By Brandon Honeycutt
A well-designed website is a vital yet commonly overlooked part of marketing a business. With search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing gradually replacing traditional print directories, a phone-book listing just isnt worth what it used to be. Todays consumers want to find what theyre looking for fast and are turning to search engines, which can retrieve results much faster than flipping through a phone book.
A poll taken by PollDaddy.com revealed some surprising statistics on the steady decline of phone-book use. According to the poll, 20 percent of people rarely use the phone book, 76 percent never use the phone book, and only 4 percent definitely use the phone book on a regular basis. While some may still consider these print directories valuable marketing tools, others have chosen to cut their phone-book listings completely and reallocate marketing dollars to more effective advertising mediums, such as website optimization and online advertising.
The percentage of Internet users who use search engines varies by study, so its difficult to define the exact percentage. However, a 2008 report released by TNS Global Market Research titled Digital World, Digital Life stated 81 percent of Internet surfers used search engines to find what they were looking for.
There were 1.73 billion Internet users worldwide as of September 2009, according to Internet World Stats. When you do the math, it equates to approximately 1.4 billion people using search engines to find what they need. Compare that to the world population of around 6.7 billion, and that means nearly 21 percent of the Earths inhabitants is using online search engines. Keep in mind this number reflects the entire population of the world, including impoverished and underprivileged nations with little or no Internet activity. North America, with approximately 252,908,000 Internet users, is near the top of the scale, coming in third after Asia (738,257,230) and Europe (418,029,796).
Considering these hefty numbers, maintaining an optimized online presence has never been more important for small to mid-size self-storage companies, allowing them to reach Internet users who are already searching for self-storage in their areas.
Consider your self-storage website a full-page color spread in a phone book. You have one shot to impress the viewer and convince him to choose you over your competition before he flips the page. This should be kept in mind when allocating your website development and search-engine optimization (SEO) budget. If the user doesnt like what he sees online, he likely wont even bother checking your prices before moving on to the next search result.
Its inevitable that youre competing for search-engine ranking with many other self-storage websites. Aside from ranking well in the search engines, having a website thats both visually appealing and user-friendly can often be the determining factor in whether visitors will choose you over competition. Having a disorganized or difficult-to-navigate website will often drive users away, no matter where you rank in the search engines or how low your prices are.
Many, if not most, small self-storage companies have websites that arent optimized or properly maintained. This is partially due to operators underestimating the importance of this component as part of a good overall marketing strategy.
A high-quality website should consist of a well-designed and easy-to-navigate internal-link architecture, with easily accessible and quality original content. A basic rule of thumb is all content should be accessible within no more than four clicks. This makes website navigation easy for users, which mitigates the risk of them getting frustrated with your site and moving on to the next one.
Building On-Page Optimization
Once you have a website thats visually appealing with a user-friendly interface, on-page optimization is the next step to gaining visibility in search engines. Titles, descriptions, keyword targeting, internal anchor text and other on-page attributes must be optimized for search-engine crawlers, commonly called spiders. This requires keyword research and term/phrase selection that will help you rank well for your targeted key terms.
An SEO consultant can help you determine the best titles, keywords, descriptions and more for your website to get you the top search-engine result placement. Once youre finished with the development and optimization of your website, link building, content creation, social media and viral marketing are the next actions to reach page-one ranking on the search engines. Your SEO consultant can handle all of this as well.
Having followed the aforementioned suggestions, your final result should be an impressive-looking and fully functional website that satisfies visitors and search engines. When someone uses a search engine to find self-storage in your city, youll be among the top results with an attractive website. This will give consumers the good first impression thats necessary to convert them from website visitors to paying tenants.
Get on Board
In the fast-paced, ever-changing world, business owners must observe and adapt to the way consumers behave to most effectively market their services. With more people using search engines than ever before, having an optimized website is more of a necessity than an extravagance.
With search engines currently at the top of how people are finding what they need, theres never been a more opportune time for self-storage operators to use the Internet as a targeted and cost-effective marketing tool. Why wait for your competitors to take advantage of SEO before you do? Be the first on board and make your online presence known with a fully optimized website designed to showcase your self-storage facility and draw in the potential tenants you may be missingthe ones using online search engines rather than phone books.
Brandon Honeycutt is a content writer and marketing consultant for Storage Marketing Strategies, a full-service website-design and online-marketing company catering exclusively to the self-storage industry. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.storagemarketingstrategies.com.