Rental downturns are being predicted for the self-storage industry, so the more marketing intelligence facility operators have, the better off they’ll be. Increasing rentals begins with the user, i.e., your prospective tenant. If he has a bad experience with your website—he can’t find what he’s looking for, your specials are confusing, or you don’t display rates online—he’ll simply go elsewhere. All it takes is a jump back to Google to find another facility that provides what he wants.
For this reason, it’s vital to ensure that every user who visits your website gets the information he needs to make a rental decision. You must make his online experience effortless or risk losing the sale.
Mastering the Search
To start, consider the search engine results page (SERP). Most users will type in some combination of “self-storage” with their city or “near me.” The results will display three to four ads, a pack of local businesses with a map, and organic results. While some people will confidently click on the first result they see, others do their shopping exclusively within the Google’s Local Pack. Still others will consciously avoid clicking ads or maps and scroll down to organic results.
What I’ve seen during my work in the industry is 85 percent of Google search traffic comes from three sections of the SERP: Ads account for 15 percent, brand keywords for 35 percent, and Google Maps for 35 percent. These are your best chances to get in front of users, so it’s important to be as visible as possible in these areas.
For users who choose to shop and compare with Google Maps, your greatest priority should be how you stack up against your nearest competitors, as these facilities will be listed beside yours when shoppers zoom in. They’ll compare your site with others in terms of rates, unit sizes and other features that matter to them, which might include climate control, security and other amenities.
Self-storage customers tend to prioritize location and price, so it’s important to analyze your competitors’ rates and special offers. That’s precisely what each user is doing. He’s opening pages and hopping between websites to see who has the size he wants at the best price. This type of behavior is perceived by the search engine as “user signals. It uses these queues to help inform its ranking algorithm, deciding which landing pages are most valuable and should rank first.
The purpose of Google search is to provide the user with information necessary to complete an action easily. If people are looking for storage in your area and visit your page only to return to the SERP, it tells Google your page isn’t relevant or valuable for those trying to complete this task. This would cause your website to rank lower in search results, which could precipitate fewer site visits and rentals. On the other hand, user signals can go in your favor when you prioritize the website experience and give the prospect the information he needs to make a quick decision.
Improving Your Conversion Rate
Even if your facility is nicer and cleaner than your competitors and your managers are friendlier, online users aren’t likely to see this upon their first search. They’re just comparing site to site, rate page to rate page. Self-storage prospects are primarily looking for a neat, organized landing page that prioritizes the information they need to make a rental decision. It could include prices, specials, unit sizes, features, office hours and location. What tips the scales in your favor might be something as simple as your reservation calendar, so every detail counts.
So, how do you improve your online user experience to convert more prospects to customers? I like to refer to the LIFT Model developed by Chris Goward, author of “You Should Test That!” It outlines six factors to consider when evaluating your website landing pages: value proposition, urgency, relevance, clarity, distraction and anxiety. Let’s look at what each of these means in relation to storage customers.
Your value proposition is what convinces people to rent. It’s the most important of the six factors, the one that provides the potential for prospect-to-tenant conversion.
Urgency dictates how careful a user’s search will be. If he’s going through a life event and needs storage in the next few days, he’s likely to choose quickly without much deliberation. If he’s planning farther in advance, he’ll be much more scrupulous, and the other landing-page factors will be much more important.
Relevance means a landing page properly fits the terms used in the search. For example, let’s say a user is looking for “climate-controlled self-storage.” If your facility is in his city and offers climate-controlled units, he’s likely to find you over other storage businesses that don’t offer this service.
Clarity relates to the quality of information. Is it clear where you’re located, what unit sizes you offer, and what your rates and specials are? If the user has to work too hard to find these details, he’s likely to bounce back to the SERP to find a business that clearly offers this information.
Distraction occurs when there’s information on a page that doesn’t relate to what the user is seeking. For example, if your rates page presents a large block of text about your company and its managers before displaying rates, you’re distracting the user.
Causes of anxiety for prospective tenants are when they get a message that their browser is insecure, or if they get a demand somewhere on the page, such as a credit card being required for a reservation.
In sum, don’t look at your website user through “this is what I would do” glasses, which can cost you dearly in revenue. Instead, take a fresh look at your landing pages. Can you easily find the most important information a prospect might seek? If not, it may be time to make some changes to your website.
Christopher Baird is co-founder of Automatit Inc., a Google Certified Premier Partner that manages more than 500 websites and has been listed as one of the fastest growing companies in America on the Inc. 5000 for the last several years. Chris has been involved in website development and marketing since 1996, and has helped storage operators build their Internet marketing programs for more than 13 years. For more information, call 520.293.4608; e-mail email@example.com; visit www.automatit.net.