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Strategic Marketing to Increase NOI: Why SEO and PPC are Smart Game Changers for a Storage Business

Aug 30, 2016

A healthy Net Operating Income (NOI) is the ultimate goal of every storage business owner. Increasing the net operating dollar amount translates to greater profitability. “More Money in the Bank!”

NOI

Net operating income (NOI) is simply the annual income generated by an income-producing property after taking into account all income collected from operations, and deducting all expenses incurred from operations. --- PropertyMetrics.com definition


Today's marketing methods represent a major shift from what most of us were taught in school. This is true regardless of the generation. Understanding these new marketing methods and how to effectively apply them makes an impact on a storage business's NOI.

What caused these major marketing shifts?
Shopping at the touch of a button on your phone.
A business can't compete in today's marketplace without an online presence.
Strategic marketing to mobile phone users affects NOI.

The following graph demonstrates that in 2015, 51 percent of all search queries were on mobile phones.
Internet Usage

There is an important change in mindset that a storage owner should make. Owners can’t afford to think of a website as a business card extension or just an information tool, or just a web page. It is so much more! A website is the second business location that reaches a broader consumer base faster and which can stimulate higher income in a cost effective way. Plan the development of a website in the same way, applying related steps as if building a new facility or buying an existing one. There are certain basic steps involved.

This article provides information on two strategic marketing processes, SEO and PPC which are important parts of the basic steps. When implemented correctly on a website designed for both desktops and mobile devices, they can increase NOI.

SEO STRATEGIC MARKETING – Research, Plan and Build a Solid Foundation!

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results — often referred to as "natural," "organic," or "earned" results.”  Wikipedia

STEP 1: RESEARCH

Before SEO techniques can be applied, it is important to know your target market area. For a storage business, it is a geographic local search market with a radius of 5-10 miles or a wider radius in rural communities. Good planning must take into account the potential customer known as a site visitor. What are the services or products site visitors are looking for and what search phrase will they use to find them? To guess or just assume they will use the same industry terminology as storage business owners is not a smart SEO decision.

While conducting research for a storage facility client in a particular city, I discovered that the most highly searched phrase was “storage units [city name] tx” with 140 queries in 30 days. It was not the industry term “self storage” or “mini storage” combined with the geographic location. 

The only online storage businesses in that city taking advantage of this highly searched phrase were the REITs or listing services. Are the smaller storage businesses missing out on a large number of potential customers? YES! Can they get into the ball game? Of course! They can research and utilize search phrases used by site visitors looking for storage facilities.

Google Keyword Planner is a free online tool that provides statistical information on consumers’ keyword phrases used in search queries. A Google Adwords account must be set up to access the Keyword Planner; however, it is not required to purchase Adwords before accessing this vital information. Keep in mind, the search phrases used in a particular geographic location do not necessarily mean they are the same for all geographic locations. If a storage owner has more than one facility with its own website, each location needs this research.

ZIP codes, subdivision names, street names, major employers, etc. are part of consumer search results in larger metropolitan areas. Identifying keyword phrases is essential for applying SEO techniques. If applied correctly, the SEO will bring a business into the top rankings on the first page of the Google Search Site below sponsored ads.

GooglebotBe aware! Googlebot is crawllng content on the Internet for Google’s indexes every day, every night, non-stop.  Will your storage business place in the top 10-15 websites?

STEP 2: PLAN – When is it time for SEO?
Diagram

An SEO plan should be the first objective of website development. It is the foundation for a successful online business. Without SEO, a storage business website stands a strong chance of not being as successful as it could be. The Internet is now the primary marketing source of new customers for today’s savvy storage business. It is not a “field of dreams!” A website should not be developed with the expectation that it will simply be found. A solid SEO foundation is the difference of why a website is found by the greatest number of customers.

STEP 3: BUILD - Understanding how and where to use the research results.

Google’s free training guide, “Welcome to Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” is an excellent source of information. Every business owner should know about these SEO Best Practices for evaluating the value a web developer is providing. The following are excerpts from the guide.



SEO Best Practices

  • Create unique, accurate page titles for each section of the website. A title tag tells users and search engines what the topic of a particular site section/page is. Page titles are displayed in search results and need to be relevant to the page. Use a keyword phrase that pertains to the page, not just a single word like home or about – these are useless words that will not count toward organic placement.

  • Use unique, different descriptions for each page’s content. Write a description in complete sentences to inform and create interest for site visitors. This description is placed in the meta tags (behind the scenes information for the search engines). A storage owner should ask a developer to review how a description is worded It could include phone numbers, zip codes, services offered like moving supplies or truck rentals. Descriptions are important as Google may use them as snippets for the site.

  • Improve the structure of the site’s URL’s (internal navigation links). Organization of a website into site sections, categories and file names for documents helps site visitors. Simple to understand organization leads to better crawling by Googlebot and other engines. Use descriptive keyword phrases instead of numbers and symbols.

  • Make the site easy to navigate. The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the information. It also helps the search engines to understand what content on the site is important. A website should always have a starting point or “home.” There is a sense of dependability established when navigation is consistent with what site visitors are familiar with. Titles like “Home” or “About” are used in navigation areas due to width constraints on the visible website. If the width constraints allow for a phrase, use them,as keyword phrases count for organic placement.

  • Prepare two site maps, one for users (HTM) and one for search engines (XML). This is necessary even with a small site and especially when there is more than one level of navigation or linked documents placed within a site section. Site visitors leave when a site is complicated or getting back to information is not easy.

  • About the images on a website. Every image has something called an alt tag. SEO experts use the alt tag for keyword phrases to further enhance the amount of relevant content. The key component here is to use keywords that pertain to the particular site content where the image is placed. (In other words, give your photos a descriptive name.) It is best to use phrases in different arrangements and not repeat the same phrase in the same order. It makes Google unhappy if you do.

  • Have a useful 404 page. A 404 page is the one that shows up when a site visitor clicks on a link that has been changed or dropped. This happens often when there are external links to other websites. A message on a 404 page with a link back to the home page of your site or a phone number to call helps prevent visitor frustration. A contact form with a message box alerting the developer of the problem is quite useful for maintaining the site well.

STRATEGIC MARKETING PPC – What is it and how should it be used?

“Pay-per-click (PPC), also called cost per click (CPC), is an advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which an advertiser pays a publisher (typically a website owner or a network of websites) when the ad is clicked. Pay-per-click is commonly associated with first-tier search engines (such as Google AdWords and Microsoft Bing Ads). With search engines, advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market.”
--- Wikipedia.org definition

This strategic marketing tool can be a maze. I recommend you work with an expert trained and certified by Google. Storage owners who apply basic SEO best practices to their website can be successful without PPC. 

PPC best applies when:

Opening a new facility
Running a special for a period of time
Promoting special products or services
Positioning the website at the very top in ads section
Strategizing to catch the attention of a REIT

localsearch

PPC ads should be targeted for local search marketing only
. When the ads are running and clicked on, there is a cost paid by the website owner. This is going to be a monthly expense for as long as the PPC ads are visible. For optimal results, monitoring and tweaking after analyzing statistical information recorded in the Adwords management center is needed. Daily spending amounts are established. However, Google cannot guarantee that the amount will not be exceeded. It is approximate, so be prepared to go over budget some. The good news is, ads can be stopped and started again as needed. Google is very efficient at knowing if a click is legit and will credit back for spammed clicks. Experienced PPC strategists work with Google representatives for achieving the best buys for the money invested.



Essential rules for a Google Adwords PPC account as provided by Google:

    1. Understand how your ads are shown. Multiple factors influence this, including your budget, the maximum you want to pay (CPC) per keyword, your competitor’s max CPC on the same keyword, how popular the phrase is and Google’s Quality Score. Lots to learn!

    2. Ad users do not need to go to your home page. PPC campaigns are designed for the direct response experience. Send a user directly to the action you want them to take.

    3. Do not use broad or generic keywords. Search queries today tend to be several words long, a phrase for more target results. Bidding on broad or generic keywords such as “storage units” or “self storage” will spend your money, dumping your ad into the outer zones with low quality traffic. A negative return on investment results.

    4. Start with Ad Groups. Keywords in a group are relevant and generate a higher click-through rate, which will help your Quality Score, leading to lower click costs for the same position.

    5. Utilize all match type options. There are settings that can guide you through how and when Google displays your ads.

    6. Record Negative Keywords. These are words that have no bearing on your campaigns. For instance an unrelated geographic location shows up in the statistical information as a word used to display your ad in search results. Record it so that it does not happen again.

    7. Separate your campaigns. Google’s default settings include search and display together and do not separate out for mobile. Manually opt out of display ads to preserve your budget. Then set up campaigns for mobile users to ensure ads are displayed to mobile users.

    8. Use free conversion tracking. You need to be sure your advertising dollars are working well for your goals. Look at conversions and delete ads not getting results.

    9. Test different ad versions: Run 2-3 ads from each ad group, track results, then continue with the ones that deliver results and delete the low performing ones.

    10.Eliminate underperforming keywords. Delete the keywords resulting in clicks but not conversions to actual site visitors.

    11.Take advantage of ad extensions. These extensions added to an ad allow you to show products, locations and phone number as additional links.

    12.Connect your Adwords account to Google Analytics. Don’t forget this one as you will be able to see how Adwords visitors to your website affect the overall activity on your site.

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER!

Basic SEO application is a game changer in targeting the online consumer marketplace. Organic placement of a website within a search engine is vitally important to gain business from local search marketing. Combined with social media marketing, it may well be the most necessary tool for increasing a storage business’s ROI. It is cost effective because the development investment and ongoing fees are more manageable than sponsored ads or pay-per-click-advertising. A website developed with a solid SEO foundation often continues generating new business without a frequent major overhaul.

SEO developers plan for success with Google. A leader in measuring the digital world, comScore Inc., released their 2015 analysis of the U.S. desktop search marketplace showing Google Sites lead the explicit core search market with 64.5 percent share of search queries conducted, Microsoft Sites (Bing) with 19.8 percent, Yahoo Sites with 12.8 percent, Ask Network with 1.8 percent and AOL with 1.1 percent. There are others. However, for many years these have been the important ones with Google consistently leading. Optimize for Google following Google standards, as the others will follow. Submissions to the major search engines and in particular Google are all the local storage business needs. Solicitations from companies promoting submissions to hundreds of search engines should be viewed as a waste of marketing dollars. Storage businesses are local searches, not global.

Today’s SEO developer has a dual responsibility to optimize websites for desktop displays and mobile devices. The business owner has a responsibility to provide relevant content based upon a keyword phrase search term for site visitors. Together the developer and business owner form a team that meets needs or resolves problems for site visitors resulting in income-producing activity.

PPC is an advertising tool for special events requiring wise management to enhance income. A storage business can benefit from this tool, but budgets must be carefully monitored. PPC consultants should provide statistics on progress of all campaigns to gauge results monthly. Pause ads when budgets are exceeded or results are not coming in as expected. Change ads up and then resume them again and plan on testing ads over a couple of weeks to gauge which ads are bringing the best ROI.

Most importantly, keep control of your domain name. Domains are reserved, not owned. Be sure to renew it prior to expiration. Keep your personal email as the admin email for the domain as it controls what happens with the domain. If a privacy service is being used, be sure to have access to the URL, login and password.

--- Marsha Yearian, owner of Monte Fe Self Storage and Internet Business Developer





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