Google's search algorithm is kind of the be-all, end-all of the internet. Everyone uses Google, and every company wants to be at the top of Google's list, therefore, every change they make to the search algorithm matters.

As a self storage facility, you may think that the algorithm doesn't apply to you, or it can't affect your business that much. You still have your storefront, people can still find you even if you don't invest in optimizing your website, so it doesn't matter. These days, that’s actually not true.

But does it matter as much as people say it does? Let’s find out.

Why Does the Algorithm Matter?

Well, the algorithm is the ultimate arbiter of where on the list you end up when someone searches for businesses like yours. If someone searches “self storage Cincinnati” and Frank down the street has a much better website than yours, his facility is going to be first on the list. In the end, it matters because it affects your online business. If you feel like you aren’t getting that many leads from online searches, it could be because the algorithm doesn’t think your site provides high value, not because there aren’t any customers online.

In this case, though, a “better” website doesn’t necessarily mean sleeker or flashier or more expensive. The bottom line is that Google wants to promote sites that provide a good experience for their users. There are many ways that it tries to ensure that this happens, but their end goal is to make sure that they are providing a result for their user that meets their specific needs.

Frank’s website may be better because the information people want to find is right on the homepage. It probably loads quickly and has clear calls-to-action (CTR) where the visitor can see what they want immediately. But how did Frank know to do all of that? The algorithm changes so frequently, how are you supposed to know what to change?

How Can I Keep Up With It?

Google changes its algorithm a lot. Like, A LOT. They are continually improving, changing, and trying to stay several steps ahead of those who seek to manipulate it or get around the reasons behind the rules. Unfortunately, that means that Google changes its algorithm an estimated 500-600 times a year. And that is just too much to obsessively keep up with.

The good news is, you don’t have to!

Instead, you can focus on the important things and the overall reasons for the algorithm. In other words, look at the big picture of what Google wants, and more importantly, why it wants it.

What Should I Focus On?

For example, you may have heard that you should target specific keywords or phrases to get more people to visit your site. You insert that phrase into a blog, but you don't make the blog applicable to that phrase. Sure, you’ll get a lot of visitors, but they won’t stay, because you aren’t giving them what they need. So Google ranks sites higher that have pertinent keywords, but they also rank sites lower when they have higher bounce rates (in other words, visitors who leave immediately). By trying to game the system, you can end up worse than you started.

You can always find the full run-down of best practices here, but here are some of the big-picture basics:

Useful content: this means your content isn’t re-written, or full of grammatical errors, or fluff pieces. It also means that it is updated regularly and has been updated recently. Google knows that when people search for information, they likely want to read a blog post about it or watch a video explaining it, so that’s what Google is looking for. But in addition to making sure that your blog is updated regularly and you’re letting Google know what your article is about in your tags and title…make sure that it is useful. The ultimate judge of that will be your readers.

Keywords: you should be using the proper keywords that your customers are searching for in order to lead them to the information they want. That keyword should be in your title and your title tag so that Google and your visitors know that what they want is on your site. But again, you won't win anyone over by randomly using keywords that you know are good, but not providing any useful content for them.

So, good content that is useful and updated regularly, and contains keywords that are often searched. Seems pretty simple! Ultimately, your goal should be the same as Google: make your website a good experience for every visitor.

For example, the visitors you’re trying to turn into customers are probably searching for a self-storage facility in your area. Think about what they want – safe? Cheap? Reliable? It’s up to you to include that information in places where they (and Google) can find it, i.e., titles and meta tags. Those visitors also likely want to contact you – make your contact information easy to find, and they’ll have a much better experience on your site than if they have to go digging around to find it.

Of course, if you have an excellent web provider, you don’t need to worry about keeping up with the updates at all. Your web provider can handle your local search engine optimization and make sure that you’re coming out on top of the search results. They can make sure that your page titles are right, you're using good description meta tags, and that your content is easy to read. They can also track how you compare to your competition in the search rankings and see how you're doing on those important keywords. If you want to focus on other areas of your business, hiring someone to optimize your site can be a great choice.

Conclusion The algorithm can seem like a giant, ever-changing blob of mystery, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Once you understand how it affects your business and what you can do to use it in your favor, it can feel a lot less scary.

Zac Sharp

Zac is a product specialist for StoragePug, a software company helping self storage facilities rent units through their website. Powered by modern marketing, StoragePug has built an e-commerce platform that connects customers to self storage through online rentals, billpay and lease eSign.