Durandl

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Hi There

Just read an article on search Engine Land about big brands not maximizing on their local opportunities. In this article they mentioned Wendy's restaurants and how well their stores are indexed. They use the following subdomain: locations.wendys.com that enables them to be well index.
I ran a screaming frog crawl on their main site and I couldn' find any link pointing to the subdomain in questions. All I can find is a store locator https://find.wendys.com/

My question is: Why don't they have a link to the subdomain on their main site and what is the best technical implementations for multiple location for a brand if they have more than 10 stores?
 

Eric Rohrback

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Their setup is a little different due to the size of their organization. The location subdomain works for local listing management. They have a simple HTML directory for all the states/countries/etc they cover, which then drills down into the individual stores. That creates a unique page for each store with all the details you need. Once again, this is good for external directories & managing the experience when a user clicks the "website" link.

On the main site, they are two steps ahead of you. They're using geolocation tracking by IP address to determine where you are (as long as you don't block them). They know which location will be the closest to you. The map they're using is powered by Google Maps, so all they're doing is giving you an option for driving directions.... which makes sense right?

If you're on Wendy's site, and navigate to the "Find" section then the clear user intent is that you want to find the closest Wendy's. They're creating a better user experience by giving you the exact directions from your location to the location you want. No need for another landing page, since it's a fast food place and you've already expressed intent to visit the store.

There's actually only one reason that subdomain exists... local SEO. It actually is a worse user experience than the find.wendys.com.

Since find.wendys.com has a very different UX layout, it's also possible that two separate teams manage those subdomains. Product development/UX most likely handles find.wendys.com and SEO handles locations.wendys.com. It happens that way at a lot of larger companies when resources are divided up. Once again goes back to the two functions of the subdomains.

As long as locations.wendys.com pages shows up in Google Maps... they've got what they wanted.

My question is: Why don't they have a link to the subdomain on their main site and what is the best technical implementations for multiple location for a brand if they have more than 10 stores?

1. They don't need to. It is a worse user experience to link to that subdomain from the main site. The find.wendys.com is much better for the user.

2. Depends what brand, how many stores, and where they are located. It's not a one-size fits all answer, so it really depends on the particular business case.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Their setup is a little different due to the size of their organization. The location subdomain works for local listing management. They have a simple HTML directory for all the states/countries/etc they cover, which then drills down into the individual stores. That creates a unique page for each store with all the details you need. Once again, this is good for external directories & managing the experience when a user clicks the "website" link.

On the main site, they are two steps ahead of you. They're using geolocation tracking by IP address to determine where you are (as long as you don't block them). They know which location will be the closest to you. The map they're using is powered by Google Maps, so all they're doing is giving you an option for driving directions.... which makes sense right?

If you're on Wendy's site, and navigate to the "Find" section then the clear user intent is that you want to find the closest Wendy's. They're creating a better user experience by giving you the exact directions from your location to the location you want. No need for another landing page, since it's a fast food place and you've already expressed intent to visit the store.

There's actually only one reason that subdomain exists... local SEO. It actually is a worse user experience than the find.wendys.com.

Since find.wendys.com has a very different UX layout, it's also possible that two separate teams manage those subdomains. Product development/UX most likely handles find.wendys.com and SEO handles locations.wendys.com. It happens that way at a lot of larger companies when resources are divided up. Once again goes back to the two functions of the subdomains.

As long as locations.wendys.com pages shows up in Google Maps... they've got what they wanted.



1. They don't need to. It is a worse user experience to link to that subdomain from the main site. The find.wendys.com is much better for the user.

2. Depends what brand, how many stores, and where they are located. It's not a one-size fits all answer, so it really depends on the particular business case.

For SEO benefit, I would expect that a sub folder would have been a much better decision. However from an architecture standpoint, subdomains seem like a better choice.

Thoughts?
 

Durandl

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Dear Eric
Firstly, thank you very much for taking the time to write such a detailed answer. Very helpful indeed. It's people like you who make this community so great. I also saw that Joy Hawkins liked your answer and she rocks too.

I have one last question based on your answer

1. They don't need to. It is a worse user experience to link to that subdomain from the main site. The find.wendys.com is much better for the user.

I would have thought that wendys.com would have had, at least, a link somewhere on their home page to the locations.wendys.com subdomain to a) help Google crawl and find the site and b) pass on some link juice to the subdomain in order to build authority to it. Why haven't they done that.

Many thanks again
 

Eric Rohrback

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They have links pointing to all their individual store pages on the locations subdomain already. Google knows that subdomain exists, and when crawling a larger directory it will find those pages just fine. The internal linking is actually pretty messy to follow. You have location subfolders nested under different subdomains. For the most part, every tab on the menu directs to a different subdomain. They should actually go through their menu and update links, since i'm seeing a lot of 301's.... :p

For a majority of businesses out there, this setup would backfire. Think of how well known the Wendy's brand is, and how large they are. Also think about the overall goal for their site. It's not like Wendy's is trying to get blog posts to rank and drive traffic to the site. How many people are looking for information about their cheeseburgers? They really just care about showing up well in Google Maps so people can get driving directions to the closest store.

For SEO benefit, I would expect that a sub folder would have been a much better decision. However from an architecture standpoint, subdomains seem like a better choice.

Thoughts?

This kind of goes back to my point about access. It's easier to give more restricted access to a subdomain than it is for the full domain, and hope an outside vendor stays within a certain folder. This is enterprise SEO, so a majority of companies in the fast food space are using an outside vendor to manage local pages on the store. Even if they are doing everything in-house, they would restrict access to a certain team within the company.

If done right, there is no difference between hosting pages on a subdomain vs a folder under the main domain. It all comes down to available resources. You need to treat a subdomain like a separate site, so if you have a team dedicated to working on SEO for that subdomain then it can work fine. The reason we typically tell businesses to host under the main domain is because they usually don't have internal resources or the budget to manage two sites effectively.

I think this debate is very different given this is a enterprise franchise store business model, and many other case studies on the topic explored the use of a blog or resource section of a site within a subdomain or subfolder. To me that is a very critical difference that people need to consider.

The primary goal for locations.wendys.com is to rank in Google Maps. Since the goal is to drive in-store traffic to buy fast food, as long as Wendy's is in the maps they're happy. If you go directly to the site to look for nearby stores, the find.wendys.com subdomain has a much better user experience so it looks like that's managed by a different team.
 
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