Self-storage competition continues to grow. With the new Google Vicinity update changing the way businesses are ranked in local search results, you may find it more difficult than ever to get your facility to appear before competitors. After all, there are only so many ways to move the needle in this regard.
Of course, optimizing your self-storage website with high-volume keyword phrases and improving web-page quality are important. So are setting up your Google Business Profile, obtaining high-quality customer reviews, creating a network of internal links, and generating a steady stream of quality content. But the No. 1 factor in determining how you line up organically in search rankings is the quality and authoritativeness of inbound links to your domain, according to a 2021 report by digital-marketing firm Whitespark.
What are inbound links? Also known as backlinks, these are links from other websites to your own. They come in a variety of forms, each with a different level of importance. The following guidance explains how to get some backlinks for your self-storage business and thereby boost your online ranking.
Editorial backlinks are created when your own content is referenced as a source in another online article. Because these are the most natural of all backlinks, they’re considered the most valuable. As an example, my company wrote an article a few years ago about the best summer festivals in Northern California, which has been frequently used by other authors as source material. Another example of how this works is when someone from your company is quoted in a local news story, with a link to your website.
A great way to find editorial-backlink opportunities is to use HARO (Help a Reporter Out), an online service that allows journalists to request expert sources for their articles. Once you sign up, HARO will email you a daily digest of these requests. My company been used as a source many times, which has provided numerous valuable backlinks.
Writing guest-post articles for industry websites or niche blogs is another a way to get backlinks. This article you’re reading is one such example. In my bio paragraph at the end is a link to my company’s website. With the Inside Self-Storage (ISS) domain authority of 48, in Google’s eyes, this is a high-value backlink that’ll help with our rank. It should be noted that continued links from the same domain produce diminishing returns, but each new article still provides value.
For opportunities, search for blogs that are relevant to the self-storage industry. Run a Google search using keyword phrases such as “moving,” “home organization,” “relocation,” “senior living” or other relevant terms. Then add a phrase such as “guest post” or “become a contributor.” You should get a list of sites that are accepting content.
You can also just add the word “blog” to your search to get a range of sites that have blogs but may not explicitly say they’re accepting posts. Read through the types of articles these sites have published and send them an email complementing them on their work. Then offer to write some content for them, offering as many as four potential article titles. They may just take you up on it. My company gets bombarded with these emails.
Partner links are those from organizations with which you have a relationship. For example, perhaps your self-storage facility donates to a local charity or engages in a referral-exchange program with a local business. You can ask these groups to add a link on their website to yours.
For example, create an arrangement with a local moving company in which, in return for you promoting their business when your tenants inquire about moving services, they put a link to your storage facility on their website. This works for a number of tangential businesses including real estate brokers, relocation specialists, RV dealers and others.
You can also consider your vendors for potential links. These might include architects, builders, security specialists or sign companies.
Blog and Forum Commenting
Another way to earn backlinks is to comment on others’ online content. Many blogs and media outlets allow this. You’ll often be able to add your name and a website link. While most blogs treat these links as no-follow, meaning they won’t pass on the authority from their site to yours, there are theories out there that Google gives some value to no-follow links.
Industry forums are another place to get backlinks. There are several active in self-storage including the ISS-sponsored Self-Storage Talk, where you can create posts or comment on other posts. By doing so, you have the option to include a link to your website below your comment or as part of your bio.
Another good options is press releases. If your company sends out an announcement about a new store opening, renovation or event, a news outlet or industry publication may pick it up, so include a link to your website. We’ve had success sending releases to local media as well as to sites such as Patch.com.
The low-hanging fruit of the backlink world is citations, which include any online mention of your company name, address and phone number. Common places to find citations include online directories such as MerchantCircle, Yahoo, Yelp and others. There are hundreds if not thousands of directories on the internet, but it’s generally recommended to focus on those with high domain authority.
There are also platforms called data aggregators that supply business data to other directories and companies. The three major ones are Data Axle, Foursquare and Neustar Localeze. These send your business information to multiple sites automatically, so it’s critical that you sign up for their listings.
An important part of managing citations for your self-storage business is making sure your information is consistent. This means your business name, address, phone number and website are exactly the same everywhere they appear. If they aren’t, you’ll be sending mixed signals to Google, which can hurt your ranking potential.
To manage your citations effectively, consider using online tools such as those provided by Brightlocal, Semrush, Yext and Whitespark, among others. These scan the internet and return a list of sites on which your company currently appears and others you should target. You can manually manage the listings yourself or pay one of these companies to do it for you.
In addition to the backlink opportunities above, there are several others you may want to investigate. Getting mentions on social media, developing a Wikipedia page, hosting webinars or creating shareable tools (i.e., a unit-size calculator that other self-storage facilities can use freely) are just a few.
Link-building isn’t quick and easy for most self-storage operations, as many have limited staff and resources. But developing a comprehensive plan for continually acquiring links will pay off in the form of higher Google rankings and more website traffic.
Derek Hines is a writer for West Coast Self-Storage, a self-storage acquisitions, development and management company with facilities in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. He writes extensively on all subjects related to the storage industry. For more information, call 877.611.8550.