Self-storage competition continues to grow. With the new Google Vicinity update changing the way businesses are ranked in local search results, you may find it harder than ever to get your business to appear before your competition. After all, there are only a limited number of ways to move the needle in this regard.
Of course, it’s important to optimize your self-storage website with high-volume keyword phrases and improve the quality of web pages. The same goes for setting up your Google Business Profile, getting high-quality customer reviews, building a network of internal links, and generating a steady stream of quality content. But the #1 factor in determining how you rank organically in search rankings is the quality and authority of inbound links to your domain, according to a 2021 report from digital marketing firm Whitespark.
What are inbound links? Also known as backlinks, these are links from other websites to yours. They come in different forms, each with a different level of importance. The following tips explain how to get backlinks for your self-storage business and thus improve your online ranking.
Editorial backlinks are created when your own content is referenced as a source in another online article. Because these are the most natural backlinks, they are considered the most valuable. For example, my company wrote an article a few years ago about the best summer festivals in Northern California, which has been frequently used by other authors as a source. Another example of how this works is when someone from your company is quoted in a local news story, with a link to your website.
A great way to find editorial backlink opportunities is to use HARO (Help a Reporter Out), an online service that allows journalists to request expert sources for their stories. Once registered, HARO will email you a daily summary of these requests. My company has been used as a source many times, which has provided many valuable backlinks.
Guest post back links
Writing guest articles for industry websites or niche blogs is another way to get backlinks. This article you are reading is an example. In my bio paragraph at the end is a link to my company’s website. With the Inside the self-storage space (ISS) domain authority of 48, in the eyes of Google, this is a high value backlink that will help our rankings. It should be noted that continued links from the same domain produce diminishing returns, but each new article still brings value.
For opportunities, search for blogs relevant to the self-storage industry. Do a Google search using keywords such as “relocation”, “home organization”, “relocation”, “retirement home” or other relevant terms. Then add a phrase such as “guest post” or “become a contributor”. You should get a list of sites that accept content.
You can also just add the word “blog” to your search to get a range of sites that have blogs but don’t explicitly say they accept posts. Read the types of articles these sites have published and send them an email supplementing them on their work. Then offer to write content for them, offering up to four potential article titles. They can just tell you about it. My business is bombarded with these emails.
Partner back links
Partner links are those of the organizations with which you have a relationship. For example, perhaps your self-storage establishment donates to a local charity or engages in a referral exchange program with a local business. You can ask these groups to add a link on their website to yours.
For example, create an agreement with a local moving company where, in exchange for promoting their business when your tenants inquire about moving services, they place a link to your storage facility on their website. It works for a number of tangential businesses including real estate brokers, relocation specialists, RV dealerships and others.
You can also consider your vendors for potential links. These may be architects, builders, safety specialists or signaling companies.
Comments on blogs and forums
Another way to earn backlinks is to comment on other people’s online content. Many blogs and media allow it. You will often be able to add your name and a link to a website. While most blogs treat these links as unfollowed, meaning they won’t pass authority from their site to yours, there are theories that Google places some value on unfollowed links.
Industry forums are another place to get backlinks. There are several active in self-storage, including the ISS-sponsored Self-Storage Talk, where you can create posts or comment on other posts. By doing so, you have the option of including a link to your website under your comment or as part of your bio.
Another good option is press releases. If your business sends out an announcement about a new store opening, renovation or event, a press briefing or industry publication can pick it up, then include a link to your website. We have been successful in sending releases to local media as well as sites such as Patch.com.
The handy fruit of the backlink world is citations, which include any online mention of your business name, address, and phone number. Common places to find quotes include online directories such as MerchantCircle, Yahoo, Yelp and others. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of directories on the Internet, but it’s generally recommended to focus on those with high domain authority.
There are also platforms called data aggregators that provide business data to other directories and companies. The three main ones are Data Axle, Foursquare and Neustar Localeze. These automatically send your business information to multiple sites, so it’s essential that you sign up for their lists.
An important part of managing citations for your self-storage business is making sure your information is consistent. This means that your business name, address, phone number and website are exactly the same wherever they appear. If you don’t, you’ll be sending mixed signals to Google, which can hurt your ranking potential.
To effectively manage your citations, consider using online tools such as those provided by Brightlocal, Semrush, Yext, and Whitespark, among others. These scan the internet and return a list of sites your business currently appears on and others you should be targeting. You can manually manage the listings yourself or pay one of these companies to do it for you.
In addition to the backlink opportunities above, there are several others you may want to investigate. Getting mentions on social media, developing a Wikipedia page, hosting webinars, or creating shareable tools (i.e. a unit size calculator that other self-storage facilities can freely use) will not are just a few.
Linking isn’t quick or easy for most self-service storage operations, as many have limited staff and resources. But developing a comprehensive plan to continually acquire links will pay off in the form of higher Google rankings and increased website traffic.
Derek Hines is a writer for West Coast Self Storage, a self-storage acquisition, development and management company with facilities in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. He writes extensively on all topics related to the storage industry. For more information, call 877.611.8550.