There’s no denying that printed, hard-copy phone books and telephone directories have nearly disappeared from our lives within the past decade. And, as previous articles in the Mini-Storage Messenger have suggested, advertising within the Yellow Pages has become an outdated form of marketing for most self-storage facilities across the United States thanks to the Internet and mobile devices. As a matter of fact, many new and existing storage properties have eliminated Yellow Pages advertising from their budgets entirely, opting instead to allocate that money to websites and search engine optimization (SEO) marketing to garner a strong online presence.
The Name Game
Although use of Yellow Pages directories has appeared to cease, there are a few lessons that can be learned from them and applied to web addresses. For instance, take a company’s name into account. When someone would look for a product or service within the Yellow Pages, the first company listed under the category heading was more likely to receive a phone call than the last company listed in that section. The same is true for websites. When someone utilizes a search engine to find a product or service, a higher ranking within the search results will lead to more clicks.
Of course, there are numerous factors that influence a website’s ranking. While search engine optimization can help move a website closer to the top of the list, Paul Yoachum, chief marketing officer for Salt Lake City, Utah-based .Storage (the period before Storage isn’t a mistake; it’s dot-storage like a .com), suggests that a better URL could reap more rewarding results for self-storage facilities. “People aren’t going to remember long, ugly web addresses,” he says, adding that obtaining a URL with the top-level domain .storage (instead of .com) can increase a site’s web presence.
“The days of being restricted to a dot-com or dot-net domain name are behind us. There’s no need for self-storage operators to settle for long domain names, hyphens, or misspellings because .com and .net are oversaturated,” says Yoachum. “.Storage gives you an alternative to the outdated way domain names have been approached. The .storage domain was created to help storage-related businesses get more descriptive and easier to remember URLs. With the dwindling number of available .com sites, this is a great opportunity to get a more recognizable website address that can help with awareness, marketing, and online exposure.”
Digital Real Estate
Much like the physical real estate market, where high-quality parcels within the top MSAs are scarce, the best URLs on .com (the short and memorable ones) were bought up during the dot-com boom in the early days of the Internet. “The .Storage domain is an opportunity for storage businesses to gobble up digital real estate from the competition,” says Yoachum. “Great .com domain names are hard to come by in the self-storage industry. Early adopters of .Storage have the absolute best domain names to choose from.”
Nevertheless, similar to physical real estate, you get what you pay for. “It costs more for a good location,” Yoachum says. “Although the most desirable names come at a higher cost, they can help operators build a better brand.”
According to Yoachum, the pricing models are based on search engine traffic. Depending on the desirability of the URL, the cost can range anywhere from $54 per year to $75,000. “Most city and geographic terms will be premium rates because that’s what people search for,” he says.
Akin to the increased traffic of a strategically located self-storage facility, a more descriptive web address can boost business through more website visits. “Higher click rates are possible when keywords, such as storage, are part of the URL,” Yoachum states. “Google will bold those URLs within its search results.” And, because many potential customers conduct searches by using the word storage and their location, the bold is more likely to grab their attention from the list of results.
While a .Storage domain would create a more descriptive web address for a company’s website, Yoachum reminds existing self-storage operators that doing away with a successful .com URL is not necessary. “You don’t need to switch to .Storage, but it is a good opportunity for those who are unsatisfied with their URLs. ,” he says. “This new domain is like hitting the reset button. It gives new and existing operators the chance to have a better web presence.”
Yoachum adds that some companies have purchased multiple .Storage URLs in order to use them in various ways. The most common, of course, is to redirect online customers to an existing website. Others are using their new .Storage URLs to serve as landing pages, marketing campaign sites, product sites, or for customer portals. “Many of the self-storage industry’s top operators have purchased premium names,” he says, encouraging operators to explore the available names at www.get.storage before the restricted access to the .Storage domain ends. Availability to the general public begins Jan. 10, 2017.
“We are giving first right or refusal to storage operators,” says Yoachum. “We’re not holding the names hostage. Operators could acquire them from whoever buys them, but right now there is restricted access—which gives self storage operators a leg up. Before the January tenth general availability, a third-party verifier ensures every entity or person registering is in the storage business.”
As the self-storage industry is well aware, there has been a push towards mobile websites throughout the past few years. Now, over the next few months, Google will begin to implement the mobile-first index, which prioritizes mobile websites over desktop websites. While this may not have a dramatic influence on search engine ranking, Yoachum advises storage operators to optimize their sites as much as possible. “Remember to think of mobile users first,” he says. “Then find the best ways to design your site for speed.”
And, although some may not be ready for yet another change, the various top-level domains (TLDs) being released are an additional shift in the Internet realm. Yoachum states that new TLDs started rolling out in 2012, but only so many new domains are allowed to be released at a time as they are regulated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
“People in the U.S. are conditioned to .com and .net,” Yoachum says. “Some people are waiting to see how well this will be adopted, but it’s a future industry standard.”
Yoachum mentions that several new domains (also known as extensions) have been purchased for millions of dollars by two of the Internet’s Goliaths: Google and Amazon. “As companies like Google and Amazon roll out their new extensions (.buy, .rsvp, .fly), extensions like. Storage will become expected by customers looking for self-storage,” he says.
Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada.