It’s important to understand the full life cycle of the self storage customer. If you’ve got a website, this life cycle occurs largely online behind major search engines, and you may have many questions. How do people search for self storage online? Is it worth it to pay for your business to appear in costly self storage directories? What really brings customers into your storage facility? Let’s start by walking through the entire digital life cycle of a self storage customer to simplify the process. Check out this post to learn the specific steps users take online to find (and rent!) self storage.

Everyone needs a little self storage space every now and then, and most searches start from a smartphone.

Our Renter

Meet Marvin. Marvin is looking for a storage unit in Dallas, Texas where he can store his Meat Loaf records. His biggest concern is the security and safety of his records while in storage, so he’s willing to spend a little more to find the right unit.

Marvin starts his search for self storage by opening up a Google inquiry on his iPhone browser.

1. Google search of "self storage near me."

Marvin pulls out his iPhone and opens up his web browser to Google. He Googles “self storage near me” and dozens of search results pop up immediately. Before scrolling down, Marvin checks out the paid search results that appear at the top of the query, then expands the map that appears above the local search results 3-pack. He scrolls through the map to figure out which facilities are close to his Dallas home and convenient to access along his commute to the recording studio. He leaves the map to go back to the search results so he can dig into the details of each facility.

Local search results are often at the top of search results, and it's common for users to explore those results first.

2. Browse the local search results.

Marvin browses the top three local search results, but the closest facility to him only has a two-star rating (even though the business has many reviews), which makes him nervous. One of the reviews even said that security is lax and there was a break-in recently. Marvin does not want to be messing around with that, so he checks out the other top local results. The next two facilities are okay, but when he checks out their websites, he’s less than impressed. The first facility web page is slow to load, and he clicks back to search results before he even gets a chance to look at it. He goes back to his search results, skips past the local listings, and starts scrolling down the first page of Google search results.

After checking out the local search results, Marvin moves on to the first page of organic search results.

3. Browse the first page of results.

Marvin is not satisfied with what he found in the local search results, so he heads back to his search results and browses the first page. He clicks the first link to appear after the local search results, which takes him to Big Texas Storage Place. He checks out Big Texas Storage Place’s homepage and clicks around to find prices and read about their security. He isn’t happy with the amount of security at Big Texas Storage Place, and he can’t find a picture of it, so he heads back to his search results. He clicks the next listing, AAA Dallas Mini Storage Place, and checks out their homepage. Their homepage is even worse: the latest news is announcing their December holiday hours (it’s July), and it looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early 2000s. It also doesn’t mention anything about security. (Marvin would do anything for extra space, but he won’t do that!) Marvin clicks back to his search results again.

Marvin conducts a new search with a more specific query.

4. Go back to search.

Marvin reaches the end of the first page of search results and is still not finding what he wants, so he enters a new query in Google search. He’s realized what he really wants is a climate controlled unit; after all, he doesn’t want his valuable records to warp. He doesn’t know what size he needs, or what size storage units even come in. He’s not a storage expert, but he’s banking on finding some helpful information online or talking to a staff member at the facility to help him choose the right size unit.

5. Continue browsing.

With his new search query, Marvin is pretty much starting the process all over again. But since he was unhappy with his first round of search results, he skips the listings he’s already clicked, even though they showed up a second time in his ‘climate control’ query. This time Marvin skips the local listings map and 3-pack, and just scrolls the first page of results looking for keywords like “security” and “climate controlled.” Many more contenders are popping up now that he’s narrowed his search.

Marvin finally finds a facility that hits his key points and is conveniently located near his home.

6. Find ‘the one’ and take action.

Marvin has spent about 10 minutes searching for the right unit, and time is money! After all his research, he finally finds the perfect place to store his records: an affordable, climate controlled unit at a high-security facility within three miles of his gated community. The facility was the third search result listed for “climate controlled storage near me.” He’s itching to seal the deal and get the rental process started, so he reads about unit sizes using the site’s storage calculator and selects “move in” next to the unit he wants. Marvin is psyched to find out he can rent the unit and sign his lease all online, because he really hates talking on the phone - after all, he has to save his voice for his onstage performance later that night. He enters his contact information, adds tenant insurance, enters his payment information and sets up autopay, chooses a gate code, and signs his lease digitally. He gets an email confirmation from the facility letting him know he’s all moved in and his unit is ready to access. Signed, sealed, delivered - Marvin has a new storage unit for his vintage Meat Loaf records, and it only took him 15 minutes from start to finish.

Marvin rented his unit online and gets all moved into his new storage unit.

So where is your website ranking in search? Would Marvin find it in his quest for a climate controlled unit for his music collection? If you’re curious where you’re ranking, you might think you should just Google yourself to see how close you are to the top spot for your main keywords. But you shouldn’t Google yourself because of this one, super important reason:

Googling yourself is bad because it can negatively affect your click-through rate (CTR). CTR is a measurement of how often people are clicking to your site versus how often your site appears in search (called impressions). CTR is just one of the many factors that Google uses to determine who ranks for what in organic search results.

For example, if your site has 1,000 impressions in a month, and only gets 100 clicks, you have a 10% CTR.

Every time you conduct a search for yourself, you are affecting your CTR. If you do a Google search for self storage in Dallas, find your site at the bottom of page one, and then close your browser, you just told Google that the search results didn’t meet your needs. (Translation: “Hey, Google! Stop putting my site in the search results because it isn’t relevant to this query!”)

Google is excellent at detecting unnatural behavior, so if you’re constantly checking your ranking by searching for yourself and clicking your own search results, Google will know (especially if you’re searching while logged into your Google account).

So how do you check your search ranking without Googling yourself? Use Google Analytics tools and the help of search ranking trackers developed and used by SEO experts.

The main takeaway: If we’ve learned anything from Marvin, it’s that users find your self storage business through a simple search process, and they don’t waste any time trying to navigate your website if they get a bad first impression. They really don’t know what unit size they want or need, and their search is largely based on location (your facility needs to be close and convenient to their home or work). If possible, users love to use self service tools to select their unit size and rent online. It’s all about convenience, both online and in real life.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you may also like: Does This Affect My Rankings? 5 SEO Myths You’re Better Off Ignoring, 5 Easy Ways to Rank Better in Google Search, and How Voice Search Will Change Local SEO.