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Google’s Core Web Vitals and What They Mean for Your Self-Storage Operation

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Google’s latest website guideline for businesses are clear: Give your visitors a great user experience,. and they’ll stick around longer and be more likely to act. To ensure your self-storage website is optimized and performs its best, learn about the three measurable principles known as Core Web Vitals and what do if your metrics are poor.

Last year, Google issued a major algorithm update along with a clear directive for businesses: Pay attention to your website visitors’ experience. In a nutshell, it advised that 1) your website should load quickly; 2) it should respond to clicks and taps rapidly; and 3) it shouldn’t jump around when it loads. These three measurable principles of user experience—loading, interactivity and visual stability—are known as Core Web Vitals. In this article, we’ll look at each element in detail; but first let me explain why they matter to your self-storage business.

If you rely on your website to generate leads and customers, it’s imperative to pay attention to the above principles. In fact, improving your user experience should pay dividends for years to come. First, you may see increased organic traffic, as Google rewards sites that are optimized for Core Web Vitals. You’re also more likely to engage the traffic you do receive, be it from advertising, search results or partner sites.

Measuring Core Web Vitals

There are three primary ways to procure Core Web Vitals metrics, depending on how much traffic your self-storage website receives. The following tools can help you measure your results and diagnose any issues.

Chrome User Experience (CrUX). This pulls from a massive dataset to provide “field” data—how your website is actually experienced by users as opposed to data from “lab” tests. If your site is in the database and reaches a certain traffic threshold, you’ll be able to use the CrUX report. Enter your URL, and if there’s data, create a report.

Google PageSpeed Insights. If your website isn’t in the CrUX database, you can consult this tool instead. Some metrics are only measured “in the field” and, thus, there may be some data gaps. Still, there’s a wealth of information available.

Google Search Console. Claiming your website in this tool provides extensive feedback, with Core Web Vitals now fully integrated. Scroll down to the experience section and access the available reports to see information on the three user-experience metrics. Now, let’s look at those metrics individually.

Page-Load Speed

To measure initial loading time of your self-storage website, we use a metric called “largest contentful paint” (LCP). This refers to how long it takes for the largest visible element “above the fold” to load. This might be an image, slider, headline or even a big chunk of code. In a “good” user experience, this element will load in less than 2.5 seconds for more than 75% of your visitors, according to Google.

Websites can be configured to load the LCP element first, even if other content and code are still loading in the background, which creates the perception of a fast-loading website. Those initial few seconds are make-or-break for any website.

Interactivity

Website interactivity is measured via “first input delay,” which is the time from when a user first clicks or taps to when the browser is able to respond to that activity. If your self-storage website reacts to that first click or tap in less than 100 milliseconds for more than 75% of your visitors, you’re providing a “good” user experience.

Let’s say a customer is driving by your property and sees your facility signage. They then search for your business on their phone, pull up your website and tap on the phone number or attempt to view your pricing, but the site doesn’t immediately respond. If there’s latency, users are likely to get frustrated and give up. A website that quickly loads and responds to the initial click or tap is providing the user experience Google seeks.

Visual Stability

We measure the visual stability of a self-storage website using the “cumulative layout shift” (CLS) metric, which counts unexpected layout shifts when a web page is loading. You know how a page jumps around when it’s loading, causing you to click on something unexpected like an ad? It’s frustrating, right? This is what’s being measured by CLS. The metric itself is a product of impact and distance.

Any CLS measurement that shows minimal shift (less than 0.1) for more than 75% of your visitors in a “good” user experience. This is often the easiest of the three metrics to resolve. Simply defining height and width for every element on your page allows the browser to load elements without the jumpiness.

Fixing Issues

Out of the gate, most websites have some Core Web Vitals issues. This doesn’t necessarily mean your self-storage website is suffering in search results, nor does it mean that fixing any one issue will have a major positive impact. That said, a steady approach to improving your website usually produces good measurable results over time. Here are three primary ways to address potential problems:

Get professional insight. Engage your web developer to review a Core Web Vitals report and weigh in on how to fix any potential issues. Even certain common website elements can cause problems, particularly if your site is aging. For instance, the problem may be your homepage slider. Instead, a single, static image that’s well-optimized for the web may provide a better user experience while honing your messaging toward your most important selling point.

Revisit your platform. Again, older websites are more likely to present Core Web Vitals issues, as aging code might not reflect more modern considerations. For instance, a WordPress site with outdated plugins and theme will tend to run slower and be flagged for more frequently than a fully modern, well-optimized one. If you’re running a very old site, choosing a new platform like Squarespace or Wix could be a good option for your budget.

Upgrade your hosting. If you’re only paying $5 or $10 per month for website hosting, your performance is likely suffering as a result. Cheap hosting is “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” often costing you dearly in poor search results and user experience, plus higher maintenance and developer costs. Simply upgrading your hosting could take care of a wealth of issues for a modest investment.

Your website is the cornerstone of your self-storage operation’s online presence. It often gives prospective tenants their first impression of your business. Far from being mere busywork, taking the time to diagnose and address Core Web Vitals issues can result in a faster, easier-to-use website that brings in more business. However, that needs to be weighed against the cost of improvement with no guarantee of better results. Collaborate with your web developer to look for low-hanging fruit, implement what you can, measure the impact and implement as your budget allows.

Tyler Suchman is the founder of The Storage Agency, a web-marketing agency exclusively focused on serving self-storage owners and operators with unbeatable performance and pricing. The Storage Agency is powered by Tribal Core, a boutique agency Suchman founded in 2002. To reach him, email [email protected].

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