UPDATED AUGUST 24, 2020
What is Self Storage SEO? Self Storage SEO is the process of optimizing the website of a self storage facility so that it has increased search engine visibility for relevant queries such as “ventura ca storage” and “climate control storage near me.”
Why is Local SEO is so important for Self Storage facilities? Self storage facilities serve a customer base that largely lives within a 3 to 5 mile radius, depending on the type, quantity and density of nearby housing. This is similar to audience targeting for a restaurant, which might target customers within just a mile or two in urban areas, and an expanded radius in more rural and suburban areas.
Thus a focus on local search engine optimization (known as Local SEO) may have the biggest impact in attracting new customers, whether the facility is stabilized or in lease-up.
Following is our Guide to Self Storage SEO in 2020. Most of these optimization steps are straightforward and can be accomplished by selecting a few key SEO and marketing tools, and simply putting in the time.
Another option is to make this a line item on your P&L. If you have the marketing budget, look for a reputable, affordable web marketing firm with a focus on local SEO and data-driven results. Consider, too, if you’ll also need help with digital advertising via Google Ads and Facebook Ads, which not every SEO agency offers as a service.
In the section on LinkedIn below, you’ll find a handy 20-point LinkedIn Checklist we’ve created that you can download for free. Just click through to the Google Sheet and make a copy.
Self Storage SEO Guide – Table of Contents
- Mobile Responsive Website
- Business Listings/Citations
- Reputation Management
- Local Community Backlinks
- Blogging and Content Strategy
- Keyword Optimization
- Google My Business
- LinkedIn Company Page
- Local Digital Advertising
- Location Schema
1. Mobile Responsive Website
Why a mobile-friendly site is essential for a storage facility.
Self Storage SEO starts with a solid website that is accessible to users on any device, be it desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile. While management companies and REITs such as Public Storage and Extra Space Storage may create a single page or mini-site for each of their facilities, it’s important for the facility itself to have its own website for additional online visibility. Think of it as owning digital real estate in the search results!
If you use the browser on your cell phone, you know if a website looks good or not. On a “mobile-friendly” site, you can read everything clearly, within the margins of the screen, and the buttons are easy to press. You don’t have to scroll left-to-right, nor do you have to pinch-and-zoom to see all the contents on the page. You’re looking at a modern “mobile responsive” version of the website. In 2020, this is practically universal, because any theme that you want to apply to your website is going to be mobile responsive going in.
Having a mobile responsive site is critically important for self storage facilities. “Visibility is the single most important customer draw,” according to The Parham Group’s analysis of a typical self storage customer. Which means that when a prospect is exposed to the self storage brand, they are most likely driving by, with their cell phone on hand to get a phone number, check rates, view hours, etc.
While voice searches are increasing in frequency, and clearly part of a future SEO strategy, having a mobile-responsive website remains critically important.
The website itself should have the unit sizes available, the rates, the phone number formatted as “click-to-call” and the address. There’s a lot more a self storage operator *can* do with a website, but it starts with the basics: mobile friendly with clear, accessible information for prospects and customers alike.
Given the disruption of COVID-19, we might also see increased adoption of technology that facilitates safety, such as contactless entry using a cell phone for verification.
2. Business Listings / Citations
How to expand your facility’s footprint across the web and get more visibility
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is not confined to the main website. Local SEO is the process of helping a business that serves a local clientele be found by that audience in organic search results. An important component of Local SEO is the development of business listings, or Citations, on business directories.
If you’ve traveled or searched for a restaurant, you’re familiar with these business directories – Yelp, TripAdvisor, YellowPages, BBB and many more. Google considers over 200 factors when determining the “authority” of websites and subsequent search results. In Local SEO, Citations are one part of an overall approach to creating search visibility for self storage.
How to create Citations for a Self Storage facility? Creating Citations can be done manually or using a third-party Local SEO platform such as BrightLocal. The most important consideration in creating citations is to ensure consistency of data, so that the business details (such as name, address and phone number, aka “NAP”) match the website exactly. Or nearly exactly, as one site may show 123 Main Street and another may show 123 Main St. Google is intelligent enough to understand and parse these variations.
Secondarily, it is useful to fill out all of the fields that are made available, including business description, hours of operation and any COVID-19 updates such as contactless entry. Also be sure to include high-quality images formatted to spec. Those images may capture the business office, the units, the exterior of the building(s), the team members, drone footage and happy customers. The goal is to give prospective customers a good feel for the facility, and to convey important attributes of trust and reputation.
3. Reputation Management
How to stay calm and carry on when you receive a negative review
How to manage the reputation of a Self Storage facility? Another benefit of building Citations is to positively influence the facility’s online reputation. This is known as reputation management, which is an SEO function, because you are optimizing your presence on search engine results to the best of your ability.
Similar and complementary to having a property website, building citations that are under your direct control may take up valuable “real estate” in the search results. This allows you to have some control over the overall profile of a business online.
Another component of reputation management is monitoring online reviews. Claiming and controlling business profiles on these third-party sites allows for effective response to user engagement. How businesses respond to both positive and negative reviews can greatly affect a user’s perception of that business.
For businesses such as self storage (or a mom-and-pop restaurant for instance), you can imagine how important it is to – first – offer great service and take care of issues so that customers are more likely to leave a great review. Secondly, it’s important to assess, mitigate and respond to any negative reviews as effectively as possible.
When a loyal customer leaves a positive review, they can be quickly thanked. If a negative review is left, that too can be quickly addressed. Any prospective customer wants to see positive reviews and quick response from management to any potential issues.
4. Local Community Backlinks
Be a part of the community – both online and offline
One of the more challenging aspects of SEO is the process of attracting and building links back to your website, known as backlinks. Not just any links are valuable – they should be from sites that themselves carry “authority.”
Because the customer base for a self storage facility is so localized within a 3-5 mile radius of the facility, backlinks from other local websites carry a lot of weight. A self storage facility is part of a local community and Google understands this!
We believe that the idea of any local business engaging with and supporting the local community is ethically the right thing to do. It’s also a great way to raise visibility and build website authority.
Facility operators should start by ensuring full profiles on the websites of any local organizations of which they are a member. The local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start, along with the county Economic Development organization. Other possibilities include state and regional Self Storage Associations and regional private/public initiatives.
Additional ideas for local backlinks include:
- guest articles for the local newspaper – write about local events and things to do, such as a festival, fair or blood drive. Or profile a good citizen in the community.
- sponsoring a Little League team – we all know how much stuff families with kids collect. Gain some visibility for the self storage facility with a sponsorship, and be sure to agree on a link back from the Little League team website.
- donate a unit to a local non-profit – many non-profits could use the extra storage, particularly if they are seasonal, such as a shelter. This may take on particular relevance in pandemic times.
- issue newsworthy press releases to the local paper and local bloggers – published releases with links are helpful, and can lead to additional press coverage, such as an interview or inclusion on a panel.
- membership in affinity groups – for instance, if the facility offers RV and boat storage, consider joining the local Boat Club to gain visibility with a target audience.
- storage facilities with an eco-friendly component (such as LEED certification or solar) might procure links from business directories and local news organizations who promote green businesses. (idea hat tip: Moz)
- attend local tech and business meetups, where attendees have a profile page on the website that organizes the event. You might be doing this virtually for a while, and as we resume normalcy, be sure to participate in the local events that can bring you business.
5. Blogging and Content Strategy
Blog posts should be local and focused on quality not quantity
You’ve probably heard that having a blog is important for search results. Well, yes, sort of. The reason this item isn’t listed #1 above is because the commitment to blogging and a content strategy for a self storage facility can be so challenging for a business that already operates as lean as possible.
Undertaking a content strategy should focus on quality, not quantity. Try creating resource pages that provide value to the local community and in particular the target demographic. Let’s say the self storage facility is in El Paso, TX near Fort Bliss Army Base. We know that military bases have a high usage rate of self storage facilities (PDF).
More than 1.5 million self storage units nationwide are rented to military personnel (6% of all units); however, in communities adjacent to domestic US military bases, military occupancy can be from 20% to 95% of all rented units.Self Storage Association
Writing a thorough article on a frequently-searched, highly-relevant topic such as “hotels near fort bliss” may result in good traffic and backlinks from other sites. Any earned backlinks will build authority not just to that resource page, it will propagate to the entire website to a degree.
If this page becomes an “evergreen” post that ranks at the top of results, update it every three months to ensure quality, comprehensive coverage and freshness.
Here’s another real-world example of how this works using a neighborhood guide put together by West Coast Self-Storage. By using their blog to cover the various neighborhoods in Everett, Washington, this self storage operator is getting in front of people that might be considering moving to Everett. It’s no coincidence that they have three storage facilities within a few miles of the city. Updating this for 2020 ensures that searchers have the best and most recent information at their fingertips.
In both examples above, getting to the top of search results requires high-quality content (or even the best-quality content), good domain authority and probably a few backlinks. Maintaining those search results will likely require revisiting the post with fresh content on a fairly regular basis – perhaps every couple months for the content with the most competition.
Be sure to check out our Research Library containing Content Strategy Roadmaps that can help you compete against stiff competition.
6. Keyword Optimization
Why actual on-page SEO isn’t the most important thing you can do
Keyword optimization? Don’t sweat it. Really. Yes, we’re going against the grain here.
A single pass through the website, optimizing meta titles and meta descriptions for the facility and location on each page, is a great example of the 80/20 rule, where a small amount of effort produces the lion’s share of results.
Having an SEO professional conduct the initial single pass will be within any facility’s budget, and will get the facility much farther down the digital road. What a facility owner does not need is an expensive agency promising to “optimize the keywords” on an ongoing basis. This does not build site authority, which is a much bigger determinant of where the facility shows up in local search results.
What is Semantic Search?
Google is getting increasingly good at semantic search – understanding the intent of what someone is searching for, and the context of pages it may serve up in results. You no longer would derive any benefit from writing about your “self storage facility in Des Moines that serves self storage customers in the Des Moines metro area where there is a need for Des Moines self storage.” In fact, you could harm your position by writing “artificially” about your topic and audience. Write naturally – for humans – using engaging and compelling copy that builds trust with your audience.
What About Self Storage Near Me?
A note about “near me” searches: they’ve skyrocketed in popularity the last five years. Why?
- Increasing adoption rates of mobile devices
- The use of voice search
- The consumer expectation that Google or Siri will know what you’re talking about when you say “italian restaurant near me” or “starbucks near me” or “self storage near me.”
As long as your site loads quickly, works great on mobile devices and develops increasing authority through quality backlinks, it will rank for relevant searches, including near me queries. Let’s put it another way – keyword optimization is not the low-hanging fruit here.
Also consider the adoption of new business segments such as valet storage and how that affects your business. You might be able to expand your business to include valet storage, or perhaps you can get ahead of competition by creating a financial model that shows why more traditional self storage is still the right fit for your target audience.
7. Google My Business
If Google gives your business a tool, use it! Google My Business can give you an edge
A business should start or claim it’s Google My Business profile with all due haste.
Google My Business, or GMB, is the “knowledge panel” of information in the right column of search results. For instance, searching “tribal core ojai” brings up our panel of information, most of it controlled by logging into our GMB profile.
GMB managers should use all of the tools at their disposal, including accurate information and regular posting of events, news, specials, coupons and more. This includes new fields in the profile that allow for COVID-19 related information such as contactless entry, disinfecting procedures and temporary hours. Google has signaled the importance of Google My Business, and will continue to add resources and tools (such as improved access for chain locations) to the platform for the foreseeable future.
8. LinkedIn Company Page
Visibility on LinkedIn can benefit both a b2b and b2c strategy
A self storage facility should maintain a complete business profile on LinkedIn, in the form of a Company Page. A company page is generally created by an executive of the business, and an administrative role is often assigned to an in-house marketing person or outside vendor.
We’ve identified 20 key elements to a successful LinkedIn Company Page, including the cover image, tagline, services, hashtags and more. We’ve created a Checklist for you to use to better market your self storage business. Click through to the Google Sheet below, and make yourself a copy!
Having a robust LinkedIn page contributes to your overall brand authority and can create opportunities to connect with a powerful self storage ecosystem of sponsors, operators, investors, brokers, lenders and more.
Investing time in a robust LinkedIn Company Page is even more important for multi-facility operators. Any opportunity to build authority in the parent organization will benefit the individual facilities. Check out the major REITs on LinkedIn such as Extra Space and CubeSmart to learn how they are engaging their LinkedIn audience.
Plus, everyone on LinkedIn has a personal life – and that includes owning stuff. People need a place to put that stuff! Being visible across multiple channels increases the likelihood that you’ve increased your brand recognition enough to bring in new business to your storage facility.
9. Local Digital Advertising
Digital Ads have replaced the Yellow Pages for Self Storage advertising
SEO is largely undertaken to influence the self storage facility’s position in organic search results. Digital advertising can augment SEO efforts by taking up more “real estate” in search results, which will increase traffic for the self storage facility. For instance, Google’s local search results might include a facility’s website, Google’s local “3 Pack” rankings, Google My Business profile, Yelp results and more. Targeted advertising can grab a high-visibility piece of this pie and generally be quite affordable.
An example of Google’s local “3 pack” listings that include an ad followed by three organic listings below. This is prime digital real estate, like a big sign next to a 6-lane highway!
Most commonly, advertisers use the Facebook and Google Ad platforms. In both cases, advertising can be highly-geographically targeted, down to a small radius or specific zip code. This can make advertising for self storage very cost-effective, since you’re only paying for traffic that is physically nearby.
What is remarketing?
Another approach both Google and Facebook facilitate is remarketing, where you’re able to show ads across the web to someone who has already visited a website. Some people refer to this as retargeting, which is the same thing. For instance, if Mary visits BobsSelfStorage.com but does not sign up for a unit, she might see ads for the website over the next 30 days, including a coupon or special to entice her to sign up.
We’re all familiar with checking out a product and then seeing ads for that product everywhere you look on the web. That’s remarketing – you’ve expressed an interest in something, and as annoying as it can be, those repeat ads can lead to higher sales.
10. Location Schema
Advanced SEO – enter at your own risk
Warning: a bit of code-speak ahead. A self storage facility’s physical address on the website can be marked-up in a schema format, meaning that behind each element of the address (including city, state and zip) is a bit of code explicitly defining those different elements. This is also known as structured data.
Why is this important? Because Google is increasingly responding to technical SEO considerations in their rankings, and displaying structured data. Using structured data is a great way to establish the proper context for a self storage website, while ensuring consistency of data – especially the most important bits of data: name, address and phone! Ultimately, you’re providing good data to those users who would find your service to be relevant and valuable.
Implementing location schema can usually be handled by a web designer or developer with no significant custom development. WordPress has many tools to implement this type of code, usually placed within the theme.
Let’s look at an example of location schema. Here’s an address we can use to test:
Bob's Self Storage
123 Main St
Springfield, IL 62701
The equivalent schema (which would be placed in the code of the self storage facility’s website, most likely in the footer), is as follows. This can be generated by using an online schema tool. For instance, we can see the value of 62701 in the property of “postalCode”.
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<span itemprop="name">Bob's Self Storage</span><br>
<span itemprop="streetAddress">123 Main St</span><br>
It’s very important to test when implementing code like this on a website. Fortunately, Google offers their Structured Data Testing Tool, so that we can see how Google views and interprets schema such as this. Below we see our marked-up schema code on the left, and we see how Google translates that on the right. No errors – the code validates. Great!
We hope our 2020 Self Storage SEO guide drives your facility to success!
While many self storage facilities rely on physical signage and car traffic visibility for their new customers, effectively deploying an SEO practice can reinforce what a prospect sees offline and reach a new audience online. This can aid an owner during both lease-up and for a stabilized property.
This year, we see an increasingly data-driven world, where SEO efforts can move the needle, increase new customer acquisition and boost the bottom-line Net Operating Income numbers for an operator that is confronting a highly competitive environment. Doing a Certificate of Occupancy deal? Lease up quicker with your digital strategy!
We encourage you to leave a comment on your experience or challenges with self storage SEO below. Let us know how COVID-19 is affecting your business and what you’ve done to address it. I’m happy to answer any questions you have!