Website Success in Self-Storage: Essentials of Development and Marketing
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|Posted on: 11/06/2011|
By Christopher P. Baird
When it comes to a website, success can mean different things to different people. In self-storage, it generally relates to a website’s ability to generate rentals. For the purpose of this article, we’ll define a successful website as one that places well in searches, is found on major consumer-used websites, generates visits from potential customers, has the ability to convert visitors into paying customers.
To be successful, a website requires proper development, including the application of certain techniques in the site’s design (the way it looks), layout (the way it functions) and content (what it says and the way it sells). Many websites get one or even two of these elements correct, but without all three, there isn’t much hope. Would you sit on a three-legged stool with only two legs? The same logic should be applied to your website. Anything less than a complete effort will be in vain.
Your ongoing marketing efforts are also critical to the website’s success. You’ve probably heard terms such as search-engine optimization (SEO), search-engine marketing (SEM), Internet marketing and others. These have different meanings, of course, but most people use them synonymously.
First, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of developing your facility’s website. Then we’ll discuss ways of marketing it to target audiences.
Developing Your Website
Over the past 10 years, the Web has changed dramatically. We’ve been through several versions of website code, screen-resolution increases, Internet-speed increases and more browser types and versions than anyone probably expected. These days, websites must be viewable in all browser types and on mobile devices. They must look good in various screen resolutions, and they can contain many more graphics and colors to stand out and prompt action. This is all prior to creating website code that’s necessary to tell search engines about your site content.
If you think this seems like a lot, it is, but it’s all necessary. I’ve heard SEO companies make statements such as, “It doesn’t matter what your website looks like. It only matters that it gets seen.” To that I ask: How many times do you walk by a piece of trash before you pick it up and take it home? My guess is “never” or “I might take it home, but I would never use it.”
The same is true for your website. Even if users find it, it must be professional-looking and contain the appropriate content and sales process to prompt action and close the deal. Here are some tips for the development stage:
Marketing Your Website
This is undoubtedly one of the hottest topics in the self-storage industry over the last two years. While attending industry tradeshows around the country, I’ve noticed most of the marketing seminars are about Internet-related efforts—SEO, mobile websites, social media, Google Adwords and Google Places. These are all important, but equally important is to understand what not to do with your website.
For example, when you hire someone to help you with one or all of the above or take on the task yourself, don’t be on the hunt for a “magic bullet” that will help you sell all or most of your available inventory. If you go looking for this, you’ll find plenty of companies willing to sell it to you, but you’ll end up frustrated and disappointed. You’ll also waste your money.Lots of companies buy marketing programs through which their website is “submitted to thousands of search engines” or “guaranteed to be placed at the top of your search in Google in 24 hours or less.” Let’s face it, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
First, there are only three search engines that drive most of the search traffic, not thousands. Second, anyone can get on the first page of Google search in less than 24 hours using paid ads, but you can’t stay there unless you pay for every click. Let’s not forget some of the latest techniques marketers use: They take your Google and Bing Places, point them to your facility listing on their website, and then claim they gave you the traffic. In reality, those Places are yours to point wherever you choose.
Now that you know what not to do, the question remains, what should you do? Here are four keys to marketing a successful website:
Marketing your website happens online and offline. In fact, according to Google, most searches are a result of people who hear or read an ad through television, radio, signage, etc., then go to Google to research what they read or heard offline. By now, most people are aware of the self-storage industry, so make it a priority to be seen online when they’re looking for a place to store their items.
Christopher P. Baird started freelance website design in 1998 until the formation of Automatit Inc. in 2001. He has more than 15 years of website marketing and SEO experience. Tucson, Ariz.-based Automatit Inc. offers planning, creation and maintenance of custom websites and online software solutions for the self-storage industry. Automatit also provides website hosting and digital document services. For more information, call 520.293.4608; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ; visit www.automatit.net .