3 Web Marketing Trends That Are Here to Stay

Posted by Poppy Behrens on Jul 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM

By Rachel Greenfield

Your facility should have a website by now— that’s pretty much a given. After all, 92% of modern consumers comparison shop online before they buy products and services, according to a 2010 Art Technology Group survey. That percentage will only continue to grow, and simply having a website is not enough.

If you want your facility to stay competitive in our fast-paced high-tech world, you need to keep up with the right online trends. Evolve your self-storage marketing strategy to suit ever-changing consumer behavior. Internet fads seem to come and go, but we’re here to highlight three online trends that are here to stay, and explain how to capitalize on them for your self-storage business.

#1: Online Transactions
People don’t just “window” shop on the Internet. More and more consumers seal the deal by making purchases and transactions online. It’s all happening— from buying clothes to paying electricity, credit card and municipal utility bills. We should not view self-storage as the exception whatsoever. Finding and booking storage online is quickly becoming the industry standard.

It’s not enough to display your address, access hours and phone number on the website. At the bare minimum, you should also disclose unit prices. Phone calls may seem easier to convert into reservations, but a large and growing sector of the population feels more comfortable when all information relevant to a product or service is available online. If potential tenants can’t find that crucial piece of information on your site, they will rent from one of your competitors.

Looking to take things to the next level and excel in the business? Give customers the option to make unit reservations directly through your website. Implement booking functionality that syncs up with your management software to automatically display and update unit availability on your site. Set up a simple booking form on your site, limiting the number of fields you ask the customer to fill out. You only need basic contact information, preferred unit size and move-in date. Online shoppers will be discouraged to complete the form if you also ask for street address, credit card number and emergency contact details. Save that for the customer’s in-person visit to your facility on move-in day.

Avoid using booking tools that lead visitors off your domain and on to a third-party management company’s platform. We offer a free SpareFoot Booking Widget that streamlines the process and keeps your website visitors on your website.

#2: Search Engine Optimization
When people open their web browsers, 80% start by visiting a search engine, according to a 2008 study by Inside Self Storage. This trend has already demonstrated major staying power over the years. Google, Yahoo and Bing conveniently amass all of the information available across the web, and present it in an organized, relevant way to meet users’ individual needs.

What does this mean for us in self-storage? Well, search engines can direct a significant amount of traffic to your website, if your page ranking is high enough on key search terms related to your business. To increase page rankings, you must prove to search engine site crawlers that your website is relevant and useful for people searching for self-storage in your city.

If you are just starting out with SEO, the first step is to list and validate your facility with Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local. These are powerful, free geo-targeted business listings. As a listed business, your website and other facility details will appear at the top of these search engines’ results pages for location-specific storage search queries.

The next basic tenant of SEO is to include those “keyword” search terms in your site’s written content and page title tags as much as possible. If you operate a wine storage facility in Austin, TX, emphasize phrases like “Austin wine storage” and “self-storage in Austin.” Search engine site crawlers pick up on the frequency of these keywords, which earns your website more authority. Always make an effort to work these phrases into your copy in a natural way that doesn’t feel forced— the same site crawlers will penalize you for keyword stuffing.

Another way to boost your authority in search is to build links to your site from other domains. Did a local newspaper cover a story involving your facility? Ask the editors to include a link back to your site in the online article. Did you recently join in on a self-storage forum discussion? Embed a link to your website in your post. Try to build links from as many diverse referring sites as possible. The more credible and well-established the referring site, the more value your link is worth.

#3: Mobile Browsing
The overarching theme of these trends is to make life as simple and convenient as possible for consumers. The next rung on this ladder is on-the-go storage searching. Over 720 million people regularly browse the web via mobile phone, according to study by web design firm PLAVEB.

While a large sector of the consumer population has caught on to this phenomenon, mobile Internet browsers still only represent about 30% of cell phone users. But consider this fact: Cellphone companies are constantly upgrading the web browsing capabilities of their newest models, because they recognize this trend is here to stay and will only accelerate.

The good news is that most of your competitors likely have yet to incorporate mobile browsing into their marketing strategies. Get on board now and you’ll enjoy the early adopter advantage of securing market share.

Because mobile web browser capability is still somewhat limited, even in the most advanced smart phones, you should build a separate mobile version of your site. Scale each page down to about 20 kilobytes of data, to avoid slow loading times on phones. Re-size your content to account for the fact that phone screens are typically a fraction of the size of computer monitors. This is a good marketing exercise, forcing you to cut out the excess and display only the most compelling, valuable messages and information on your homepage. Set up domain mirrors, such as mobile.yourwebsiteurl.com, so mobile visitors are automatically redirected to this version. Hosts like Zinadoo and Mobi SiteGalore give you templates and guidelines to help build a great mobile site.

In tandem with creating a mobile site, target your SEO efforts for geo-targeted keywords. Smart phone users searching for something like self-storage are likely to type in hyper-specific queries, as they are looking for businesses that not only offer a specific product or service, but also are within close proximity to their current location. To direct mobile traffic to your website, work to rank for geo-targeted search times like your city, zip code, intersection and even street name.

There are plenty of other web marketing trends to keep an eye on, but these three are arguably the most mainstream and valuable for our industry. For more in-depth coverage of web marketing and technology for self-storage, check out our Storage Facilitator blog.

Rachel Greenfield is Marketing Analyst at SpareFoot, the online marketplace for self-storage.The website lists the largest selection of storage units with real-time pricing and availability on the web. SpareFoot also provides leading web marketing solutions for storage operators, and has been chosen as a preferred partner by more major online brands than any other storage company. Under the SpareFoot Ad Network, storage facilities only pay for results — SpareFoot doesn’t charge a dime until they move new tenants into your listed units. This fun start-up is headquartered in Austin, TX