Google Adwords under magnifying glass

3 Ways Self-Storage Operators Are Wasting Money on Google AdWords

While many self-storage operators are using Google AdWords to generate new leads, their campaigns could be underperforming or outright bleeding money. Consider these three ways you could be wasting your marketing budget, and how to avoid doing so.

One of the many effective ways to generate quality leads for a self-storage business is through search engine marketing, more commonly known as paid search or paid media. The 500-pound gorilla in this area is Google AdWords. Last year, Google’s revenue from this offering was a monstrous $95.4 billion!

If you’re like most self-storage operators, you’re already tapping into this lead-generation source. Unfortunately, many of you aren’t properly managing or optimizing your AdWords campaigns. There are countless reasons why these efforts could be underperforming or outright bleeding money. Let’s focus on three ways you may be wasting your marketing dollars and how you can make improvements.

1. You’re Not Using Negative Keywords

If there’s a single thing you can do to reduce costs and increase leads, it’s to properly manage your negative keywords. A negative keyword is a word or phrase that tells Google when not to display your ads in a search query. Some common strategies are:

  • Block products and services your facility doesn’t offer. For example, if you have a non-climate-controlled property with exterior drive-up units, you shouldn’t let your ads appear for people with queries containing “climate,” “indoor,” “air-conditioned” and so forth. They’re looking for something you don’t offer.
  • Block local competitor’s names. Usually, when someone is searching for a specific competitor (excluding real estate investment trusts in some scenarios), he’s already a renter of that property; he’s maybe seeking a phone number or looking to make a payment. Ninety percent of the time, if you’re tracking conversions properly, you’ll see that competitor keywords are the most expensive. They may not even be producing anything at all.
  • Run through your “search terms” report every 30 days to identify other bad keywords you might have missed. I’m still surprised at how many storage operators don’t block phrases like “live in storage unit” or “storage auctions.”

You can save a lot of money by properly using negative keywords. During my pay-per-click audits, it’s common to find spend-waste as high as 30 percent. Think about that. It means for every $100 you spend, you’re wasting $30.

2. You’re Not Properly Using Geo-Targeting

It’s very common to use “radius targeting” in Google AdWords to target a specific area around your self-storage facility. This is useful because you only display ads to people in a geographic region of your choosing. The problem is you can’t always use the blanket method, which would be a five-mile radius around your property.

Natural barriers can deter potential renters from choosing your location. Look at the map for highways, rivers, bridges and other potential obstacles. What’s only a mile as the crow flies could be a six-mile trip by car. Always think driving distance when geo-targeting.

3. You’re Not Properly Using Bid Adjustments

One of the best ways to optimize your budget is to make bid adjustments where it makes sense. This allows you to increase or decrease your bid (cost-per-click) on a percentage basis. Here are three adjustments you should be using:

  • By device: It’s common to see better conversion rates on mobile devices than desktop, and you can choose to automatically increase or decrease your bid based on the user’s device. If mobile conversions cost 50 percent less than desktop, why wouldn’t you bid more for mobile clicks?
  • By day of the week: If you’re not open on Sunday, should you be paying for clicks on that day? No! If Wednesday happens to be your best day of the week for conversions, why wouldn’t you increase your bids on that day? Play the numbers and push the money where you’re getting the best results.
  • By time of day: Certain times of the day produce more conversions than others. Why pay top dollar for clicks at 3 a.m. when you get most of your leads between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.? Maybe you should only run your ads 12 hours a day to make the most of your money. Target the times that generate the most value, especially if you have a limited budget.

Many storage operators are finding success with paid search, but there’s always room for improvement. Take time to ensure you’re properly managing and optimizing your campaigns. A few adjustments could lead to more leads and bigger profit.

Stephen Sandecki has been conducting digital marketing in the self-storage industry for more than a decade. He works with small and large operators to create successful marketing campaigns that include paid search. For more information, call 720.500.7272; e-mail

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