It’s no longer enough for a business to simply to have a website. Amazon has revolutionized online shopping, creating an experience consumers have come to value and expect from other service providers. As a self-storage operator, what you need is an interactive tool that engages customers and solves their needs, not a static, functionless site that works more like a billboard or Yellow Pages ad. That will only frustrate potential tenants.
To understand what consumers want in an online experience, all you have to do is observe what big players like Uber, GrubHub, Airbnb, Spotify and Netflix offer. The common denominators are convenience, speed and ease of use. If your self-storage website doesn’t meet these demands, you can still capture business online, but you won’t reach your potential. The following will help you understand what sets a great website apart from the competition, including key elements to include and items to avoid. You’ll also get tips for choosing a professional to build your site, if you prefer to outsource.
The average customer is busy, which is why the big names in e-commerce focus on making their experience as fast and easy as possible. If you’re building or revamping your self-storage website, include the ability to rent units online. Just remember, though, that not all web experiences are equal. Once a prospect has decided to rent, they don’t want to spend any more time on your site than necessary. If your process is difficult or slow, they’ll simply close out the transaction and go elsewhere.
With that in mind, consider how many clicks it’ll take for users to rent a self-storage unit on your website. The goal should be to make the process as streamlined as possible. It should also be intuitive, so customers aren’t confused. As you build your site, ask friends and family to give it a try and provide feedback. Also, check out your competitors’ websites to see how yours compares.
Once reason to provide a superior online rental experience is to generate positive customer reviews. Renters who have a good website transaction are more likely to give you a helpful review or refer you to those they know. Conversely, a bad transaction can generate a negative review or word-of-mouth, which can cost you more than just a single rental.
Your website should convince self-storage prospects that your facility is the best solution to their problem. Consumers are now accustomed to reading online reviews for every product they buy. According to BrightLocal, a company that specializes in search engine optimization, 77% read reviews when browsing for local businesses. By generating positive reviews and sharing them on your website, you’ll present your operation in a positive light and keep visitors engaged. It also saves prospects from having to search for them elsewhere. Finally, highlighting the most beneficial posts allows you to take advantage of your best marketing tool: satisfied tenants.
Website images are more than just decoration. In fact, good ones can help you communicate directly with customers in ways text can’t, in part because they’re digested more quickly. For example, pictures illustrating the cleanliness of your facility convey more than a written bullet point claiming that your place is sparkling. Is your facility well-lit? Prove it. Quality images can ensure customers see your business in the best light—literally and figuratively!
Not only do people stay longer on websites with images, they tend to read more when images are interspersed with other content. People want to see what they’re buying. When building your self-storage website, include quality photos that highlight all of your best amenities.
You want to be discovered by consumers who have self-storage needs. The search engines will “crawl” through your website content to determine what your company does and offers, so they can accurately present your site as a relevant search result. To help these engines do their job, include the most relevant terms and keywords, such as self-storage, storage units, storage units in (your area), etc., so search engines will classify you as the right type of business.
As a self-storage operator, you already have a huge leg up on other types of businesses because you rarely have to compete with big brands, plus most customers will be coming from the immediate area around your property. When people search “storage units near me,” they should see the facilities closest to them. If that’s you, and Google knows this is a service you offer, you should rank highly. If it isn’t you, there’s no black-hat SEO wizardry that’ll get you to the top of search results.
Besides using industry-relevant phrases in your content, you need to make your website useful, since Google and other search engines measure how long people stay on your site. If users don’t immediately see the information they’re seeking, they’ll leave, and then search engines will determine your website isn’t very helpful. This also factors into where you appear in search results.
Google tells marketers that the best way to appeal to search engines is to include good website content. Your customers will be the judge, so build a site that answers their questions and is easy to use and navigate.
Things to Avoid
When used properly, the above four building blocks can be the difference between your website performance being just OK or amazing. The trick is the internet is constantly evolving. Self-storage operators who are implementing new technology and features have an advantage over those who aren’t. Your website doesn’t need every new capability, but you should consider ones that make your customers happy.
On the other side of the coin, there are items you should avoid when building your self-storage website. Whether you’re doing it yourself or outsourcing to a professional, be careful of the following:
- Overcomplication: Your website content and functionality should focus on what your self-storage customers need and how you can help them. Don’t put anything between them and renting unit that isn’t absolutely necessary.
- Walls of text: Remember, images help readers digest your content more quickly, so avoid large blocks of copy and include quality facility images wherever you can.
- Keyword stuffing: Search engines will punish your site if they think you’re trying to game the system. While you want to include relevant terms and keywords, don’t use them dozens of times on a single page, as it can be perceived as false.
- Losing your purpose: If any part of your website doesn’t help a potential renter learn about your facility, find rental rates or choose the right unit, consider cutting it. Don’t lose site of the ultimate goal: to close rentals!
Hiring a Professional
Building an effective website opens an ever-expanding pool of business potential, but it can be difficult to grasp all the modern tools and options. Not long ago, it was enough for a self-storage operator to have any website, but the functionality required to compete today isn’t easy to build and maintain on your own. Further, the advanced functions afforded by a professionally built platform can typically deliver a better user experience. For example, search engine optimization is an area in which a professional can save you a lot of time and frustration. Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, and if you aren’t unable to rank highly for self-storage in your area, it can be difficult to figure out why without help.
Of course, cost is always an issue. If you’ve got a small self-storage facility with low overhead, the extra revenue a professional website can generate may not be more than what it would cost to build the site in the first place. However, if you’ve got more than 100 units, the investment can easily pay for itself. Not only will the additional functionality drive rentals, it’ll save you incredible amounts of time you’d otherwise spend managing the site. A professional solution will almost always make financial sense for all but the smallest operators.
That said, it can be difficult to know which provider and platform will yield provide the best return. When vetting companies, pay attention to:
- Features: You now know the must-have website elements, so use them to help you compare services. The online-rental component is particularly important. If a web developer can’t include it, it probably isn’t worthwhile to move forward.
- Industry knowledge: Choose a developer that specializes in self-storage. Though general developers can certainly build you a functional website, if they design it the same way they would for non-industry clients, it may not convert visitors to paying tenants.
- Legal knowledge: A professional developer should be knowledgeable about accessibility best practices for users with disabilities, including vision-related issues. For example, they’ll know to use header tags rather than complicated font changes and the importance of having clean HTML to assist screen readers and other accessibility tools.
- Security: Since you’ll need to be able to process credit card payments as part of the online-rental process, make sure your self-storage website is secure. A good provider can guarantee that customer information is protected.
- Testimonials: Check references. Good web developers will be able and willing to put you in touch with current users. In addition, read their online reviews, consult industry forums and attend self-storage events to see what your peers think of various options. It always helps to find someone else who uses the service you’re considering to gauge whether it’ll be right for you.
Your facility website is part of providing a great self-storage customer experience. Focus on what users value and what they want when shopping online. You’ll find that consumers desire a streamlined, engaging interaction, and they reward businesses that provide it.
David Austin is a content specialist at StoragePug, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based software company that helps self-storage operators attract new leads, convert them to paying tenants and rent units online. Prior joining the company, he worked as a content writer for the restaurant industry. For more information, call 865.240.0295.