This post was originally written by StorageAhead Account Manager, Steve Lam.

SEO subject level: Beginner

Are you one of the nearly 70% of self storage operators who markets on the web? If so, odds are you’re spending some of your marketing budget on pay-per-click (PPC) ads—managed either by you or by a service provider like StorageFront.

It’s a smart – albeit costly – way to make your site visible while you’re working toward a listing on Google’s front page of organic (unpaid) results.

It’s also an effective way to double your search engine exposure. Google currently allows a listing to appear in both the organic and paid listings, and doing so can make them “synergistic”. In other words, two high-up listings on the first page may increase the likelihood of a click by 20%.

But let’s say you only have one listing on Google’s first page. Don’t worry: whether it’s paid or organic, it’s going to get clicks. Here are some interesting facts regarding page-one listings:

  • Humans are wired to make snap decisions, especially on the web. That’s why 72% click the first link of interest and only 25% read all listings before they decide.

  • Google’s first page receives over 90% of all click-through traffic. After that, page 2 gets 4%, page 3 gets 3%, page 4 gets 1%, and every other page after that receives less than 1% of click-through traffic.

  • More than 85% of Google searchers click on first page organic results, while 15% click on paid results.

  • The top four paid slots in Google are equivalent in clicks to organic spots 7 to 10 on Google’s first page.

Regardless of the impressive results for organic, studies show that most companies are more comfortable with paid campaigns. That’s because clicks and conversions can be tracked more accurately, making PPC similar to traditional marketing and metrics.

Great metrics are one of the main reasons we like PPC, too. We can track every online reservation back to any PCC click, and quickly tweak things that aren’t working for improved effectiveness.

As you may know, StorageFront invests in both organic and paid campaigns to drive web traffic to our clients.  In fact, a large portion of our clients’ monthly subscription fee goes to sponsored ads on Google. So we know PPC methodology like the back of our hands. (Hey, when did I get that freckle?)

Because the self storage industry is very competitive online, relevant paid keywords are expensive. A single click can cost $10. That’s right, TEN dollars just for one consumer to click and peek at a web page. Even then, it’s not guaranteed that a web visitor will stay on the page for more than a second. So it’s important to gear PPC toward qualified traffic, and be very careful not to fritter away your web marketing budget.

When your budget runs out, your ads disappear. Google pulls down listings in real time, like a bank ATM telling you that your account is out of money.

Are You a Click Crook?

Using Google’s powerful tracking systems, we’ve concluded that some sponsored ad clicks come from self storage operators and managers – as opposed to consumers – who are probably curious about the campaigns.

Did you know that if you click those ads for whatever reason, the money is drained from the budget available for your location? It doesn’t matter who placed the ads – whether it was StorageFront, our competitors, your competitors, or you – the money is charged. Not only that, but your data is also skewed because the click counts as “an impression with a lasting page visit.”

don't click on paid ads to hurt your self storage competitors - you'll feel the pain too

What if you only click a couple of times—just enough to drain a movie and popcorn out of your competitors’ PPC account? Don’t bother. You’re only helping to move their listing above yours. It happens because one of the factors in a PPC ad’s rank is its click-to-impression ratio. That tells Google that a particular ad is popular. Google has an incentive to put more effective ads in the best places, because it only makes money if its ads are clicked.

As you can see, virtually any paid click that isn’t activated by a consumer only serves to hurt the self storage industry—by increasing bid standards, draining accounts, penalizing you, and artificially improving competitors’ click ratios. That’s why I’m writing this post to remind self storage operators and marketers: do not click your own, or your competitors’, PPC ads in Google. Conserve your own sponsored campaign dollars, and play nice with others.

If you’d like to check and make sure that your PPC ads are showing up and are feeding into your page correctly, use Google’s  Ad Preview Tool.

Have SEO questions or comments? Post below.