Should I Use Mybusiness.com/franchising or Mybusinessfranchising.com or Franchising.mybusiness.com?
Over the past 5 years, our company has worked with various franchisors on their websites. The industry standard seems to be that you should make a separate website for franchise opportunities, but in many cases, we see websites that have shallow content and poor design. There also can be advantages for search engine optimization if the franchising information is built within the main website. Our feeling is that for most franchise systems it is better to include your franchise content within your website until you have the resources to build a separate franchise website the right way.
What Is The Most Popular Approach?
We created a list of 194 random franchise brands across a variety of industries and surveyed which approach each one took.
- Separate Domain: 133
- Subdomain (franchising.mybusiness.com): 26
- Subfolder (mybusiness.com/franchising): 35
What to Consider
Building a separate website on a subdomain or new domain allows you to create a completely different website for your potential franchisees. Every design and content decision can be done with the franchisee in mind.
You should also consider the internal resources that will be required to generate strong content. If you have not sold a franchise yet, or you only have a few, it can be difficult to define your best selling points. Content for franchise development websites tends to get stronger as the franchise system grows because you have more success stories, benefits, news, and momentum to show to potential franchisees. If you are a franchisor who is just getting started you may not have much to say to potential franchisees and so a full website can feel a bit empty or filled with generic statements like “be part of the next best thing.”
Furthermore, if you spend to create a separate website early on, you may find yourself wanting to completely redo your franchise development site in only a few years.
Search Engine Optimization
If you want to be on that first page of results you need to understand Google’s main ranking factors: relevance and prominence. Relevance is the easy part where if you want to appear for “ice cream franchise opportunities” you should make the title of your website page “ice cream franchise opportunities.” The keywords you want to rank for should appear on your page, along with similar content and keyword variations.
Prominence in the SEO world has a lot to do with backlinks, which is the number of other websites that link to yours. The quantity and quality of your backlinks make up what is known as “domain authority.” This becomes an issue when you build a separate website for your franchise because you then need to get backlinks pointed to two different places.
Your customer-facing website as a franchise usually has a lot of backlinks from being the website listed as your business website on various online directories, social media websites, and news sources. When you create a separate domain for your franchise that new domain generally has very little authority.
Be sure to read our post about SEO for franchise development.
Website costs range significantly. You can put together a site yourself with a website builder in a matter of hours, or you can pay a top-notch firm to build a website for $10,000-$20,000. While your franchise development can share a lot of the same elements of your customer-facing website, it is going to need a very different structure if done well. It is rare that we see websites developed for less than $5,000 done well enough to give a professional look and feel, while also paying close attention to content.
A section of your customer-facing website can be established for less than half of the cost of a separate website. Separate websites also will require separate maintenance costs for hosting, software updates, and updating content. If you can’t afford to commit to the website’s content and design you might not end up with the most professional experience.
How Do Subdomains Differ from Separate Domains and Subfolders?
Using a subdomain is also a perfectly acceptable approach but comes with the same extra costs and domain authority issues as a separate website. There is a mixed opinion in the SEO community about how much a subdomain benefits from the backlinks to the primary domain, but the consensus is that you benefit significantly less than using a subfolder.
If you have a good web design and development team along with good SEO guidance, you can get the best of both worlds by creating a unique section of your customer-facing website. While unusual, you can create a subdirectory of your website like business.com/franchising/, where you have a unique menu to help navigate franchisee content (e.g. /franchising/about-us/ or /franchising/fees).
Well-established national brands almost all use separate websites for good reason; however, there are plenty of national brands that continue to use a subfolder approach. Here are a few examples from our research.
The main takeaway is that emerging brands often feel like they need a separate website, and would be better served waiting until they have the resources to build a nice franchise site. Even for new franchisors that can afford a nice design, they may find that their content for their franchise-facing site needs to change significantly after a few years. As Ron Swanson says to Leslie Knope, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
Contact us if you want our help with your franchise website and marketing plans for franchisors and franchisees.