed starting from scratch.

Since it would have cost more to try to fix the first set of documents.

Bob invested in all the things that certain experts had told him to get in order to build a successful franchising company.

Here's some of what Bob spent big bucks on -

  • State of the Art Franchise Recruitment Website
  • Website Content & SEO
  • Franchise Operations Intranet/Extranet
  • Franchise Management System (FMS) with CRM
  • Outsourced Franchise Sales Team

His website gets no traffic.

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Bob isn't reaching qualified franchise candidates with the requisite talent and capital.

Bob's story is not surprising or uncommon.

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And these are statistics on the 4033 franchises available in North America that show this.

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But, if you would like to know more about Prospecting for Franchise Recruits by accessing the LinkedIn database, then just sign up for our weekly newsletter.

I personally could not be more excited. And I don't want to brag but I nudged Ms. Moss or ([email protected]) to do this the day some very misguided International Franchise Association board members allowed an even more misguided then president Stephen Caldeira to relieve Debbie Moss from her amazingly successful run as Convention Director.

After 18 years of being widely credited with the turnaround of the association's educational programs, convention and ultimately, their bottom-line financial performance, that was her goodbye. Well, now meet Debbie Moss, The Meeting Boss.

I always say everything happens for a reason and this situation is no different. It's what one makes of his/her bumps and lumps in life that determines one's future.

Now this world-class event expert has launched a meeting consulting business for franchise systems. MeetingBoss.com services will include in-office training for meeting staff, development of an exhibit hall or creating a sponsorship program, maximizing sales efforts or program development for any event.

The signature service will be the MBoss Assessment, which takes a comprehensive look into 13 key components of any meeting to evaluate how to improve KPI's without sacrificing the registrants' experience.

"Events can be executed so much more efficiently and profitably with an experienced professional. Even a small board meeting can realize $10-$15k in savings with savvy contract negotiations and experienced on-site management of food & beverage costs," Moss said.

As most of the readers here know, Debbie has more than 30 years of expansive experience from upscale board meetings for 50 to city-wide conventions of 7,000+. At IFA from 1995-2014, in her last 10 years, overall revenue at the Annual Convention soared from $1.7MM to $4.4MM and bottom-line surplus grew from $900,000 to $2.4MM.

I have some personal knowledge having served a year on the Board of the IFA and as Supplier Forum Chairman that Debbie brought the association from the red to the black.

Her efficiency in holding fantastic, organized and flawlessly orchestrated events accounts also for the savings realized during each convention; and further the rise in registrations because people want to attend a good, educational and well planned function.

Debbie Moss' career didn't start with the IFA. She was Convention Director and then Vice President of Industry Affairs for the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association for nearly 10 years before she was recruited by Don DeBolt, the then president at the International Franchise Association, to build the non-dues revenue at IFA in 1995.

Said Don Debolt, ""Debbie Moss is a meeting and event planning professional creating exceptional results, which I have personally experienced over the past 20 plus years. As Past Chairman of the International Franchise Association I saw first-hand how Debbie's meeting and events were produced on budget, on time and achieved impact for both large & small programs. Her approach combined vision, creativity, writing and staging general sessions to lead our association's revenue growth. High attention to detail, personal commitment, accountability, and communications are the hallmarks of her organization."

Another fan is the terrific Mike Isakson who we all remember as building giant ServiceMaster and who now is Managing Partner at Insight To Execution, "My opportunity to work with Debbie began a few years before I became IFA Chairman. In those volunteer roles, which included Convention Committee Chair, I had a front row seat to observe her ability to multi-task at an extremely high level -- always striving for flawless execution, better than better performance and rock solid efficiency & effectiveness. She demonstrated an affinity to look around corners for both challenges and opportunities and often took the lead to address those issues. Her commitment to build conferences revenue, while maintaining high standards, allowed the organization's finances to grow exponentially over her tenure."

Since I have known her I have always said that any meeting I ever attended would have been so much better had Debbie Moss in charge. Now she can be!!

Visit meetingboss.com for a complete look at the services offered by this long-time industry expert.

Wellington, Florida based LED Source is considered one of the top innovators in franchising. (See Entrepreneur Magazine October 2015 issue) Not only is the company a franchisor itself, but many of its customers are also franchise chains looking for awesome lighting designs and for a vendor that will outfit all new stores with the lighting of the future; LED lighting. In less than a decade it will be a "must have".

Many systems and large box store chains are already hiring LED Source to retrofit all of their old locations and to install all the lighting in their new locations.

ledsource-logo-211.pngFASTSIGNS and Massage Envy are just a couple of examples.

But CEO Marcel Fairbairn realized he needed to streamline the process between his franchisees and his vendors.

He generously shares his knowledge with you here in a Q&A.

  • Describe how your franchisees originally got all their materials when you first began the franchise program.

Our system was one where our zees were "forced" to buy ALL products through the "head office". In fact, we had a two-stage royalty where it would cost them twice as much if they were buying product from an approved vendor other than our office.

Our internal team would help the zee determine what to buy, process the order, place an order with our vendor, bring the shipment into our office, re-package the shipment to complete for the zee, send to the zee, carry the A/R, then process any returns that might happen as well. It was a crazy amount of administration and we eventually realized we were losing money on our franchise business due to this.

  • When did it occur to you that this was not the way to go?

Very early on we could see it was problematic but we felt there was no other way to do it. Our vendors are very big old lighting brands who are also finding themselves in this new, disruptive business called LED. They had enough on their plates with that to then delve into a whole other world.

The world of franchisees or small business owners as it was. It took my team more than a year to convince all of our suppliers to do business directly with our franchisees and to help design an expedient method for doing so.

  • What was your first real issue that opened your eyes?

The short answer is the impact it had on our financial performance. Since we were not making a margin sufficient to cover all of the support needs of our franchises, we were mounting losses each month.

Additionally, we were carrying inventory for our suppliers who never seemed to have what we needed when we needed it.

So we'd cover their deficiencies as best we could which never really seemed to be enough.

In the end, we were hurting our zees, ourselves AND our suppliers and I really took a hard look within to come up with a very obvious answer.

  • What was the very obvious answer?

If it's broke, fix it. First we pushed very hard on our vendors to create a model they had never used before. Again, we are talking multi-billion dollar businesses with 50 or 100 years history.

Change does not come easily and there is a tremendous amount of time and work involved so this was an enormous task. The fact is we never really had to admit anything because it was going to be such a positive change for our vendors and our zees. There was very little, if any pushback.

  • What exactly IS Vendor Direct and does it have steps that you put in your manual now so franchisees can follow easily leaving you all out of the fray?

Vendor Direct is quite simple. When a franchisee signs on, we provide them with a list of vendors, contacts, links to training videos and materials, etc. We basically introduce the franchisee to their suppliers.

The franchisee goes through the process of signing up as a dealer, applying for credit, etc. It has been a huge update in our manuals and processes, but well worth it in the end!

  • What was the reaction from the franchisees as you transitioned to this plan?

Initially there was some hesitation. Having us supply them gave them a certain comfort factor. They didn't have to deal with many other individuals.

The real issue was one we helped with to make sure that the franchisees receive credit from these large suppliers who often had very strict standards.

The truth is we were acting like a bank even to some who were not very solid credit risks.

But we worked through that and the affected few did very well in the end and now have solid credit and a solid business to go with it. Since then we've received nothing but praise.

We've got a stack of testimonials from happy zees who are discussing everything from the choices now available to the speed of shipping, wider availability, etc. Some of our zees have created very good relationships with their new suppliers and many of these relationships have already been quite productive.

  • How's it working for you and them now?

Even on my side, my finance team was at first skeptical towards the idea. Because we were, in reality, lowering our revenue, how could this possibly be a good thing?

The facts are the facts.

While yes, our gross sales have been impacted; our bottom line has already increased and will continue to. In addition, we've been able to re-purpose people who had been glorified order placers or trackers to now support franchisees in other, more productive ways.

We've allowed the manufacturers to discuss process and support THEIR products, and we support our zees on application, training, marketing and general business management.

As our business continues to scale, we do not have to borrow money or tie up resources toward massive inventories or administrative costs. Plus, our franchises have proven very quickly that the program works by rewarding themselves and us with growing revenues!!

  • You are clearly happy with the decision. In one sentence sum up what you learned from it.

It's hard to put such a laundry list of lessons and bumps on the head into one sentence, but for sure the one thing that comes to mind is that you should always play to your strengths. In this case, we were a challenged, even deficient supplier to our zees, and it showed in their numbers and our own.

So I looked at what we were doing and said to myself, "we are very good at what we do but this is not it. So let's get out of this role!" And that's precisely what we did.

About LED Source

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

Beyond excellent franchisee growth in 2015, Cincinnati-based Window Genie was also lauded by a number of business journals throughout the year.

Inc. Magazine recognized Window Genie as one of the fastest-growing businesses in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, in addition to placing it on the upper half of its annual Inc. 5000 listing of fastest-growing companies in the United States for the second year in a row.

Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Window Genie 170th on its annual Franchise 500 list for 2015, moving up 15 spots from 2014, cementing its place as one of the fastest-growing and top home-based franchises. Window Genie also placed 51st on Entrepreneur's top home based/ mobile franchises.

Franchise Business Review, a national franchisee satisfaction market research firm also placed Window Genie on its annual Top Franchises for Veteran's list. It is the only list of top franchises for veterans based on data from those who know best - the veterans who own them.

Window Genie's Founder and CEO Rik Nonelle said,

"This ranking is very important to us personally as we have a unique ability to give back to those who serve. We offer veterans additional territory at no cost when purchasing a franchise."

Nonelle continues, "These rankings are great but I most like achieving them for our franchisees, who are the most important part of our whole business structure."

Nonelle has made it HIS business to market to his franchisees, or, in other words, build internal programs that help them achieve great results. An example of one such program is an agreement made in April 2015 with 3M Company to provide a residential window film solution as part of the company's lauded Envision™ line of films.

window genie.jpgThe partnership provides Window Genie franchisees with the opportunity to service over 125,000 residential customers with window film that reduces fading, heat and glare, lowering utility bills. Window Genie's partnership with 3M is the result of two years of discussions between the companies.

In 2016, says Window Genie founder and CEO Richard Nonelle, the company has big plans for more programs that benefit franchisees and customers alike. "We will continue to focus on improving the experience between franchisee and customer," says Nonelle.

"This year we expanded our Your Holiday Lights program from three franchisees to 15 (this program is optional for those franchisees who wish to fill their winter months with an outdoor holiday lighting business) and continue to offer an incentive program for current owners who refer a new franchisee."

Window Genie's mobile search strategy, adds Nonelle, will be in full effect in 2016, which will entail an improved online presence and SEO enhancements to benefit owners.

"We have also been using the Franchise Navigator," said Nonelle. "I've learned the best thing I can give my existing franchisees are additional excellent franchisees coming aboard. We look for the same profile as my top performing franchisees. They deserve to have the brand continued to be bolstered by hard workers like themselves."

"The strength of your franchise system comes from the people who deliver your products or services. You could have the best business model and the best product or service, but if you sell your franchise or business opportunity to the wrong type of person you, they and the consumer will not receive what they expect from your brand," ​says Craig Slavin, Founder and President of Navigator System Solutions, owner of the Franchise Navigator.

Franchisors must focus on the human component part of growing their business. That means talent, skills, values and behavior! Create and "model" your high performing franchise owners. All inbound candidates should then be compared to this profile to determine if they are a good "fit" and can execute the franchise company's business model.

"A franchise sold to the wrong person is worse than not selling one at all," Nonelle agreed.

Window Genie aims to continue its growth in 2016, and Nonelle points to years of consistent annual expansion as proof that his plan is a sustainable one. This past year 15 new franchisees have joined the Window Genie system.

Window Genie franchisees can be found all throughout the United States, with target markets for growth for 2016 in Florida, Arizona, New York and California.

For 22 years Matthew Byrne worked in the building automation controls industry, where he last managed a $20 million branch contracting business. There he worked with energy efficiency products, gaining a keen insight into an industry that has a demonstrated impact on energy use and utilities. That, he said, is what drew him to LED Source. According to LEDinside retrofitting and other LED lighting projects will be a $25 billion industry by the end of this year.

"When I learned about the energy-efficiency capabilities of LED lighting, the excellent quality of the light produced and the longevity of the products, I became truly enthused," said Byrne. "Because LED lighting is an emerging technical industry, it reminds me of the early days of the direct digital controls revolution that occurred back when I first started. It was very exciting; with LED Source, I found I could recapture that magic."

The magic that Byrne seeks was further inspired by work with current partner Nate Byelick, Byrne's brother-in-law. Together the two worked with an LED startup company where they installed LED fixtures. Inspired by this experience, they decided to reach out and find an LED business they could own and and control.

"After 22 years in my previous industry I realized it was time for a change," said Byrne. "I became determined to never again let my financial stability be determined by someone else and I wanted to be involved in an industry that was rapidly growing before my eyes. I also felt that because of this new technology we could actually have a real affect on the environment while enjoying making a living. At a certain point in your career, you say to yourself, "'what can I do to give back' "? For Byrne and Byelick, the answer was LED Source.

Founded in 2005 by Marcel Fairbairn and Gavin Cooper, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit.

With decades of experience in building automation, Byrne is keenly aware of the difference smart technology can have on a company's bottom line. "Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," said Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too."

Now operating LED Source of Raleigh Matt Byrne says every day is Earth Day. That's because as the area franchisee of LED Source Byrne provides the kind of state-of-the-art lighting solutions that are becoming the standard for environmentally conscious businesses to the Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham areas.

Currently, Byrne and LED Source of Raleigh are working with GRACE Christian School in the Raleigh area transitioning all of their standard lighting into LED lighting. "We are outfitting three main components of the school's campus, the elementary school, high school and sports field. The high school campus used to be an auto dealership so excessive lighting throughout the parking lots had to be changed. We started the initial reach out via a cold call. The rebates the school received from switching from standard lighting to LED more than covered the switch over for the parking lot so they decided to refit the entire campus as a whole which is a big and exciting project for both the school and us," said Byrne.

"Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," shared Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too. It's also great to go to work and know you are not only decreasing your carbon footprint but are helping others do the same."

For more information about retrofitting your business or franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com

Franchise online marketing strategy is as much about engaging the visitors on your website as it is about building traffic and search engine optimization.

The goal of online marketing is to convert leads into business.

Beyond all of the SEO work to get people to your website you must also pay attention to the content, layout and aesthetic appeal of your website in order to turn attention into conversion and even better... retention (which is driving people back to your site again and again).

Here are (3) easy actions which will create engaged visitors.

  1. Make sure that any links that lead visitors off of your website open in new windows. Do not direct traffic off of your webiste. Ushering people off of your website is not productive. By opening links in new windows, your website will still be up when they close that window. This is also applicable to your social media icons. Make sure they open in a new window as well. Keep the traffic on your site as long as possib
  2. Be aware of the users display. Remember, an increasing number of people are viewing your website on mobile, or handheld devices. Recent studies show that mobile traffic is on the rise, so having a strategy for a mobile friendly website both at the national and local levels is a must for 2012.
  3. Review your website for deficiencies regularly. It may be just as easy as mending broken paths or replacing broken code. Again your site is only as legitimate as it is functional. Use websites like http://validator.w3.org/ to validate your website and find issues with it.

Following these simple suggestions will garner results.

You will see a decrease in your bounce rate (visitors to your website who land on a webpage and leave without clicking deeper into your website) and an increase in the amount of time visitors spend on your website, the amount of content that they will read and ultimately the number of leads will you receive from your website.

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LED Source- the Franchisor's Vendor

My client LED Source is an awesome company that has now been valued very highly by the "right people".

They are a franchisor & also a vendor to franchisors, retrofitting lighting for great chains like Massage Envy and Starbucks.

We will ALL eventually need LED lighting so they are out there promoting themselves on both levels. They are a terrific futuristic franchise opportunity and at the same time franchisors and chains, such as Starbucks, need to be retrofitted with all new lighting.

But how to go after a Starbucks type entity when you think "hey I'm just a small company?"

Be a small company that ROARS!

If you can make an intelligent presentation as to the whys, wheres, how tos and in LED Source's case, the tax credits the customer will receive, you can pitch anyone. It just takes tenacity and an intelligent, succinct "pitch".

Window Genie- 3M Partnership

Another great example is another terrific client of Sanderson & Associates: Cincinnati based Window Genie.

Window Genie has reached an agreement with 3M Company to provide a residential window film solution as part of the company's lauded Envision™ line of films. The partnership will provide Window Genie, a franchise chain with over 200 units that provides window cleaning and window tinting to homes in more than 24 states, an opportunity to service over 125,000 residential customers with window film that reduces fading, heat and glare and can help lower utility bills.

Beginning April 1, Window Genie franchisees will offer the residential Envision™ film options that include clear view, glare control, sun block and shade offerings. The film options range from 70%-40% for total solar energy rejection (TSER), a quality which stands to save homeowners significantly on their utility bills.

Window Genie's partnership with 3M is the result of two years of discussions between the companies, initiated by Window Genie.

"We approached 3M two years ago actively seeking the partnership," said Ken Fisk, vice president of operations for Window Genie.

"We believed Window Genie's reputation as an established residential home service business put us in a great position to illustrate to 3M the value of forming a partnership with us.

Through two years of conversations pertaining to the opportunity 3M had to penetrate the residential market through a partnership with Window Genie, a company with over 125,000 residential customers in our database, both parties agreed it was mutually beneficial to move forward."

"The partnership is mutually beneficial," said Fisk.

"While Window Genie is able to further customer satisfaction by providing a highly recognizable brand of top quality window film, 3M is able to successfully penetrate the residential market and build brand awareness for their line of residential film among Window Genie's customers that span over 200 markets in 24 states."

For years 3M's line of Envision™ Wrap Films has been an industry favorite, earning commendations for its high performance, sustainable materials and comprehensive warranty.

Founded in 1994 by Rik Nonelle, Window Genie recently appeared on Inc. Magazine's 2014 Inc. 5000 list and on Entrepreneur Magazine's list of top 100 home-based franchises. The partnership stands to benefit Window Genie franchisees every bit as it will benefit customers," said Fisk.

"We look forward to improved training and support by providing one brand of film to our franchise partners," said Fisk. "We believe it will help streamline systems and enable growth with a more successful method of coaching throughout the entire Window Genie system."

ABOUT WINDOW GENIE

Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing.

Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating more than 200 units in 24 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit www.windowgenie.com.

ABOUT LED SOURCE

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions.

In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

Shoe Store Runs Wild Online

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Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes opened in August 2012 in the heart of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Since opening, this shoe store has become the go-to shoe store local families because of the major brands stocked, shoe sizes and styles for infants to tweens, as well as extremely knowledgeable staff. There is nothing run-of-the-mill about Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes and the customer service is reminiscent of an era when a customer would visit a store inquiring what shoe was best for him/her and leave with the employee's recommendation in hand.

Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes entered a competitive market, due to the rise of large online retailers and discount chains that can undercut local businesses; this competition was compounded by the fact that New York City has a population as diverse as the stores that cater to each audience.

Breaking Into the MarketAs a new business, Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes struggled to gain exposure in the bustling metropolis of Brooklyn, with many niche stores popping up to service the rapidly-changing neighborhood. Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes had a weak web presence, with only Facebook and Tumblr pages. The shoe store's main source of new business came from word of mouth, and in this competitive market, this strategy wasn't cutting it.

After a friend recommended LocalVox to the owner, Anthony Fauci, Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes revamped its entire marketing mindset. Instead of focusing on in-person word of mouth, they focused on growing business online. In addition to upping their rank on Google, they also built out their social media presence/reputation and increase the number of contacts on their email list.

Local Online Marketing With the Click of a Button

Fauci chose LocalCast because out of all the platforms he reviewed, LocalCast was the easiest -- in fact, as simple as a click of a button. With LocalCast, Running Wild Kid Shoes was soon growing business online by publishing news and deals to hundreds of local touch points and updating their social media, directories and email lists from one central platform.

Fauci quickly noticed an up-tick in new customers and when he inquired about where they heard about Running Wild Kid Shoes, the response was always the same: on Google or another online network.

Running Wild Kid Shoes owner, Anthony Fauci explained how LocalVox helped grow business online.Anthony Fauci

"If you are willing to participate fully in [LocalCast] I do not know of or can think of any better product. We are #1 on Google and it does not get any better than that. LocalVox has shown they are committed to helping my business grow. I would recommend them because they act as more of a partner than a provider."

Driving Revenue by Messaging Customers Across the Web

Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes now regularly messages current and potential customers online:

  • 4,600+ local customers engage with their content
  • 700+ reads on their first few posts (vs. 200 for the average local business website)
  • 375+ customers keep in touch with email and social media
  • 5 stars on Yelp

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 11.46.51 AM

From Zero to Hero in Organic SEO

The quickest improvement Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes experienced was a sharp spike in web activity and local search results on Google, Google Maps and leading local directories.

Running Wild Sharp Spike

The shoe store began ranking for key terms to drive new local customers to their store and continue to have 19 terms listing in the top three on Google.

Top 3

You Can Grow Business Online

Not everybody has the time to becoming an online marketing expert, especially when you are running a business, and LocalVox built our online marketing software to meet these constraints. LocalVox enables businesses to dominate on search and bring new customers in the door with a simple, effective and affordable online marketing platform.

To learn more about how LocalVox can help you grow business online, please contact us. We look forward to learning more about your challenges and creating a search engine optimization strategy that allows you to meet your goals.

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The good news in PR during the '90s? Clients on magazine covers, Wall Street Journal columns, 900 word stories in their major dailies. The bad news? Lots of mistakes, lots of jockying for space, bad photos appearing, misquotes.

2015-Content Management. I'm liking this better. Here's what we can do now and make sure it's seen by thousands of people. With photos, graphics and artwork.

WINDOW GENIE CLEANS HOUSE IN 2014

National Brand Partnerships, Technology Enhancements, Franchisee Growth Planned for 2015

(Cincinnati, Ohio)---If 2014 was any indication, Americans are appreciating home cleaning services the likes of which Window Genie provides more than ever. The 21 franchise locations opened throughout the year--with three additional locations pending an early 2015 opening--are proof enough of the growing demand for the mobile cleaning service famous for window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. Now, heading into 2015, the company that celebrated its 20th year in business in 2014 is gearing up for even greater growth, spurred in large part by the multiple programs and partnerships set to take off in the year.

Beyond franchisee growth in 2014, Window Genie was also lauded by a number of business journals throughout the year. Inc. Magazine recognized Window Genie as the 13th fastest-growing business in the Cincinnati metropolitan area in addition to placing it on the upper half of its annual Inc. 5000 listing of fastest-growing companies in the United States. In addition, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Window Genie 195th on its annual Franchise 500 list, cementing its place as one of the fastest-growing and top home-based franchises.

In 2015, says Window Genie founder and CEO Richard Nonelle, the company has big plans to benefit franchisees and customers alike. "We will continue to focus on improving the experience between franchisee and customer," says Nonelle. "We'll do this both through new partnerships we've founded with a number of national brands, including Yelp and Home Advisor, as well as by enhancing our technology." Window Genie's mobile search strategy, adds Nonelle, will be in full effect in 2015, which will entail an improved online presence and SEO enhancements to benefit owners.

Window Genie aims to continue its growth in 2015, and Nonelle points to years of consistent annual expansion as proof that his plan is a sustainable one. In the last three years, 60 franchisees have joined the Window Genie system. Window Genie franchisees can be found all throughout the United States, with target markets for growth for 2015 in the East and West coasts and throughout Florida.

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About Window Genie

Founded in 1994 by Richard Nonelle, Cincinnati-based Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing. Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating 140 units in 28 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit www.windowgenie.com.

How You Can Partner with Google

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I read an interesting post by Jason Calcanis on whether Google was a good partner in the context of YouTube, publishers and advertising share.  

And it really resonated with me in all my conversations with agencies and partners, even most recently at the BWG Strategy Roundtable on SEO/SEM (where 90% of the discussion is SEM and not SEO where 95% of the clicks occur).    

The only entity that wins with Google is Google.   Perhaps that is why Matt Cutts, Google Spokesperson so clearly declared "Google doesn't have partners!"

Ouch.   You should take note.

Google is a Monopoly. Expect a Monopolistic Partner Policy.

I recently engaged in a conversation with some search engine experts where we talked about the real market share of Bing and Yahoo.  

Many industry stats declare it to be 30% but that is wishful thinking.   If you look at the SEO traffic from almost any sites Google Analytics, the amount of SEO traffic from Bing and Yahoo is sub-10%.  

Those 30% who use Bing and Yahoo don't search nearly as often as Googlers.  

So with over 90% search share, Google is a monopoly.

So Google sets the rules.  

And they run a very efficient marketplace, which means they balance the supply and demand of buyers and sellers with as little margin for the middle man (agencies, etc.) as possible.  

And with programatic buying methods getting more sophisticated, it's hard to establish a profitable margin without huge advertising spends.   And of course, Google is just as happy to help directly, so agencies can be easily disintermediated.

The result, costs per click are going up.  Margins and ROI are going down.  Google takes more of the pie.

Google Only Wants You to Play Their Game - Advertising

Facebook recently received a lot of bad press regarding their algorithm change which made it even harder for brands to get into the news feed.   Why?  Because brands now have to pay to get into the newsfeed of their followers with sponsored updates.   Hindering organic connections between brands and consumers means more advertising.

Google plays the same game. Over the past couple of years, Google has made it harder and harder to quantify the value and successful tactics of SEO campaigns by hiding the keywords from organic searches in analytics.  

What this means is that you might be able to see if your search traffic has gone up, but you don't know what's working which means agencies have trouble justifying their SEO spends to clients.   That's good news for Google who won't let Certified Partners state that they can help improve your rankings.   Google won't even acknowledge the practice of SEO.

Another example is click to call tracking which is critical for managing local campaign effectiveness.  Google enables it for advertising but doesn't track click-to-call on Google Places (but almost every other metric).   If you want tracking, better advertise.

Diversifying Your Effort, Delivering Better Marketing Value

The problem like dealing with any monopoly is the apparent lack of choice.  But there is a choice.  Only 2% of local businesses think pay-per-click advertising is effective.  Invest in the marketing channels that are more effective, even if the metrics are less clear.

  • Invest in SEO and spend the time educating why and how it is valuable.  Track what you can. Have faith where you don't have granular metrics (heck, even 71% of marketers think SEM has unclear ROI metrics)

  • Invest in growing and leveraging owned media channels.  If you have a direct line to consumers, you don't have to pay to play.  Email, social, etc.

  • Invest in channels that grow in value over time.  Once you stop paying for advertising, you get no additional value.  Focus your advertising on the owned channels.  If you have to play monopoly rules, use them to build independence.

We are big believers in the power of content marketing and we are not alone.  Check out the Google trends on Content Marketing vs search engine marketing.   It's still only 1/5th of "Pay Per Click" but look at the slopes of the lines.  People are already shifting their budgets.  Are you?

 

(The post Should You Really Put All Those Eggs in Google's SEM / PPC Basket? appeared first on LocalVox.)

Whenever I've said in the past that a successful partner online marketing strategy is hard work, I meant it!

Still, just getting your partner sites set-up, designing them properly, venturing into content marketing, etc. won't cut it!

No matter how much we want it, online marketing doesn't stop in the partner sites: you need to encourage your channel partners to promote your company through business listings, have them look for opportunities to get back links and, even pay ads! It can be pretty overwhelming.

For example, link building is all about reaching out to other sites and asking them to give your site a back link (via guest blogging, blog syndication, etc.) Which means that, on top of creating unique, relevant content for their sites, your partners (or your content team) will have to write unique, relevant content for other sites!

This can be time consuming and exhausting and it's just PART of what Off Site SEO entails.

However, Off Site SEO is extremely important for any partner web marketing strategy, and here are some reasons why:

  • More Exposure: The more places your business is mentioned, the more possibility there is for others to see it!
  • Validation/Visibility: Backlinks "tell" Google that you are a real business and that you can be trusted, which gives your partners a higher ranking in the search pages.
  • Lead Generation: Off Site SEO means more traffic to your partner sites and, potentially, more leads.
  • Better ROI Online: The more leads, the better ROI you'll have thanks to the partner online efforts.

Preparing an Off Site SEO Strategy

Just as with their on site efforts, your partners should set certain goals for their Off Site strategy! How many backlinks do they need? What's your target? What Page Rank should the sites you're reaching out to have? These and more questions should be answered before moving forward!

Looking for/Evaluating Opportunities

Whether it is looking for the right business listings for your company or searching for great guest posting opportunities, you need to make sure that they will benefit your online presence. This means not going with the first options you get, but digging deeper searching for the link building strategy that your partners or corporate has put together for them.

Reaching Out

This is only applicable to guest posting but it is one of the trickiest parts! Your partners should reach out to those sites that they're interested in getting backlinks from via emails and, in most cases, suggest topics that they could write about for that site. Next, comes waiting for their reply and hoping that they'll like what your partners have to offer!

Producing the Information

Guest blogging, like creating content for partner sites, takes time: coming up with ideas, outlining, writing, proofreading, sending the post, etc. Likewise, your partners will need to make sure they're presenting the right information through their business listings and getting every piece of data that a lead may need to go to them!

Checking Back

Again, a great benefit these efforts provide is getting people to your partners and have them interested in your company at a local level! This is why you need to make sure your partners are checking back to answer any doubts and join in on the conversation. Whether it is through business listings or answering comments on blog posts, you shouldn't leave a potential customers hanging!

Putting up Ads

Another strategy in any Off SEO Strategy has to do with putting up online ads! This way, when people in your partners' area look for something related to your business, your company will appear as an ad. Nonetheless, this take money, time, and expertise because your partners will need to produce a relevant advertising message for their local audiences!

How Empowerkit Can Help

As mentioned above, Off Site SEO is crucial to a successful strategy and to get leads to your partner sites! But, as you can see, it is extremely hard work! If you'd like to give your partners a break, we can help! Empowerkit is not only a white label website builder, it is also a services provider that can help you all along the way to a effective partner marketing program!

For example, we can submit your partner websites to the appropriate directories and get them the backlinks they need to rank in Google! Plus, when your partners get their Empowerkit site, they'll also get $50 of free advertising credit that they can use for advertising your business!

With this credit they'll be able to market their partner sites towards their visitors. Last but not least, if at any time you or your partners would like to tweak the strategy, you can call us at 510.859.8452 and let us know what updates you need! Even if you or your partners don't have time, it won't matter! You can call us directly and we'll do it for you.

Conclusion

As you can see, having a successful web marketing program doesn't stop at the site! There are tactics that will help the search engines understand that your partners have a serious business and that they're relevant to the searches the users are making.

By failing to fulfill these tasks, you and your partners run the risk of having a beautiful, totally optimized partner site that no one will ever see!

Still, if you think that this is too much, contact us! We are happy to help!

To see what the other 5 key elements of a successful partner web marketing program are, click on the links: Setup, Design, Content Marketing, Social Media, Analytics.

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Off Site SEO appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

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Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

For many franchises, especially location based businesses, a Google AdWords or paid search campaign can be a valuable part of their online marketing plan. A pay-per-click campaign can quickly produce new leads.

I have talked to a lot of business owners who have told me that paid search was a waste of time. But they are wrong.

They did Google AdWords once and nothing happened. When I probe a bit deeper it turns out that they used a free Google AdWords voucher worth $100 and posted one ad for a week.

But, the same people who will pay $2,000 a month for a billboard and have no idea if it is generating business!

This happens because many business owners do not understand how Internet Marketing works and how to use Google AdWords as part of their marketing plan.

Many of the common mistakes marketers make with inbound marketing they also make with paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing and wonder why they are not more successful. Here are ten very common mistakes.

1. Using the wrong keywords: Many people think if they choose a keyword that gets lots of traffic then the high volume of searches will result in clicks to their ad. Searchers are generally very focused so even if they see your ad if they are not looking for it they will not click. For example, the keyword "cheap purses" gets 2 to 3 times more traffic than the keyword "Gucci purses" but someone looking for a cheap purse will not click on a Gucci ad.

2. Too Many Keywords: In Google Adwords you can associate your ad with as many keywords as you like. There are for example, over 700 keywords that can be associated with the word "purse." However, not each of those words would be relevant for someone searching for a cheap leather purse. Restrict your keywords to about 10 or 15 per each ad. This will also help you see how well that ad is doing with that set of keywords.

3. Too few Ads: When you set up a Google Adwords campaign you set up your budget for a group of ads so the cost remains the same if you have one ad or ten ads. The advantage of 10 ads is that you can quickly see what is working and what is not working so you can drop unproductive ads and promote the productive ads.

4. Keywords not in ad title: When someone searches on a keyword those keywords are bold on the results page, including keywords in the ads. So if you are bidding on the keyword "leather purses" make sure your ad title reads: Sale on Leather Purses.

5. Not Targeting Ads: Again, if you are selling leather purses you will do better picking keywords such as: leather purse, leather purses, woman's leather purse, leather handbag, as opposed to: women's purse, tote bag, laptop bag, unique purses and bags.

6. Bad User Experience: What happens when someone clicks on your ad? Do they go to a landing page with the information they are looking for? Can they buy the product or find the information they are looking for? If not they will leave, you will have paid for the click but lost a customer.

7. Not paying attention to Quality Score: The quality score is a grade between 1 and 10 that Google assigns to each keyword associated with your ad. If the ad does not get very many clicks or if the clicks do not result in a conversion or sale then Google will give it a low score. If it has a low score your ad will not show up on future searches or it will get a low position. Pay attention and optimize your keywords and ads to get a higher score.

8. Ad on wrong platform or time: Advertisers on Google have a lot of options on where and when their ads show up. For example, a downtown restaurant that is busy on Friday and Saturday nights can target ads to show on computers within a 50 mile radius of the restaurant on Friday and Saturday afternoons when people are planning their evening. In the evening when folks are out on the town the ads can be targeted to mobile phones within 5 miles or even within one ZIP code. The mobile ads can even promote late night happy hours or specials that are time sensitive.

9. Not investing the time: One of the great advantages of Google Adwords is the opportunity to get almost instant results and see what is working and what is not working. Too often a company will set up a pay-per-click ad campaign, make the mistakes listed in points 1 through 8 and conclude that paid search is a complete waste of time. If the ads are not working figure out why and fix the problem.

10.Not checking results: Worse than coming to the wrong conclusion about your Google Adword campaign is not coming to any conclusion at all because you are not following the results. It is possible to follow the results and make corrections almost immediately to maximize your results, but not if you are not paying attention.

Using Google Adwords is not an automatic process and profitable results do not come just by the fact that you have an ad. Too many companies have tried paid search and when they failed they blamed Google and not what they were doing or not doing.

Marketers need to pay attention just as much with paid search as they do with inbound marketing. Paid search and Google Adwords does not take the place of good search engine optimization and should be used in conjunction with a good inbound marketing strategy.

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Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

This is a serious subject, so let's cut to the chase...

Does greasing Google's payroll by paying for pay-per-click Adwords impact your organic search rankings?

Abso-100%-lutely!

Now we're not telling you it's right, we're just telling you the facts.

Case in point...

We've been working with a client whose website was hit hard after the recent penguin updates . They dropped from ranking on page 1 for every keyword phrases to page 5, 6, 7 and even higher.

Total disaster!

Thankfully the culprit was identified and eliminated (duplicate pages left from a website change that happened a year before), however the damage was done.

Once your site has lost its rankings foothold, it's harder than ever to reclaim it, and that process takes time. Our organic search efforts had been working, and slowly month after month we were seeing things increase.

However, this wasn't fast enough.

So...we launched an Adwords campaign and....

ALACAZAM!

Page 1 in less than 5 hours.

Organic rankings don't jump that quickly. It doesn't happen. And it certainly doesn't happen with a wide range of keyword phrases all at once.

So....did paying for Adwords boost the organic rankings? Absolutely.

Is paying for Adwords a replacement for organic search marketing? Absolutely NOT!!

Why? Because when you stop greasing Google, your paid ads go away...and without any natural website credibility, your organic rankings will drop.

Where do you want to be? You want to be ranked #1 organically!

However, if you need to get there FAST, and as much as we hate to say so...forking over some dough to Google to speed things up (alongside an organic marketing campaign), could be something to consider.

When you want your website to rocket to the top of search, connect with me on LinkedIn and let's talk.

Don't Forget About the Penguin!

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Well, Google has done it again. We knew it was coming, however it's here with a vengeance that is bitter indeed.

Penguin 5.0 (or Penguin 2.1 as Google calls it) was released on Friday, and many sites have been impacted.

The truth is that while Google is calling these updates "Anti-Spam" they are actually targeting many sites that are not "spamming" the world of the Internet.

Many sites have spent a great deal of time and money creating and distributing quality content over long periods of time in order to link back to their sites and boost traffic. No cheating, no shortcuts , no black hat techniques.

Unfortunately, many of you are now getting your hand slapped for working so hard to create all that content and get it out there.

If the sites you put content on weren't high-ranking enough, if they had other people using it improperly, all those things now count against you.

The biggest irony of it all??

If you never worked hard to get your site ranked organically - never wrote blogs, never setup Google plus, never used social networks - and ONLY paid Google for your rankings, guess what? Your site is now ranking front and center.

Unintentional? We think not.

Regardless of the fact that Google is fast becoming the closest thing to the Terminator's Skynet we've ever seen (is anyone else a bit afraid of all the power they have?)... the reality is that if your site has been hit, you need to deal with it.

So, how do you go about doing that?

The likely culprit is what Google would call "bad links," and whether these are actually bad or not doesn't matter. Google has deemed them as such. So, they have to be either manually removed or disavowed.

1. The first step is to identify which ones have been identified as "Bad." In order to do that, use Google's webmaster tools. Click here for more information about how to identify bad links. 

The next step is to remove them. There are a few ways to take care of this.

If someone at your company or a firm you were working with manually built these links, then they may be able to be manually take them down.  Easy-peasy.

2. Another option is to contact the webmaster and ask them to remove the links to your site. They may or may not do this, and they may or may not charge you money to do it (which they shouldn't).

3. The third alternative is to Disavow the links using the Google webmaster tool.  Click here for more information on how to disavow links. 

After that is all done, it's likely going to be a waiting game. You may not see the results or an impact on rankings until the next Penguin update.

Is this infuriating? Yes. Is it "fair"? No. Is it reality? Indeed.

If your site has been impacted, for now we recommend that you stop distributing content on outside sites and focus on your own blog and social networking. Then you can re-evaluate after your site gets back up where it needs to be.

Have questions? We're happy to help. Connect with me on LinkedIn below.

Franchisors have a lot on their plates, so it's understandable that things get missed and pushed to the back burner, especially when it comes to local marketing support.

But given how critical local search engine optimization (SEO) is nowadays for most franchises, it's surprising how many times I see fundamental best practices missed - which in turn results in poor search rankings, lower traffic, and fewer conversions.

I thought it would be helpful to give a recap of the most important, no-brainer SEO best practices that franchisors should ensure for their corporate website and franchisees' local sites.

Top Level Domains or Subdomains for Local Sites?

If you only have a listing page with all of your locations, or basic landing pages for each location with duplicate content, I strongly suggest setting up local websites. Now, when it comes to what you should do regarding domains for your local sites, one of the most practical approaches is the use of subdomains (i.e. city.franchise-corp.com).

When done right, your local franchises can come up in search results for their target geographic area.

The other option is to use a top-level domain for each of your locations, and here's what Matt Cuts - Director of Web Search at Google - has to say about this topic:

"If your company has a bunch of store locations, please don't hide that information behind a search form or a POST. If you want your store pages to be found, it's best to have a unique, easily crawlable url for each store. Ideally, you would also create an HTML sitemap that points to the web pages for your stores (and each web page should have a unique url)."

Source: SEO Advice: Make a web page for each store location

The main downside to using top-level domains like "city-name-franchise.com" for each location is all the time it takes to register and track dozens or hundreds of domains. Subdomains are a very good alternative in most cases, and the use of a CMS (content management system) that provides an easy to use and practical dashboard for you and from franchisees is key.

There are many CMS options you have to choose from, but of course I recommend going with one that is specifically designed for managing franchise sites, like Empowerkit!

On-Page SEO

The aspects of on-page SEO for each location (and your corporate website) are very important, and you can handle all of the key items in a simplified manner. The use of tools like Google Webmaster Tools, and Google Docs can aid in keeping track of on-page adjustments.

Here are the main on-page SEO components you should account for:

Page Title Tag

Your page title is prime real estate, and including service or product keywords is important, along with some geographic terms specific to each franchise location (i.e. the city and state each location services should be included in their site's page titles), and some terms about what the page content entails. You may consider looking at your competitors' page titles to get ideas, and I'd also recommend creating a standardized page title structure for your local sites.

Page Description Tag

This acts as a back up to your page's title. Including synonyms and semantically related keywords within a concise description of the page's content will help the search engine identify a page on the site as relevant to the search query that a potential visitor enters in a Google search.

H tags and Section Titles

(Attention Grabbers) H tags, also known as headings, serve two very important purposes. For search engines, they show you are placing emphasis on the content that you are including in that section. And for visitors, it's an easy way to scan and identify a specific section. So include your keywords and related terms as part of your headlines, and make sure use h tags!

Content

Who are you talking to and what do you want them to do?

Content is a major part of SEO, in fact the most important piece by far, and it's also the hardest to do correctly across a network of local sites.

Whether you develop the content at home office, hire a content writer, and/or allow franchisees to make some content updates on their own, the important thing is that you a.) have as much unique, locally relevant content on the location sites as possible, and b.) publish new content updates (i.e. through a blog) as often as possible.

Think about who you are writing for, and what specific actions you'd like them to take when they visit a local site. Who is the target audience? What are they interested in reading?

Answering these questions can help in setting up a scalable content strategy for your franchisee websites. Don't forget to include geo-targeted terms like city names and communities along with your target keywords.

A simple way to develop geo-targeted content is to be in touch with the community that your franchise serves. Write about current events, upcoming seasonal events and or sponsorships.

What I usually recommend is that corporate leads the content strategy, providing ongoing ideas, templates, and other content resources to franchisees. Then franchisees can participate in producing content updates for their own local website - after all, they probably know their local communities best, and just need a proper framework and strategy to get moving.

There are many other SEO and content focused tasks that you can undertake depending as part of your online marketing strategy.

However, these simple initial best practices will get you moving in the right direction, and help your franchisees be more competitive in local search.

In a follow up article, I'll talk about tracking your on page SEO efforts and how you can identify key areas of opportunity based on your current results. Have questions or comments? Please share below in the comments section, and feel free to contact me directly: (510) 859-8452 or [email protected]

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