Why Self-Storage Operators Must Have a Responsive Website in 2014

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According to digital-business analytics firm comScore, as of June 2013, 55 percent of all time spent interacting with businesses online occurred on smartphones and tablets. This percentage will only increase. The key is to make sure whomever does the work truly understands how to design a fully responsive website. Right now only a handful of designers know how to do this correctly.

The Responsive Design

Google prefers businesses have a single responsive website where the content is the same across all viewing platforms instead of having a desktop redirect to a standalone mobile site. This is because Google wants to deliver what it considers to be the “best” content to its users. Often, the content on a standalone mobile site is similar to that on the corresponding desktop site. Google dislikes duplicate content and will penalize a mobile website if it contains substantially the same content as the corresponding desktop site. This penalty means that a standalone mobile site probably will not be indexed and will not show up in the search results.

But what if the mobile content is substantially different on a standalone mobile site? Google doesn’t like that either. If a user clicks on the URL of a desktop website that was rendered as a result of a given search query and then is redirected to a separate mobile website that contains different content, Google may penalize the desktop website. This is because unscrupulous “black hat” search engine optimizers have used redirects unethically to trick users into clicking a given link they thought was a legitimate search result for a given query, only to be redirected somewhere else.

So where does that leave you as a self-storage operator who wants to be found high in the search engine rankings by as many prospective customers as possible? You can maintain the status quo and probably lose business to competitors who have created responsive website designs, or you can embrace change and update your website to a responsive design now to get the jump on your competition.

Among the major players in self-storage, all seem to at least have mobile-responsive designs. This is logical because the majors have the resources to keep on the leading edge. However, a look at 100 randomly selected self-storage websites in 10 of the top 50 metropolitan statistical areas found that only 11 percent of non-major-player websites have responsive designs. Interestingly, one market, Houston, had a high percentage of responsive websites sampled at 50 percent, while Charlotte, N.C.; Hartford, Conn.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Phoenix scored zero percent responsive of websites sampled. You can see how your desktop website looks on different devices at DalfortMedia.com/r.

Advertising Concerns

Many self-storage operators are using Google Adwords pay-per-click (PPC) ads to attract customers. Most of the major players that use PPC ads link them to mobile-friendly websites for mobile-device searches. However, a surprising number of smaller players link their ads to conventional non-responsive desktop Web pages that are complex and unreadable on mobile devices. This is most likely resulting in high bounce-back rates, lower Adwords quality scores, higher PPC costs and fewer new customers.

The WordPress content-management system is the de facto standard for responsive website design. Using the WordPress platform is especially beneficial to independent self-storage operators because it offers flexibility and do-it-yourself updating. Also, there are many free third-party plugins and widgets available to enhance WordPress performance.

Bottom line: Plan on making your website responsive in 2014 to stay ahead of your competitors and in front of your customers.

Internet-marketing strategist Nick Nichols has been helping businesses attract and engage pre-qualified buyers since 1996. He and the team at Dalfort Media assist self-storage operators in creating responsive WordPress websites to attract more long-term tenants, boost tenant satisfaction and increase tenant retention. For more information, call 214.458.2290; visit www.dalfortmedia.com.

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