In the quest to create a website that blends a nice design with fast load times and all the right content, self-storage operators sometimes forget the most important element: Does it turn visitors into paying tenants? Customer conversion should be the primary focus throughout each step of the web-design process. Let’s examine some key principles and steps to help maximize your website effectiveness.
Mistakes to Avoid
To avoid making website-design mistakes, you first need to know what they are. Here are some common errors I see in the self-storage industry.
No clear path to conversion. Again, customer conversion should be at the core of your efforts. Many self-storage websites are so scattered with their layout and messaging that users can easily get lost. When someone lands on your website, you want to guide their interactions and experience to a positive conclusion. Think of it as a funnel. You want to intentionally flow visitors down a path that encourages them to rent a unit with you.
No understanding of the buyer’s journey. Ask yourself thoughtful questions about how your current tenants arrived at your facility and what customers value when looking to rent storage space. Once you build that awareness, see if your website effectively communicates the key information people use in their decision-making. The buyer’s journey is sometimes different when factoring in location, demographics, service offerings, etc., so be flexible but deliberate when approaching this information.
Content overload or too bare bones. Self-storage websites often have a crazy amount of content or so little information they seem unfinished or lack relevance. Either issue is frustrating to visitors. Strive to find a happy medium that boasts quality over quantity and educates customers about the items they care about most.
Now that you know what to avoid, let’s dig into how to elevate a website into a conversion tool, examining design elements, content creation and timely adjustments.
Function and Design
An effective self-storage website should have a sound technical construction, a style that’s pleasing to the eye and a great user experience. These are the foundation for success. Now, let’s dig a little deeper:
Page speed. One of your primary goals should be to prioritize page speed. You can’t afford to have a website that’s slow in loading content or pages, as visitors will get frustrated and move on to a competitor. In addition, Google’s ranking algorithm factors in page speed and load times when it displays search results. These are critical elements to website performance, so don’t ignore them.
Security. For tenants to be able to rent units or pay their bill online, your website must have an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate and secure payment processing. This is vital to your business, so make sure it’s buttoned up properly. Most self-storage management-software companies take care of security liabilities within their payment portals, but a quick call or email to your supplier’s support team to verify your status is a good idea.
Responsiveness. Having a website that’s mobile-friendly is critical. Now that more than 50 percent of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, Google actually indexes and prioritizes the mobile version of your website first. This goes back to the buyer’s journey. When customers are looking for storage, they’re most likely to reach for their phone to conduct a quick search. They may also check reviews and visit your website for more information. If your site looks and performs poorly on mobile devices, you’re at a huge disadvantage.
Look and feel. Your website should look professional and clean. Some people can get infatuated with all the little details, but I recommend erring on the side of simplicity. Renting a unit should be a quick and easy process, and that’s how your website should feel as customers navigate its pages. Your focus should be a straightforward design and a strong layout, which acts as a user roadmap. Here are a few quick tips:
- Don’t build too many pages. Instead, focus on core information.
- Don’t clutter your pages with too many design elements.
- Make the navigation tabs clearly visible. They should stand out.
- Use multiple call-to-action buttons to make it easy for visitors to rent a unit, call the facility or whatever your call-to-action may be.
Color scheme. This should also lean toward simplicity, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Choose colors that work well together and offer great contrast with the website background. Using all bright colors is a no-go. Instead, focus on balance, and use colors that pop without overwhelming or distracting.
Customer conversion. To ensure your site is set up to effectively turn visitors to customers, you need to define what “conversion” means for your self-storage operation. Some operators don’t rent units online at all, relying on phone calls and emails to close deals. Some use online forms to be contacted and then follow up with the customer to complete the rental. Whichever fits your style, make sure you have the ability to track your leads and conversions.
I suggest you take a varied, balanced approach. It’s best to have several ways to convert customers from your website, but prioritize online rentals and phone calls. Also, make sure your conversion process is quick and easy. People tend to be lazy. Creating too many steps to complete a rental form or process will only discourage them from converting.
With conversions, the biggest mistake you can make is not tracking your data. This information is critical to your marketing efforts, and it all starts with your website. Set up Google Analytics and goal completions for your website so you can properly monitor performance. This will provide clarity on what’s going right with your website as well as what needs to be improved.
When it comes to Web content, keep things clean and simple. That’s often easier said than done, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
Images. Anytime you land on a website, one of the first things you generally see is a large header image. In self-storage, property photos can make a strong impression on your web visitors. Here’s how to ensure it’s a positive one:
- People want to see what the property looks like. Take a variety of photos and choose one that conveys a lot of information such as location, entry points, cleanliness, etc.
- There’s nothing worse than grainy or blurry website images. Make sure any graphics you use are high-resolution. Most smartphones take great pictures these days.
- Don’t overdo it. Most viewers don’t want to watch a 30-image slideshow of your facility. Take good photos and add just a few to the high-traffic sections of your website.
Copy. The rest of your content is the text people will read. Focus on key facility features, unit types and rental rates, and keep the personal stuff to a minimum. Adding a local touch is great, but most visitors won’t want to read your life story. Remember, all website content should relate to the buyer’s journey. It needs to build value in the business or aid in the user’s decision-making process. Whenever you create a piece of content, ask yourself, “Does this add value to my website, and do viewers need to know this?”
Most site visitors will be looking for pricing and unit availability, so make it easy to find by placing it toward the top of the homepage. Making this convenient enhances their overall experience. Use lists or bullets to consolidate content, as it keeps things simple and clean. Consumers like to see key information listed out rather than buried in paragraphs of text.
Page presentation. Similar to the other elements of your website, keep this simple and direct. There should be no more than three to five sections of content per page. These don’t need to be novels. Highlight your core information, making sure it leads toward a conversion. Keep it clean and easy to read.
Creating a website and marketing strategy isn’t a “set it and forget it” concept, which is why tracking and analytics are so important. If you aren’t tracking leads or delving into your site data, it’s difficult to pinpoint where you should adjust to increase conversions or even realize that website performance is the problem.
A vital part of a healthy marketing plan is to be consistent and make timely alterations. Review website performance at least every three months. This builds awareness and will allow you to improve your conversion rate. Key areas to watch include website traffic and your goal completions. By using analytics to find correlations, you can identify trends over time to know what’s “normal” vs. a problem that needs fixing.
There are more advanced things you can do, but these are the critical ones. By creating a well-designed self-storage website and making timely adjustments as needed, you’ll improve your marketing strategy, ensure your facility stays relevant and convert more prospects to renters.
Ken Turley is chief marketing officer at Easy Storage Solutions, a provider of Web-based management software for small- to mid-sized self-storage operations. Through search engine optimization and online marketing, his team enables businesses to increase their visibility and meet their marketing goals. Ken has years of experience in the field and has helped hundreds of self-storage companies of all sizes. For more information, email [email protected].