How to clean up your website's content
Amy Daniels |February 29, 2016
The more articles you read about SEO, the more likely it is that you’ll wonder about the value of content on your storage facility’s website and what you can do to improve it. With each new article, you may feel more lost than before. Considering that your site’s content can boost or harm your rankings in search, engage or scare off your users, and promote or camouflage your facility, the thought of perfecting it can be terrifying.
It’s certainly a big undertaking. Rather than staring at your website and wondering how to get started, let this guide take you through the steps. You’ll learn how you can use your content to increase your site’s visibility and prompt leads to become customers.
Step 1: audit your existing content’s readability
If your website already has content, your first step is to clean it up. In order to give yourself a clean canvas to work with, I suggest opening a Google Doc or Word Document, copying content from your site, and pasting it into your document. This will allow you to look at the bare content without worrying about formatting just yet.
Take a look at the readability of your current content. Look for errors like typos, but also consider the content’s overall quality. Does it flow well? Is it both descriptive and concise? Does it portray your business as professional yet personable? Think about what a user would assume about your storage facility just from reading your website content. Your goal is to remove any hesitations they may have about renting with you and encourage them to move closer to becoming a customer.
Check out the two examples below. If you were thinking about renting a storage unit, which site would you feel safe giving your credit card information to? Which site seems to have a friendly, knowledgeable team that you’d feel comfortable talking to? Even if they may not ask them explicitly, these are the questions your customers are considering as they read your content.
Many website owners put things like keywords above readability, falsely believing that this strategy will boost their SEO rankings. Simple SEO Group found the opposite to be true. They released a case study detailing how they decreased one of their clients’ bounce rate from 58% to 28%. One key part of their efforts was having their copy editors improve the content and organize it for easy reading. Similarly, KickOffLabs wrote an article detailing the top 14 reasons websites have high bounce rates. Five of those reasons are directly related to the quality of the site’s content and, ultimately, whether or not the user feels the site is trustworthy.
Taking the time to clean up the content you have is an important step that will set a good foundation for the rest of the work ahead.
Making content readable may mean removing some keywords
If your site’s content isn’t natural and reader friendly, it’s going to fail you in terms of SEO. One main way that people butcher the quality of their content is by dropping in keywords wherever they can. They think that this can positively affect their search rankings, but in reality they’re sending a message to users that their brand isn’t trustworthy, and they don’t end up getting the boost in SERP that they’re after.
Once upon a time, adding keywords to your website was a plausible way to use content to improve your rankings in search. That hasn’t been the case for years now, and with every new update Google releases, keywords become less and less important. Google has even removed most of the keyword data that used to be easily accessible in Google Analytics, further signaling that keywords should not be your main focus.
This information may defy everything you knew about SEO. And that’s okay.
As you audit your existing content’s readability, consider sending it to a friend or family member and ask them to point out anything that seems unnatural or poorly written. Consider hiring a website design company that has in-house, professional writers. Try setting a small portion of your marketing budget to hire a freelance copy editor. Or better yet, do some combination of the above!
When you approach content readability without thinking too much about keywords, the most likely result is that many of the existing keywords will be removed. The goal here is to take your existing content and transform it into something that’s conversational and easy to understand, and keywords usually don’t accomplish that.
Step 2: think strategically about keywords
This is where SEO gets confusing. The entire previous section was about disregarding keywords, wasn’t it? Well, almost. It’s true that they aren’t the main content piece that you can use to boost your site’s rankings. It’s also true that stuffing them into your content wherever you can may actually hurt your site’s rankings. But you can approach them strategically to your advantage.
After following the previous step, you’ll have a clean document of content. Then, you can evaluate your keyword usage. The most important places to have keywords are: title tags, headings, and, sparingly, in your content. Determine which keyword phrase you want to target, and incorporate those keywords like so:
In your title tags, along with your facility’s location. If “storage units” is the term you’re targeting and your facility is in New York, a homepage title tag reading “Storage Units in New York City, NY” is perfect. Title tags need not be complicated or overly lengthy. Keep in mind that each page on your site should have its own unique title tag.
In your headings, along with your facility’s location (more about location in the next step). We’ll talk about breaking up text using headings, which serve as titles for your paragraphs. Including a keyword phrase in your heading offers much more value than using it in your content. If you have a paragraph talking about your unit sizes, a heading like “Variety of Storage Unit Sizes” describes the content, breaks up text for your reader, and includes a keyword phrase without compromising readability.
Finally, it’s okay to use keywords in your content, and you should. But it shouldn’t act as a crutch for poor-quality writing, and there is no magical ratio of keywords to regular content. When I write self storage website content, I tend to include just one keyword phrase per paragraph (or ~60 words). This ensures that keywords are still in the content without overloading the user or coming off as spammy.
So, while keywords don’t play the role that perhaps you thought they did, they can still provide benefits for your site. The goal is to use them strategically, both in the keywords you choose and the places you put them. Think quality over quantity.
Step 3: check for location-specific content
While keywords such as “storage units” and “self storage” are half of the equation in your title tags and headings, the other half is your facility’s location. If you combine the city and state of your property with your targeted keyword phrase, you’ll cover your bases. Here are a few examples of this in action:
Storage Units in Dallas, TX
Self Storage in Kansas City, MO 64133
Los Angeles, CA Storage Units
They’re readable, descriptive, and include helpful content that can signal to Google exactly what your site is about. But does location stop there? Not for the savvy storage marketer.
When I talk to storage operators about writing content for their site, I’m surprised by how many of them are surprised when I ask what cities — other than the one where they’re located — they want to target. They may say, for example, “I’m located in Aurora, Colorado, so that’s where my market is.” But if you look at a map, you’ll find the following cities are within a 15-mile drive of Aurora: Glendale, Englewood, Centennial, Cottonwood, Commerce City, Greenwood Village, Dove Valley, Derby, Welby, and of course, Denver.
Most self storage renters are willing to drive 15 miles for the right storage facility. And there’s something that your facility has that makes the drive worth it, right? Following this Aurora example, maybe your prices are lower than the premium space offered in downtown Denver. Maybe Aurora is a convenient stopping point for commuters who live in Watkins. Glendale is just a few minutes away, and I’m betting someone who lives in the northeast side of Glendale would be just as happy to rent in neighboring Aurora as they would within their city limits.
You might think that simply providing information about your location in Aurora will attract customers from these markets. Perhaps it will. But will it show your website in search when someone in Denver is looking for storage units? Most likely not. That is, unless you target it.
So here’s what you can do about it. Look up your property in Google Maps. List all cities that are within 15 miles of your facility. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had a customer from that area. The point is that you can start attracting them (isn’t increasing business what you’re out to do, after all?) and to point to Google where you are and why your website is relevant beyond just your city limits.
Take that list of cities and include it throughout your content. One time per page is fine. Just like with keywords, you don’t want to go overboard. A simple sentence in a paragraph about your location can read something like, “Because we’re conveniently located just off I-225, we’re a convenient option for residents of Glendale, Englewood, Centennial, Cottonwood, Commerce City, Greenwood Village, Dove Valley, Derby, Welby, and Denver.” Use our manager’s guide to SEO to include driving directions on your site.
And then go one step further. Is there one of those cities that stands out above the rest? In our example, an Aurora facility will want to target Denver because it’s a huge capital city and metropolitan area. Some facilities are physically located in one city but, as far as the community is concerned, they’re in a different city. Maybe they’re just past city limits for a larger town so their physical address doesn’t reflect their proximity to that community.
Whatever your situation may be, choose at least one of these cities and create a page on your website specifically targeting that city. For our Aurora facility, you could use “Storage Units near Denver, CO.”
Step 4: Check the amount of content and create more
Now that you’ve got nice, readable content for your customers, it’s time to add to it. This part is tricky because there are benefits to having many pages on your website and there are benefits to having lots of content on each of those pages. In an ideal world, your website would have several niche pages filled with hundreds and hundreds of words of content.
What you may find more reasonable is this: Shoot for 10 pages. On main pages/pages that you want customers to land on (like your homepage and a page detailing your unit sizes/prices), shoot for 200-300+ words. On what you can call tertiary pages, like packing supplies and truck rental information, shoot for 100-200 words and include some images.
That would put you around 1,700 words for your website. If you’re still using your document to work on your content, check your word count. How does it line up?
It may feel like a daunting task to add pages to your website. It can be tough to know when the content is getting repetitive and how to divide it up between pages without becoming so targeted that it doesn’t make sense as a comprehensive unit. If your web design provider has content writers working for you, they can figure these pages out for you pretty easily. If you’re setting out to write content on your own, here are several ideas to get your gears going:
An FAQ page. If your site doesn’t already have an FAQ page, I would consider it a top priority to add one. Google is shifting more and more toward question-based searches rather than keyword-based searches. Adding a page with specific questions your renters may be searching could work wonders for your site’s ranking, especially if few of your competitors offer one.
Content targeting a certain demographic/nearby institution. If your facility is located near a major university, try adding a student storage page to your site with information about student discounts, driving directions from the university, and reasons why college students should rent with you. You can take the same approach if you’re located near a military base.
Content to help your renters as they rent storage. General storage tips, packing tips, seasonal tips, space estimators… These are all things that can help your renters tackle the process of renting self storage and establish your authority in the industry.
Content detailing your specific amenities and services. Do you sell packing supplies at your property? Are you an authorized U-Haul dealership? Do you have some unique amenity that no one else in the area does? A page targeting that is a great place to get started.
A landing page for your blog/news about your facility. Have a blog? Has your facility been featured in the news? Creating a page that explains the purpose of your blog or that highlights notable news about your property is a great way to attract users to your content.
These are all just ideas that you’re welcome to add to. But if you took one idea from each of the sections above, you could have a site with: A homepage, a page with unit details, FAQ, student storage, blog, storage tips, and truck rental. That already puts you at 7 pages. Filling those pages in with content can boost your site’s SEO and attract new people to your site.
Step 5: break up large streams of text
Okay, now that you’ve got tons of helpful content, it’s important to make that content appealing to a user who wants to skim your content (hint: that will be every user who comes to your site). With this step, you simply need to break up text with paragraph breaks, headings, and bulleted lists.
You’ll notice on the storEDGE blog that we do the same thing with our content. There’s no hard-fast rule for when I break up content, but once a paragraph becomes several lines long, I break and go onto a new one. When I get to a new section that covers a new topic, I use a heading organize the content. When I have a lot of ideas on a similar topic, I’ll make it a bulleted or numbered list. I’ll also add images to visually explain my points (while cleverly breaking up text). This makes it easier for you to jump through the content, skimming it for what you find most interesting.
Remember that headings have more SEO value than regular text, so shooting for a descriptive 2-5 words is a good idea. Rather than using a heading like “Security” for a paragraph talking about your security features, consider beefing it up to something like “High-Quality Security Features” or “A Secure Storage Facility.”
A good rule of thumb is to provide one H1 per page and a handful of H2s and H3s per page. Use H2s as subheadings for your H1 and H3s as subheadings for your H2s. Break up paragraphs and add bulleted lists on pages with tons of content (like a collection of storage tips or a list of your packing supplies).
Step 6: edit all your new content
If you’ve gone through each of these steps, congratulations! Your content is now more descriptive, more helpful, and more SEO friendly than it was before. The final step before making this content live is to give it one final edit. This step shouldn’t be ignored.
If you wrote your content, consider hiring a freelance editor. Many times, you can pay less than $100 to have a professional editor look at your content and clean up any glaring issues. If you worked with a website design company who provided content writers for your project, ask about their editing process. If you wrote parts of the content, it’s common that these content writers can edit that for you, too.
No writer is perfect and self-editing is a naturally faulty process. Even professional writers need a second eye on their content. Because writing can be a personal art, it may be difficult to hand your words over for someone else to judge. But giving your content a good edit is simply due diligence. After all, typos throughout the content can turn off your customers and make your website look less professional. Whatever you need to do to have a trusted source edit your content, it’s a step you don’t want to skip. It’s worth your time, I promise.
Step 7: Make a plan for content creation/link building
Now your content has been cleaned up, beefed up, and polished up. Once you upload it to your site, it’s just a matter of time before Google re-crawls your site and starts changing your rankings in search. Even if your rankings don’t immediately change (or change as drastically as you’re expecting), your users will find tons of helpful content upon visiting your website. And that’s important for compelling them to work with you.
The final step worth considering is what you’ll do to make sure your content is used to its maximum capacity. Determining that will look different for everyone, so remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Start by considering what your site currently has and where you want to see it go. Answer questions like these to determine your goals:
Do I have blog posts on my site? Are they in-depth, thorough, and helpful? Could I try link building with these?
If I don’t have blogs on my site, is that something I could start adding? How many could I realistically write per week, per month, per year? Is that something I’m interested in doing?
Could I hire a writer to blog for me? Is that something that fits within my budget? What kind of ROI could I aim for if I did?
If link building is the route I want to go, do I want to stop writing blogs to do it? How much time do I want to spend on writing blogs vs. sharing them on other sites? Which do I enjoy more?
Once you determine which type of path you want to pursue, there are endless resources out there to help you do it, whether you want to read our blog or check out some others:
Link Building & Self Storage via storEDGE
10 Local Link Building Tips for 2016 via Search Engine Land
Even if you completed steps one through six flawlessly, you’ll still only be getting half of the equation that Google uses to evaluate your site’s helpfulness. Good quality content is a huge step. Regularly released content adds to that foundation and sets you apart.
Much like managing social media, this is a step that many experts want to give a steadfast rule for. Honestly, I think you can ignore most of these. Determining frequency is something that, yes, research can help, but ultimately is something that must be decided for yourself. If you hate blogging but you’re willing to try posting once per month, shoot for that. If you want to hire a writer but can’t afford to post every month, try a post every other month. If you love blogging and want to grow your skills, try writing a post per week. Start with a realistic goal so that you won’t get discouraged. If you find over time that you can do more, by all means, re-evaluate.
Content takes a lot of work, but it can pay off
This post is more than 3,000 words, and there’s so much more that I could include in this post. So, what does that mean for you?
It means that it will take a while to knock out these steps. Tending to the quality and usefulness of your website’s content isn’t a quick or simple endeavor. This can be encouraging, because if you get started and feel like you’re taking on a monster of a project, you’re not alone. There are business people much like you who are trying to do what’s best for their company (and their customers) but are realizing that this is no easy feat.
If you take the time to slowly work through the steps above, I’m confident that the content you provide to your users will be more useful than it was before and that, over time, you’ll reap the reward from your efforts — in terms of new customers and in search rankings.