Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

When you own a website for your self storage brand, there are certain search engine optimization (SEO) phrases that become a part of your day-to-day vocabulary. If you’re going to take the time, effort, and money to create and manage a website, there are certain steps you must take to 1) improve the user’s experience, and 2) improve the website’s visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs) to make it a high-performing marketing tool - and learning a little about HTML and SEO puts you on the fast track! Ignoring web tips can send your brand’s online presence into the abyss (aka, page two of search results) – and ultimately send your potential renters to one of the other storage facilities in town.

An example of need-to-know HTML and SEO lingo are title tags, meta tags, and alt tags. Read on below to learn all the insider secrets to these tools and how they help bring self storage seekers to your website.

Title tags

What are they?

A title tag is a short, approximately 70-character description of a webpage. There are a couple of things you need to know about title tags to understand why they matter:

Purpose. There are two main purposes of title tags and they both align with the purposes of a website: 1) to improve the user’s experience, and 2) to improve your website’s visibility on search engine results pages. When you utilize title tags correctly, you can attract users to your storage website even if you haven’t yet achieved the search ranking that you want.

Apart from the site’s content, title tags are the second most important on-page SEO element. If you’re going through the effort to produce exceptional website content, it’s worth your time to write exceptional title tags. The more relevant they are to a user’s search, the more likely your site is to receive a boost in search position (translation: more rentals).

Placement. We’ll look at the two main locations you’ll find title tags using our storEDGE blog page as an example. Say you were to perform a Google search for “self storage blog.” You would land on a results page with plenty of self storage-related blogs. Among those results you would find a link to our blog page and it would look like this:

storEDGE's blog title tag in SERP.

The breakdown:

A detailed example of title and meta tags in SERP.

You’ll also see title tags, as mentioned before, at the top of the webpage you are viewing. When on our blog page, you’ll see an excerpt of the title in the tab and the full title when you hover your mouse above it:

storEDGE blog title tag at the top of the webpage.

The text is exactly the same text you find when our page shows up in search results because they’re both being pulled from the page’s title tag in the HTML code.

Things to consider

Consider the importance of the title tag on a search engine results page. In a sea of blogs relevant to the self storage industry, what will lead users to a particular page? A large part of that is the rank of the webpage, which is SEO in action. But part of that will also be the relevance of the title tag.

Let’s say you were searching the web for resources on how to tie your shoes. You see something like this upon conducting a search “how to tie shoes”:

An example of a search for "how to tie shoes" in Google.

If you were actually looking for a resource for tying your shoes, you would naturally choose the second result here even though it isn’t the highest in ranking. Why?

  1. The first link isn’t too bad, but it’s not as relevant to your search as the second link is. It seems like clicking through will send you to a page where you can shop for shoes.

  2. The second link matches your search almost exactly. You can tell, just from the title, that this page’s content will teach you how to tie your shoes.

  3. The third link has more keywords than the first two, but they don’t make sense when you read them. You’re not sure what you’ll find if you click the link.

Unfortunately, the third example pretty accurately describes the wrong way to use title tags. Bad web writers hear the words “boost SEO” or “improve rankings” and they forget about the user. But the writer of the second link will earn the user’s clicks because the text is both compelling and relevant to a reader. Even if your storage website isn’t ranking first on the page (yet), this is your opportunity to draw a customer to your site instead of the site from the storage facility down the street. Don’t miss your chance!

What to do

  • DO: Make your title tags both descriptive and concise. If you could only say one thing about the page, what would it be?
  • DO: Think of the user when writing the title tag. Write content that’s compelling and helpful – something you would want to read if you were searching for a self storage unit.
  • DO: If the webpage you’re writing for is directed toward users in a certain city, include location information in the tag. A page for your storage facility in New York City should have the location in the title.
  • DO: Consider the placement of the keywords in your title tag. The closer the keyword is to the beginning of a title tag, the more likely a user is to visit the link.

What to avoid

  • DON’T: Use title tags to spam or over-optimize your keywords. While Google will use the title tag as a factor for your website’s ranking, users will be the ones primarily reading the tag to decide whether or not they want to click through.
  • DON’T: Waste the opportunity to bring users to your site. If your self storage website is ranked higher than a competitor’s but their title tag is more relevant to the reader, chances are you’ll lose the click.

Meta tags

What are they?

In the above example, you may have noticed a small set of text directly below the URL. This is called the meta tag, or description, of the webpage. The meta tag of a webpage goes hand in hand with the title tag. It's your opportunity to provide more information to the user (because, let's face it, 70 characters doesn't give you much room to summarize everything about your storage facility).

Think about it: when you conduct a search, you can tell a bit about what the page is about just by looking at the title. But before you actually click through, do you ever read the description below it? If you're anything like me, a brief scan of the description helps me decide if this is actually the page I'm looking for.

Everything you need to know about meta tags:

  • A good length to shoot for is between 50 - 300 characters. The limit for Google was recently increased from 155 to 300 characters in late 2017, but anywhere in the middle is just fine.
  • It’s important to include relevant keywords. If your facility page doesn't include a meta tag with relevant keywords and locations, search engines may find other text on the page that includes those keywords. That text may sometimes be words that are less important to the user, like content from the footer.
  • Write a mini-summary of what users can expect on your page. Just like the title tag, meta tags should be descriptive, concise, and reader-friendly.

And the most important thing you need to know about meta tags: Meta tags/descriptions have everything to do with conversion. A professional, enticing description draws users to the page. By writing a great title tag as well as a great meta tag, your page receives a boost in rankings (through the title) and a boost in conversion (more customers!).

Alt tags

What are they?

An alt tag is a short, approximately 150-character description of an image. When you upload an image to your webpage, you’re prompted to input an alt tag. But why? Can’t people just “see” your image? Why does it need a description?

There are a few reasons. The primary users who rely heavily on alt text are those who are blind. Many will use software to read a webpage aloud to them. Such software will read the alt text of an image so that this user can still reap the benefits that the image provides.

Another time you’ll see an alt tag appear is when a page is having issues loading its images. When images have proper alt tags, a user can get an idea of what the image is even though it isn’t loading.

Of course, there are some images on a page that are purely decorative. Small icons may improve the look of a site without providing any additional information. Images such as these may not include alt tags. But images like your storage facility’s photos, for example, are equipped with alt tags and image title tags.

It's important to think about the message you're trying to convey with a particular image. Some browsers even display alt tags when a user hovers their mouse over an image. If you've ever seen an image, wondered what it meant, and hovered over it to wait for a tag, think about what text would be most helpful when viewed together with the text that's surrounding the image.

Things to consider

So what images do you have on your site? Penn State provides a great example of a common image that you may not have even considered:

A list of all major credit cards.

You could write a tag that reads “Credit Card Logos,” but what help would that be for users who hover over the image or blind users who hear the phrase read to them? Not much. A better option would be “Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards accepted.” Now your user enjoys the benefit of a visual image as well as a concise, helpful description.

For example, let’s say that you want to use a picture of a security camera:

A security camera vector image.

You decide to add a security camera image to your facility description because you want users to know with one look at your page that you’re dedicated to on-site security. Let’s consider what the user experiences with various alt and image title tag examples:

Examples of good and bad alt tags.

By putting a bit of thought into the purpose of each image, you can dramatically improve the user’s experience and set your website apart as professional and well-designed.

What to do

  • DO: Consider what purpose the alt tag and image title tag would provide if it were read aloud to every user visiting the page. Tailor the description to offer useful information.
  • DO: Write a descriptive tag, especially if the image’s purpose is mostly aesthetic.

What to avoid

  • DON’T: Write a long string of text. Shoot for approximately 150 characters (like the title tag, consider what’s most important about the image and use concise language to describe it).
  • DON’T: Use the alternative text for meaningless or spammy text. Imagine landing on the page and hearing “clean storage unit best storage unit secure units self storage facility.” Always consider the user’s experience.

Making improvements

Ready to improve your site’s SEO content? Great! As you audit your site, ask yourself these questions to evaluate the usefulness of your title tags, meta tags, and alt tags:

  • What improvements can I make to my title tags?
  • Are my title tags descriptive?
  • Have I dumped in keywords just to boost SEO?
  • If I were looking at a list of results, what would make me want to click on this title?
  • Will users get an accurate understanding of my webpage just by reading the title?
  • Is my location included in my title?
  • Are there repeated titles between pages on my website?
  • What improvements can I make to my alt tags and image title tags?
  • Are they helpful? Or are they just there?
  • If someone read them aloud to me, would I find them annoying, unprofessional, or irrelevant?
  • Do they provide additional information not found in the page’s content?

Consider what changes you could make to your title tags, and make them! An appropriate and descriptive title tag is an easy way to boost your site’s visibility and to bring more customers to your self storage company. Your webpage’s meta tag helps draw searchers in and increases their confidence in your site, and image alt tags tell the story of your images to the sight impaired.

Ultimately, taking the time to put yourself in the shoes of your user will work wonders in revamping your tags. By making these relatively small changes, your storage website will inch closer and closer to being the best in town.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you may also like: How to write stellar facility descriptions on your storage site, Website hygiene: Does your site structure stink?, and How to set up local listings like Google My Business, Yelp, Apple Maps, Bing Local, and Facebook Local.