Over the last 15 years, the Internet has changed the way we do just about everything, and what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning. Self-storage operators are catching on to the importance of the Internet, and most have some kind of Web presence. Some declare that as many as 50 percent of their new tenants find them online.
Five years ago, that number was likely closer to 10 percent. That’s a pretty fast rate of change, and it’s not slowing down. In fact, not only do consumers search for self-storage online, many prefer to complete all move-in tasks via the Web.
To ensure potential customers find your facility, there are several steps you can take to leverage your online presence, including search-engine optimization (SEO), search-engine marketing (SEM) and third-party referral sites. Let’s talk about each.
Although there are a few search engines on the Web, Google by far dominates, grabbing more than 64 percent of the search market. Naturally, the Google search engine should be your main concern for SEO and SEM. Its proprietary search technology is one of the greatest “black boxes” in the world.
Despite what anyone tells you, the factors that help your website rank higher on Google are the secrets of none other than Google itself. People will claim to be experts and “guarantee” placement for your site in organic search results, but the truth is, unless they work for Google and spend every day deep inside the company’s search algorithms, they don’t really know how it works.
Additionally, Google is constantly tweaking its ranking algorithm (PageRank), so it’s impossible to know exactly how to achieve top rank at any given time. Google’s goal is to display truly relevant search results rather than results manipulated by self-promoting individuals or companies.
The most important thing you can do to make Google notice you is to get links from other websites! Even better, get links from other contextually relevant websites—other storage sites, for example. Get all your friends in the storage business to link to you, and offer to link back to them in exchange. Call your local chamber of commerce and get a link.
Do something that gets your facility press coverage, which can often lead to a link. For example, offer free storage to victims of a fire, flood or other natural disaster. Not only is this a great thing to do for those in need, but there’s a chance a link to your facility’s website could appear in local or national news outlets. The story will quickly fall off the front page, but your link stays archived on the press outlet’s website forever—and Google could find it. The act of obtaining links to your website is called “link-building,” and it’s something every self-storage company with a website should be doing on an ongoing basis.