By Chuck Gordon
There are many ways to advertise your self-storage facility online, but the greatest return you’ll ever get is when you spend zero on your ads. That’s right. There are several ways to generate new tenants online without spending a single dime. Simple things you can do that will have a big impact are claim your Google Places, Yelp and CitySearch listings and post some Craigslist ads. In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to use each of these channels.
The first and arguably most important free listing to claim is on Google Places. This listing helps you promote your company to consumers searching Google for self-storage in your area.
When you do a local ZIP-code search on Google, you’ve probably noticed a different kind of listing either above or weaved into the organic results (see accompanying image). These are Google Places listings, and you can get your facility listed here for free. In many cases, claiming your Google Places listing can be a free ticket to page one of Google—no search-engine optimization required.
To claim your Google Places listing, simply visit http://places.google.com/business and follow the instructions to list your business. During the listing process, you’ll enter your phone number, address, photos and a few other details about your facility. In some cases, Google might already have your facility listed. You should still go through the same process to “claim” your listing so you can make sure all the information is up to date and add more details.
If you have multiple facilities, Google has tools to let you easily upload multiple locations. You’ll also need to enter a link to your website. This is this most important part of the Google Places listing since most people will actually click through to your site. Make sure your website provides a simple way for visitors to contact your facility.
Craigslist is another website that can help you generate tenants at zero cost. Craigslist took what newspapers do with paid classified ads, put them online and made them free (except for job listings). I’m sure most of you have heard of—if not used—Craigslist. You’d be surprised by how many people use this online service to find self-storage.
Posting a classified ad on Craigslist is free and easy. Just go to Craigslist.org, find your city, go to the parking/storage section, and then click on the “post” link in the upper right-hand corner. Follow the simple instructions to post your free ad. The entire process should take you less than five minutes.
To give your listing the best chance to succeed, make sure it stands out and has a lot of information about your facility. You can also include a phone number and a link to your website in your ad, making it easy for consumers to contact you. Depending on the population and volume of ads in your city, you’ll need to post a new Craigslist ad at regular intervals. In a place like Chicago, you might need to do it every day since so many other ads are posted. However, if your facility is in a more rural area, you may only need to do it once a month.
Another site you should be listed on is Yelp. Millions of consumers look to Yelp for reviews of local businesses by other customers. You don’t need to be signed up for people to leave a review about you, and it’s very possible there are already reviews about your facility on the site.
You can claim your Yelp listing for free. This gives you the ability to publicly respond to reviews (positive and negative), announce special offers, and even see stats about how many people are interacting with your Yelp page.
Simply visit http://biz.yelp.com and click “Create your free account now.” Follow the steps to find your business and set up your account. Once you’re set, you can start engaging with customers. When people use Yelp to find a business, they’ll often look for the highest-rated listings. You become the highest-rated storage facility in your area by encouraging your existing customers to leave reviews about your facility on Yelp.
CitySearch is a better version of Yellow Pages online. It’s good at search-engine optimization, so the pages often appear in local storage-search results on Google. For this reason, you want to make sure your facility is front and center on CitySearch when someone clicks through to the site from Google. CitySearch is like Yelp in that your listing already exists on the site—you just need to claim it.
To do this, go to CitySearch.com and use the search box to find your facility. Once you find your listing, click through to your page and look for the “Own this business?” link directly below the photo. Click on the link and follow the steps. Once you’re setup, make sure all the information on your page is accurate, including hours, address, phone number, etc., and add any special offers you’re running. You can also find out how many people are viewing your page.
Many self-storage operators are already taking advantage of the free advertising channels discussed in this article. They’re easy to use and popular with online users. What are you waiting for?
Chuck Gordon is the CEO and co-founder of SpareFoot.com, an online self-storage marketplace. SpareFoot is 100 percent performance-based with no setup or monthly fees. For more information, call 202.257.2111; visit www.sparefoot.com.