Competing with “big box” self-storage businesses can seem daunting, but a strong Internet presence and strategy can help even the playing field. Developing a clear plan and understanding what you have to do to increase online visibility is an important first step. Here are several must-have areas you need to fortify to up your search engine optimization (SEO) game.
Your website. This is the most important aspect to Internet marketing and the foundation for everything you’ll do on the Web. Your website should be in good health and optimized for speed and mobile usability. With more than 50 percent of searches conducted via mobile devices, it’s critical to view your site from a smartphone user’s standpoint and abandon the desktop-only thought process.
Websites have become increasingly easier to build and maintain. Just 10 years ago, a website had to be custom coded and cost thousands of dollars to develop. Thanks to WordPress and other platforms, building and maintaining a website is easier than ever. Many of the world’s largest businesses use WordPress!
Hosting and security. Your website must have somewhere “to live” and has to be protected. The type of hosting you select has a big impact on speed, availability and security. Choose an easy-to-use platform that’s in your control, such as GoDaddy or Bluehost. You’ll need to purchase a monthly (or annual) hosting subscription and a domain name, if you don’t already have one. Security is typically handled on the website side, with monitoring and security plug-ins in WordPress.
Site Structure and design. Your website should be organized and easy to navigate. Select a design template that looks great and is easy to use, and present a clear menu through which all site pages are accessible. Make it incredibly easy for someone to locate or contact you. Display your phone number prominently on all pages! Include an easy contact form, e-mail address and physical address.
Content. Content is the SEO king. Plan to write 300 to 500 words per page for every page. Also plan to write and post a blog offering helpful tips, news, etc., on a regular basis.
Sitemaps and onsite tools. Your sitemap is a list of pages that tells search engines what’s included on your website. There are HTML and XML sitemaps. You can use tools to generate these that will update automatically. It’s also smart to include an SEO tool like Yoast, which is free to use and helps ensure Web pages contain content and address SEO best practices.
Monitoring data and tracking. Use the free tools available to you! Google Analytics and Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) are free and relatively easy to set up. The first tracks website visitor behavior, and Console lets you to see what the Google search engine sees in relation to your site. You can also set up insightful tracking tools to see counts for the number of calls made, forms submitted and virtually any other type of conversion activity you’d want to track.
SEO basics. SEO is the strategic process of getting your site to show high in online search results. In addition to your website, here are some other areas that need attention:
- Local listings: Google and Bing are the priority. Claiming and optimizing these profiles to include all relevant information is critical. Make it easy for people to find and contact you!
- NAP consistency: NAP is short for name, address and phone. This is part of a local-link-building strategy. Local profiles on Yellowpages.com, the Better Business Bureau and similar sites fall under this umbrella. Make sure all contact information is accurate and consistent!
- Link-building: Taking local profiles and listings a step further, link-building is still an important strategy in getting your site to rank above competitors. Incoming links tell Google your site is important and should get shown frequently and high in search results. Build local links by networking with complementary businesses, sharing news features, providing tips and content, and more.
Deciding whether to handle these tasks in-house or through outsourcing depends largely on your budget and resources. It can be much easier to work in your business than on your business. Hiring a trusted service provider or finding a contractor can be a great solution. Be wary of success promises and shop around. A successful SEO and website-management strategy shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg each month. If you elect to hire someone in-house, it still may be a great idea to seek an outside source to help provide a strategic plan and evaluate your progress on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.
Heather Argenti is the marketing director for Moving Ahead Services, an Ohio-based moving company that also offers storage and junk-removal services. For more information, visit www.movingaheadservices.com.