Most self-storage owners understand the importance of the Internet to their marketing efforts, and most have websites for their facilities. But very few take full advantage of the power of the Web. Those who don’t are losing customers to their larger competitors who do.
Self-storage owners understand the No. 1 criterion of successful of real estate: location, location, location. It’s the same for Internet search-engine optimization (SEO). Having a great website is not nearly enough. If it cannot be easily found by customers, it’s worse than having a new storage facility in a rural location on a country road.
There are approximately 50,000 self-storage facilities in the United States, but a Google search for “self-storage” produces 261 million results. Although few people use the Yellow Pages, even fewer search through millions of results to find a particular website. If your facility’s website is not listed on the first page of the Google search or, more important, on the top half, the chances of a customer finding it and reserving a unit at your facility are slim to none.
In real estate, the better locations are generally more expensive. The same holds true with the Internet—most of the time. Google is the most used search engine, accounting for more than 50 percent of all Web searches. The other 50 percent is comprised of Yahoo (25 percent), MSN or Bing (10 percent), and everything else (15 percent), including Yellowpages.com. Because Google is the 800-pound gorilla, if you want your website found by customers, it’s imperative that it be listed on the first page of Google search results and under easily searched key terms.
There are three different types of results Google will display on most searches: sponsored links, organic results and the Google 10 Pack.
Sponsored links are bid on in an auction-style process for each key term. They are usually found at the top and along the side of the results page. These links are typically paid for by the sponsor each time someone clicks on them.
Depending on the search term, this can be expensive but also profitable. The keywords must be input and managed, and bids must be continually adjusted. Larger companies will have more than 100,000 keywords for which bids are monitored every day. Typically, this is an expensive option for smaller operators.
Organic results make up the majority of Google search results. These are controlled by Google-produced algorithms, which are changed consistently in an effort to produce the most relevant results.
The location of your website in the organic results is loosely based on the number of visitors to your site, site relevance to keywords searched, the number of pages linked, and many other factors. By optimizing a facility’s Web page, you can push it higher in the results. Website optimization can be expensive, but it’s definitely worth it.
The Google 10 Pack refers to the results listed next to the local map. These are becoming more relevant, especially with the increasing number of consumers searching with mobile devices. The results are controlled by a completely different Google algorithm.
The Google 10 pack and the organic results are the most commonly clicked on results, making them the most important. If your facility’s website doesn’t appear in these search results, your potential customers probably won’t be able to find you.
It’s important to continually monitor how often your website receives visitors, where these visitors come from, and if they’re converted into customers. There are analytical websites, such as Compete.com, that can calculate the number of unique visitors your website receives.
The larger self-storage companies receive between 200 and 300 unique visitors per month per facility. This large number is directly attributed to the amount of money spent optimizing their websites, as well as their advanced pay-per-click strategies.
If your website is not appearing in search results or has few unique monthly visitors, re-evaluate your Web strategy or align yourself with a larger management company that can quickly incorporate your site into its Internet presence. Because the larger companies understand the importance and power of the Internet, they’re spending the money necessary to have each of their sites listed at the top of all self-storage-related searches.
Often, funds are being pulled from Yellow Pages advertising and redeployed into Internet strategy. The customers acquired from the Web are much less expensive than Yellow Pages customers; they tend to stay longer and come from farther distances.
If your facility is not receiving a substantial amount of customers from the Internet, your Web strategy should be re-evaluated and modified. Potential customers are looking for your self-storage facility. If they can’t find it, they’ll go to your competitor.
Noah Springer handles the management of all strategic partnerships for Extra Space Storage. In 2007, he helped create the Extra Space Storage Joint Venture Program, in which the company joined forces with local developers to build self-storage facilities nationwide. To reach him, call 801.365.4628; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.extraspace.com.