Google wants you to publish more content about your franchise opportunity if you want to rank highly for key terms

Everyone hates spam.

Spam doesn’t just clog your inbox; it clutters up your Google search results.

Google has declared war on what it calls “webspam” — websites that rank highly for specific terms but don’t have the content people are really looking for. Think of the Internet as a river, and webspam as the tires and discarded refrigerator blocking the flow and ruining your view. It’s annoying, even dishonest.

Last year, Google began the attack on webspam with its Panda algorithm update, which removed content farms and rewarded sites that published well-written, original content. This year, Google rolled out its latest spam-killer: Google Penguin, which further penalizes sites that manipulate search methods solely to rank higher in search results.

Penguin penalizes websites that use extensive link building as the primary source of SEO by lowering how they rank. Companies traditionally have hired SEO firms specifically to build links. But users have said that much of the content that ranks highly is not what they are looking for and is poor quality, and Google has responded by dramatically altering the search algorithms.

Google is hammering webspam because it undermines the company’s mission: to deliver relevant results. Google determines a site’s relevance by monitoring the billions of daily searches by millions of users and registering what sites they visit, how many pages they view, how long they stay and what content users share on social networks; until recently, it also tracked how many other sites linked to each site. The longer users stay, and the more pages they view, the more engaged they are.

In short, Google doesn’t want you to hire a SEO company to manipulate the search engine; it wants you to redesign the scope of your website and publish better written and more relevant content for readers.

How does this affect my franchise opportunity website?

1. Quality content matters. In the post-Penguin landscape, franchisors should think hard about the universe of questions franchisee candidates are most likely to ask when researching a brand. If you’re a barbecue franchisor, you might ask, “How do I start a barbecue (or BBQ) business?,” “How much does a BBQ franchise cost?” or “What are the most popular BBQ menu items?”

Google rewards companies that publish rich, informative content — pages and blog articles — that answers pertinent questions, keeps users engaged and prompts them to share it on social networks.

If you’ve invested in link building, black hat SEO tactics and encourage content providers to generate content that matches what users are looking for. To rank, franchise opportunity sites need original, well-written, meaty content for Google to crawl and index.

If you are still thinking of your franchise opportunity website as an online brochure with a handful of pages and just a few paragraphs and bullets on each page, expect your ability to earn organic search leads to diminish over the next year. More detailed and expansive content written specifically for people searching for subjects related to your opportunity is no the ante into the lead generation game.

2. Engagement matters. It’s not enough just to rank. To win and keep a top spot, sites have to be “sticky” — visitors have to want to stay there. Users remain on typical websites for an average of 33 seconds. The average for most franchise opportunity sites is 90 seconds to two minutes. Induce users to “stick” for more than two minutes, and your ranking will rise.

You can get people to stay through pages with content written in article formats, as in newspapers and magazines, with embedded photos and videos. Navigation should be simple and logical; visitors should be able to get to any page with, at most, two or three clicks. You should include clear calls to action to navigate to a new page. Interested users — and if they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t be on your site, would they? — will stay and read. Web pages don’t have to be short and consist of text in bullets. Pages with detailed, relevant content will draw more viewers and keep them there for longer.

3. Your home page doesn’t matter like it used to. Google users are typically looking for the answer to specific questions. If you’re frequently publishing content on your franchise site, you’ll see that a large percentage of traffic enters through internal pages, not the home page. That’s a sign that the content matches what people are searching for. Optimizing your homepage for large numbers of individual terms isn’t a good practice anymore – at most a website’s home can be a relevant result for 4-5 terms. Real estate on your website is inexpensive so it pays to add more pages and optimize each for specific terms.

That’s why the most important lesson from Penguin is: Hire writers to help you tell your story and design your franchise opportunity website so you can publish many more pages. It’s critical now to create content Google recognizes and rewards because Google is where the franchise leads are going to research franchise opportunities. That trend is only going to grow in 2013.

Rethink the design and site structure of your website, too. Do you have a blog? A funnel of pages that help an interested candidate do research? How about organic landing pages targeting keywords that people interested in your business might search for?

Implication: Google’s Penguin update is the latest in a series of updates that will continue to change the way franchise systems can generate internet leads. They key tool a franchise system has is its website and for the foreseeable future, the quality and scope of content is more important than the design of your site. If you haven’t reworked your franchise opportunity website – or if you still lack one altogether – this is a good time to take a new look.

Someone right now is searching for something you sell. Does your franchise site have what they are searching for?

Want feedback on your current website? Start a conversation with us about what lead generation opportunities you might be missing.