By Zack Proser
I had landed on the island sight unseen, without knowing anybody, blissfully ignorant of the fact that work was hard to come by when you’re a newcomer and there’s a global recession in full swing. After many hard months of doing my best to string together a couple of days’ work per week through different part-time jobs, I was glad to be hired by a local self-storage company that had three properties on the island.
At this point, shows like Storage Wars were just beginning to excite people to get off their couch and start hunting for storage auctions, and we were about to feel the full force of this surge in the public’s awareness of our industry. My boss, Kenny Pratt, had a keen mind for marketing. We were always experimenting with new specials, advertising outlets, promotional tactics and business alliances. One day, while sitting on a conference call, I had the idea to create a website that would serve as an easy-to-use bulletin board visitors could refer to find our upcoming auctions.
Since I started with the company, the number of general inquiries we received regarding storage auctions had climbed rapidly from about once per month to several per week. It was becoming clear that this interest was not going away anytime soon.
I created a simple WordPress blog with a calendar widget that we could mark with our properties’ auction dates. The idea was to refer customers there whenever they had questions about our auctions, in order to free us up from always repeating the same information. I thought there would also be some opportunity to drive traffic to our properties by providing storage auction information on the blog.
Our company decided not to go ahead with the blog, and it sat dormant for a while. We were busy preparing for a new round of auctions. The first auction brought only four people, most of whom, I was later informed, were regular auction hunters who knew the island circuit well. When we held our second round of auctions, after Storage Wars had begun to drive everyone into a frenzy, so many people showed up to our property that they were blocking the main highway.
Our parking lot was jam-packed within the first half hour prior to our auction time. There were so many people milling around on the road, on the property, and in the office that we had to shout out instructions. We rapidly set to printing many more copies of our bidder registration forms before the sale could start. People were asking me which units had the most valuables inside them. When people finally pulled out after the last unit was sold, the resulting trash, tire-marks and empty drink containers made it look like we’d just hosted a rave.
I returned to my storage auction blog with redoubled vigor, having experienced firsthand the intensity with which people were craving storage auctions. StorageAuctionsKings.com – a URL that I have shaken my head at many times since - was designed with some simple SEO and company marketing principles in mind. In its second phase, I removed the calendar widget, realizing exactly how staggering of a task it is to keep comprehensive and up-to-date listings of storage auctions, and I wrote.
I wrote in the early mornings and into the late evenings about storage auctions, how to find them, how and why they occur and what to do to be successful in attending them. I endlessly pored over SEO articles, studies in backlinking, forum posting, web design and content development. I installed a professional WordPress theme and continued pounding out as much original content as I possibly could.
In the early days, I would be lucky to see 240 page views in a 24-hour period. The site was beginning to gain a slow trickle of traffic coming from folks who really wanted to learn about how they could make money at storage auctions. I wrote an e-book, made it available for sale on the site, and published it in Amazon’s Kindle store. It began seeing modest regular sales.
The producers of Storage Wars reached out to me on several occasions for help in casting their next auction stars. Their contact made me realize I was missing out on a great opportunity, and it led to my site’s true turning point. I began writing about the storage auction shows themselves.
After I had created content around the different personalities on Storage Wars for a few weeks, there was one day when my traffic jumped from 600 page views in a day to 3,000. Fans of the show were online and gobbling up all the content about their favorite program that they could. Was Storage Wars fake or real? Is Brandi Passante married to Jarrod or not? How much money is Barry Weiss worth?
That’s how my unlikely site became a success. What started as a dash-off place to publish our company’s auction dates now provides a significant chunk of my income. I have big plans for the site, and it’s still growing today. The biggest takeaways from my experience are: Develop content around what your true audience really wants, never stop pushing to improve, and, if you can manage it, look to get in early on the next big trend.
Zack Proser draws on his personal experience as a self-storage property manager to deliver the best insights into making money at local storage auctions, as well as tips and tricks for making mini storage work for you.
Image courtesy of SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek