SpareFoot vs. Google Ads in Self Storage

September 19, 2023

Sparefoot vs Google Ads image of a mobile phone
5 min

The tide is receding - the pandemic storage boom is slowing down.

People aren’t beating down the door for storage anymore - so you've got to get creative to keep new customers coming! Like every other operator, you’ve got a small marketing budget that needs to work overtime.

So, do you choose to spend that money with SpareFoot? Or do you go with the pay-per-click Google Ads? Which will help your marketing budget go further?

Both SpareFoot and a Google Ads campaign can bring new online leads to your storage facility, and the only reason not to use both is the cost.

Like any self storage marketing effort, you’ve got to spend money to make money. However, the efficiency of your marketing is the difference between a successful business and a struggling one.

We’ll cover the pros and cons of Google Ads vs. SpareFoot so you can choose the option that makes the most sense for your storage business!

Turn your web presence into unit rentals with the Ultimate Guide to Self  Storage SEO!

Should I Use SpareFoot?

SpareFoot is an aggregator - a website that collects information from different self storage facilities and then serves that information to potential renters. 

Because SpareFoot is one website with a ton of information and SEO strength, they outrank almost everyone in organic search. That means they show up first in search results - excluding local search! - and this gives them the first bite at the apple. 

Aggregators like SpareFoot will then offer to sell you their bite for a portion of your profits.  This rubs a lot of operators the wrong way, but others find SpareFoot a useful method of generating business.

To use SpareFoot, you’ll need to set up an account and sign an agreement with them. Then, you’ll need to bid on their leads, similarly to how Google Ads campaigns work.

SpareFoot calculates bids in multiples of the rental value of the unit. If you bid 3.00, you’re agreeing to pay SpareFoot three times the monthly rental rate of whatever unit a lead rents. If a customer rents a $50/month storage unit through SpareFoot, you owe them $150.

The good news is, you’re only on the hook for this money if a customer actually rents from you. Some marketing endeavors end up costing you money and bring in zero renters, and with SpareFoot you’ll at least get some return on your investment.

You do end up paying over the odds for that certainty, though. You'll need to pay more than a month's worth of rent to get any tenants through SpareFoot. 

And in high-demand areas, a minimum bid probably won’t get you any rentals at all. SpareFoot is incentivized to show the storage facilities that make them the most money.

You may end up paying 3-4x the value of a unit to get a rental. If that rental stays for a year, fantastic. If they only stay for two months, you lost a significant bit of cash while also tying up a storage unit and paying a manager to clean it. 

Notes from the Pros

Lynn Sykes of Storage Asset Management sat down with us recently and gave a few tips for using SpareFoot:

  • Use aggregators like SpareFoot unless you're at 90% occupancy already
  • Use SpareFoot if you can get renters with low bids - around 1.3 would be ideal
  • Bid only on your high-vacancy unit types! If you have lots of 20x20' units sitting empty, focus your bids there.
  • Consider walking away if the bids start to get to 4x or 5x your rental value.
  • Lower or cancel your bids before a spike in demand! For example, if you do good business with students over the summer, lower or cancel your SpareFoot bids in April and May. 

One more point to consider - SpareFoot is an SEO competitor to your website. The ideal situation is that a renter clicks directly on your facility. SpareFoot buys the ad space above your local pack result to hopefully capture that lead and then sell it to you (or your other competitors).  The more money you give SpareFoot, the more it can bid up the price for local keywords.

Of course, if you just need rentals, SpareFoot could still be worthwhile. That's up to each operator to determine.

In summary, SpareFoot works, but it’s expensive.

Use SpareFoot if:

  • You’re in dire need of rentals as fast as possible
  • Your rentals tend to stay with you for a long time
  • You’ve got a sizeable marketing budget to spend

Don’t use SpareFoot if:

  • You need to conserve your marketing budget
  • You can wait a bit to fill up your storage units
  • Your other marketing channels are working well

The Ultimate Guide to Self Storage SEO

Should I Use Google Ads?

Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising method that shows custom ads for your business to searchers. Your ad campaign will be run through your Google Business account.

Since Google is 95%+ of the search engine market in the US, Google is the big dog in the online advertising world. 

Almost all digital marketing goes through Google - your website only gets found because of Google and even SpareFoot would have very little value if it weren’t for Google sending people to its website.

Every business is fighting to get listed highest on Google. The entire profession of SEO is dedicated to making Google happy.

Google Ads is a way to pay to get to the top of the heap. Once you set up your Google Ads campaign, the engine will show your website (along with your marketing pitch) to searchers.

If the searcher clicks on your advertisement, they’ll be sent to your website - and Google will subtract the agreed-upon money from your budget.

As of 2023, the average cost for a Google Ads click for the big self storage keywords is around $10. The problem is that while this does send someone to your website, it doesn’t necessarily give you a rental.

In fact, most of the people who click your ad won’t rent with you. StoragePug estimates that most Google Ad campaigns will have to spend 2-3x the unit’s value to secure a renter.

While the individual clicks are much cheaper than what you’d pay SpareFoot, if your website doesn’t convert well, you can end up paying similar amounts to get a rental. 

These numbers are just estimates, though. Depending on how competitive your market is, you may have to pay more than that to get a renter - but if your self storage website does a good job converting visitors into renters, you may pay far less!

In summary, Google Ads is often cheaper than SpareFoot, but not always.

Use Google Ads if:

  • You have a good website that converts visitors
  • You want to have more control over your marketing
  • You have time to figure out the best way to use it

Don’t use Google Ads if:

  • You don’t have a website
  • You don’t have a Google Business Profile
  • You can’t afford to spend a few months getting it right

Turn your web presence into unit rentals with the Ultimate Guide to Self  Storage SEO!

Summary - SpareFoot vs. Google Ads

We recommend people use Google Ads rather than SpareFoot in most circumstances, but both marketing drives can work.

Many self storage operators use both when they need to fill up a facility - then they stop once the facility is at a good occupancy level.  

Of course, there are other ways to attract new customers without needing to fork over a chunk of your new revenue each time. 

Referral programs use word of mouth and an amount you set to generate new demand.

A strong website with good self storage SEO can get you the benefits of SpareFoot and Google Ads without costing money.

Physical marketing efforts can make a difference too.

The two biggest ways your customers find you are online and by driving past. Paid ads and SpareFoot can help you fill up a new facility quickly, but your online presence and your physical presence will bring you renters consistently over the life of your facility.

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