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.
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:
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:
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.
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”:
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!).
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.