The Guide to SEO for storage and self storage companies
This is PART 1 - 4 of the Guide. Check back next month for Part 5 or sign up now for free trade membership to download the complete guide as a pdf.
Part 1: The Customer and Keywords
Part 2: Optimise your website
Part 3: Why links are important
Part 4: Targeting a local market
Part 5: Being mobile friendly
Part 6: Making social media work
Part 7: Tracking your rankings
Why we have written this guide
For our advertising members, Storenextdoor.com serves as a key channel within their broader online marketing strategy. They recognise that many customers for storage solutions prefer to search the options available via leading ‘market places’, such as Storenextdoor.com, before deciding on a specific service location. We are not, nor have we set out to be, a replacement for our members’ own websites; rather we provide traffic additional to that which they achieve through their direct website promotion. Indeed, our most successful members have excellent websites and work hard to promote them; our service is complementary to this effort because a premium listing on our platform:
1. markets to those consumers who specifically want to ‘browse’ an easy-to-search, comprehensive directory before making a decision as to what location/service serves their needs best;
2. links back to their websites and, therefore, supports their SEO ranking (inbound links from market-leading directory); and
3. contributes to a customer’s positive purchasing decision (some say that online customers look for three positive points of corroboration before buying – the company’s website being one).
In summary, we have written this Guide because we want our members to be successful in developing their overall online success and, at the heart of this, lies a need to understand, and harness, SEO in order to drive the maximum amount of prospective customers to their company websites.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of the most talked about topics in the context of marketing a website or getting a business publicised on the internet. Search engines are constantly evolving and there have been significant changes in the past 12 months to the way that they process and prioritise information. This means website owners have to evolve as well, but, the good news is, the recent changes are all about delivering quality, informative content and user experience rather than trying to outwit Google and other search engines with time consuming-ranking techniques (Bing and Yahoo being the most significant search engines after Google).
The SSAUK Annual Report for 2013 stated that over half (51%) of all enquiries for self storage now come through operators’ websites and the figure is growing (up from 47% last year). For other types of specialist storage e.g. caravan, boat and student storage the trends indicate that online searches are also on the rise especially at peak seasonal times. So there’s no hiding from the fact that businesses operating in the storage industry need to be found on the internet as this is where potential customers are increasingly on the lookout for storage.
Content marketing online through blogging or social media can drive traffic to a website, however search engines are by far the primary route for most visitors. Having a great website that showcases your storage business is essential, but if it doesn’t show up on the first or second page of the search engine when a prospective customer is looking for storage services then you’re going to end up spending a fortune on search engine advertising if you want any traffic at all. This is why understanding SEO is important.
You know your existing customers better than anyone, but in terms of finding new customers there are two factors which can make them hard to target.
a. Over 70% of commercial storage customers have not used commercial storage before [SSAUK Annual report 2013].
b. General commercial storage customers could come from any walk of life and they are hard to segment in terms of gender, age or demographic.
However there are also factors that work in the favour of a storage company that is marketing online, and which can influence the content on your website to make it more ‘discoverable’;
a. The majority of people look for storage within a seven mile radius of where they live [SSAUK report 2012].
b. The market is possible to segment by ‘storage type’, e.g. domestic storage, business storage, student storage, caravan storage, vehicle storage etc.
c. The need for storage can be linked to specific trends e.g. seasonal variables in relation to the housing market, the student calendar, business stock, or vehicle storage.
A website that is rich in content about the services on offer with references about the local area is already ahead of the competition. But there are other factors to bear in mind.
SEO is all about helping people what they are looking for
If you make your content relevant, your site friendly to the search engines and you are well linked to by relevant directories and authoritative websites, you will get found – it’s as simple as that. Of course, competition with other companies who are after the same customers also applies online, but in terms of SEO it’s not about the size of your facility or how well it’s located to the main trunk roads, it’s actually more about understanding how the web works, following a few simple guidelines and putting in some time here and there to ensure your content is up to date.
If your customers are trying to find your company what will they be looking for? This is the main question to ask when thinking about content on your site.
The obvious answer for the storage industry is ‘storage’ in ‘MyTown’ but in actual fact the majority of searches to do with storage will also include other keywords to throw in the mix, for example, temporary, cheap, prices,available or even whole sentences like 'where can I find the nearest storage to MyTown university'? The place to do the research is the very handy Google Keyword tool at or alternatively the same tool at Bing.
You need to create an account in order to access both these tools but it’s worth doing even if you don’t intend to use it to launch a paid campaign. You can search for keyword ideas, see how a list of keywords might perform, and even create a new keyword list by putting several lists of keywords together. If you don’t want to register for a service the next best (free) tool is ubersuggest which can give you ideas based on a trawl of real life searches that are going on in the major search engines.
What kind of keywords am I looking for?
The key with SEO is making sure the content on your site matches the searches that are being keyed in by your prospective customers. You are looking for search terms that:
a) Are the most popular i.e. the obvious ones like ‘storage’ and ‘self storage’ – these may be competitive and have high traffic but you still need to use them;
b) Are the least bid on but which are still relevant – including these will improve your chances of being found. These keywords are known as the ‘Long tail’ (a term coined by Chris Anderson to describe the tactic of using low traffic keywords to collectively send you more visitors than a few high-traffic keywords);
c) Are specific to the services that you offer or your local area – what makes your company different from your competitors?
What do I do with the keywords?
Once you have found the keywords you need to make sure that you are using them across your website in informative and relevant ways. If you have created a targeted descriptive website that offers your customer all the information that they would need then you are probably already on track with this task.
Search engines send out ‘bots’ that automatically ‘read’ the content and structure of your website. As covered in Part 2 this is why optimising the design and layout of your site is important as it helps the bots ‘read’ it easily and you get points for that. In terms of the content, the keywords are important but the ‘bots’ also know if you are taking the easy route and providing content stuffed full of keywords and written for the search engines rather than the user. Gone are the days that you can copy the same content lots of times or just repeat keywords on a page with little relevance to the actual content. The main thing to remember is to think about the user – ultimately the search engines favour websites that are genuinely offering a good description of services and are useful to the visitor.
Try and use keywords in main headings – make your headings descriptive and eyecatching;
Be liberal but relevant with high traffic keywords;
Go the extra mile to create relevant content sections that enable your ‘long tail’ keywords to be used (these can account for up to 80% of your traffic);
Use descriptions and keywords in your photo and video tags;
Keep your content refreshed – incorporating a blog into your website is an easy way to do this.
Overuse keywords without context;
Hide keywords on the page e.g. using the same font colour as your background;
Repeat sections or copy them from elsewhere on the web as the search engines will detect this and will penalise you
Content checklist: to ensure your keywords get covered!
Introduction to your company, your staff and a brief history
Directions and description of your location
Detailed description of your services including separate sections to target different customer ‘types’ e.g. Business, Domestic, Student
Useful information e.g. opening hours
Helpful guides to storage – tips and tricks (packing / storage ideas, guide to insurance options etc)
Profiles of your customers as case studies
Frequently asked questions about your service or storage in general
Contact information and a contact form
Search engines are designed to provide web users with the most rewarding search experience possible and the way a site is built is key in determining this experience. This section provides useful guidelines on how to design and structure your site so that the search engine ‘bots’ can crawl and index the information efficiently.
Check back next month for Part 3 or sign up now for free trade membership to download the complete guide as a pdf.