Ever used travel websites such as Travelocity, Orbitz, maybe Hotels.com? Most of you are probably nodding your head. You've most likely used an aggregation website to book a hotel room, rental car, plane ticket, dinner reservation, tee time and more. Online directories help us compare several options through the convenience of a single website. These days, online shopping for self-storage units works no differently. The same directory business model has been used in the industry for nearly a decade.
Directories are a valuable addition to the marketing strategy for thousands of self-storage facilities. Go to your favorite search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.), type in storage unit, and youll see what I mean. Between the natural search results and paid ads, each of the major search engines will return several industry directories, which are designed to help consumers compare multiple facilities through a single Web portal. A good directory simplifies the purchasing process, which is important to an online shopper.
How Do Directories Compete?
Are directories competing in the online marketplace so they rank atop the search engines? Absolutely. These well-established sites generally have very aggressive search-engine optimization and marketing strategies that enable them to be found in search results. Due to their size, they have economies of scale individual facilities cannot possibly have, with entire teams devoted to getting them as close to the top of search results as possible.
This can be a benefit for you, the individual storage operator, too. You may not realize how many keyword combinations you would have to target to compete for the top position of every storage-related search within your market. If you were to target just 10 keywords (for example, storage, self storage, mini storage, storage unit, etc.), times five geographic identifiers (ZIP code, city, neighborhood, etc.), times two wording variations (keyword followed by geographic indicator and geographic indicator followed by keyword), thats 100 keywords you would have to support through your SEO efforts.
If you were to think about it, you could easily come up with 30 to 40 keywords and a dozen geographic indicators for which you would like your facility to compete. But most self-storage operators dont have the time or money to invest in these efforts. For that reason, consider using an online industry directory (or several), which is already targeting thousands of keyword possibilities. This will allow you to focus on just the two or three keywords most germane to your business, reduce your internal online marketing costs, and reach more potential tenants.
Is it possible for your website to consume every place on the first results page of a major search engine? No. But it is possible for your facility to be found multiple times on a page by joining a directory. There are only so many listings on the first page of Google, adding yourself to another seat at the table only makes sense.
Why Should You List Your Facility on a Directory?
First, its an instant placement on the first page of the major search engines. Most self-storage directories have been around for many years now. Consequently, the major directories are recognized by the search engines as the most relevant results when users type in search terms relating to the industry. Depending on your particular market and the competition within it, it could take months or years for your individual facility's website to be found on page one naturally (without the use of paid search-engine advertising).
Second, a directory is set up to convert as many online visitors as possible. Whether its a flat-fee directory, a pay-per-conversion directory or some combination of the two, if it doesn't convert users to paying tenants, it will not retain facility operators as customers.
Directory websites invest thousands of dollars every year into watching the online behavior of Web visitors, testing new variations and implementing hundreds of tiny changes to reach optimum conversion rates. Do you have time to do this with your website? If not, this is an intangible benefit you receive by being listed in directories.
Which leads to reason No. 3: Operators of industry directories keep up with online trends and know what consumers want. Outside of conversion, they look at overall consumer behavior, how to capture and retain visitors, and how to keep them returning to the website.
You may have concerns about being listed among your competitors in these directories, but the reality is you cant afford not to be. A directory is a consumer-friendly website that allows storage seekers to shop facilities and reserve/rent units. If your facility isn't listed, it will never be in the mix for the traffic these sites are getting from potential customers.
As stated earlier, a directory's success is tied to customer conversions. Membership in these websites is generally short-term, so immediate results are a must if the directory wants to keep your business. Some directories only charge a fee when a customer calls a facility, visits the facility website or reserves/rents a unit. Whatever the fee structure is, one rental will generally cover the cost of directory membership for quite some time.
The bottom line is self-storage directories are additional websites on which your facility can be found and through which you can capture what every storage operator wants: more rentals.
Nick Bilava is the director of sales and marketing for USstoragesearch.com , an Internet hub that connects online consumers with self-storage facilities nationwide. Bilava works with storage operators to help them capture more tenants online through USstoragesearch.com and a partner network of sites including StorageUnit.com and Storage.com . Over the past five years, he has worked with thousands of facilities to help them get more rentals online. He can be reached at 866.880.0742 or [email protected] .