Website Speed Matters: Are you losing the race because your vacation rental website can’t keep up?

Slow WebsiteA few seconds.

Sometimes that’s all the longer a guest will wait for your website to load before they bail.  

Website speed is one of the most overlooked metrics in online marketing. A sluggish website can slowly eat away at your online presence, scaring away paying guests.

The implications of a slow website are downright scary, reading like a list of plagues every vacation rental manager should fear.

Poor guest experience, high bounce rate, and poor conversion rates, resulting in thousands of dollars’ worth of booking revenue going down the drain.

Even one item on this list should be a major concern for any online business. But, many professional managers are willingly putting themselves at risk, and most have no clue they’re doing so.

In the following post, we’ll examine the consequences of a slow website, share some telling statistics about poor website performance and explain how to avoid slow website speeds.  

Cliff Notes Version

A slow website can upset visitors, hurt your conversions and ultimately drain your profits. Your content management system can play a big part in page load speeds. Be wary of WordPress if load speed is important to you. Make sure to test your website and compare it others to see where you stand. And, make sure you’re keeping an eye on engagement metrics in Google Analytics. If your website isn’t handling visitors well and has a below average load speed, you may want to consider upgrading your website.

Telling Statistics

In the age of high-speed internet, guests no longer want to wait for pages to load. They’ll simply move on to another site. Many will never give you a second chance.

But, don’t just take our word for it. Check out this list of stats we’ve curated from some of the Web’s most respected internet marketing publications:  

  • 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less (via Kiss Metrics).
  • 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load (via Kiss Metrics).
  • An astounding 75% of all Internet users asserted that they wouldn’t revisit a website that doesn’t load within 4 seconds (via Aykira).
  • At peak traffic times, more than 75% of online consumers left for a competitor’s site rather than suffer delays (via ConversionXL)
  • 51% of online shoppers in the US say that site slowness is the top reason they’d abandon a purchase (via Radware).
  • A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year (via Kiss Metrics).

google-slow-to-loadAlthough it’s only one of more than 200 known ranking factors, both Google and Bing use page loading speed as a metric for how to rank your website. But, what’s really scary is what’s on the horizon. It appears Google is testing labeling some sites as “Slow to Load” in mobile search results. So, in theory, a slow loading website might not only have an adverse effect of your ranking, but would certainly have an impact on search engine click through rates if your site were to be labeled “Slow to Load.”

Choose Your Technology Carefully

When most professional managers are looking to upgrade their website, they focus on big-ticket items like graphic design, imagery, ease of navigation, search functionality, ability to update content and more. All these are key items for a successful website, but if your guests leave before the site loads, even the fanciest bells and whistles won’t do you much good.  

Here’s a look at some of the major factors you should consider when choosing your technology.

Content Management System

There are a number of factors that can cause your website to exhibit slow loading speeds, but perhaps the biggest factor is your content management system (CMS). Why? Well, the code behind your content management system can affect how fast your content loads, but more importantly, a good content management will put in place safeguards that keep less tech savvy users from doing things that kill page load speeds.

One popular (and free) CMS that many vacation rental website providers will build upon is WordPress. But, if not properly optimized, this CMS is notoriously slow. In a study benchmarking 8 popular CMS platforms, WordPress (and it’s premium version, WordPress VIP) were found to be the slowest of all the systems, by as much as 35% (even more when compared to Hubspot’s CMS).  According to the study, “on the right site, a difference between 6 seconds and 9 seconds can mean millions of dollars in revenue lost or gained.”

cmstti2

The other thing to consider when choosing a CMS is what it was designed for? Was it designed to power blogs, eCommerce websites, lead generation websites, or just anything in general? Picking a CMS designed specifically for your industry and website category can make a big difference, especially if you’re not very tech savvy. In some cases, it can save you the hassle of trying to integrate your website into your software for things like availability and online bookings, or trying to find appropriate plug-ins to accomplish your goals. Plugins are often very handy, but too many of them can slow your pages down, too.

Furthermore, while a CMS like WordPress is completely safe in the right hands, if you fail to keep up with all the WordPress software updates, as well as updates to the plugins and templates you’re using, you run the risk of falling victim to one of the many scripts roaming the internet searching for vulnerabilities to exploit. Because it’s so widely used, WordPress is often the target of hacks. In the hands of an experience webmaster, you’ll be fine. But, many vacation rental managers are tasked with the management of their WordPress site after the initial implementation is completed.  Just make sure you know what you’re doing if you use WordPress.

Hosting Provider  

No matter what platform you build your website on, you need to choose a company to host it. Make sure you pick a hosting provider with a strong reputation and select the right package based on your needs. Choosing the wrong host can not only hinder the performance of your website, but could also result in extended down times.

At LiveRez, we host our partners websites through Rackspace, the world’s No. 1 managed cloud company.  Rackspace powers more than 500 billion page views every year, offers dedicated servers, has a powerful infrastructure and a lighting fast content delivery network. The long and the short of it is that we’ve made a big investment in this service because we know how much website performance affects our partners’ collective success.

How Fast is Your Website?

If you haven’t already, you should really go and test your website’s speed. A good place to start is WebPageTest.org.  All you need to do is enter your URL and click on “Start Test.”

These tests offer standard metrics to use in comparisons. Just remember that simply going to a website on your own and seeing how fast it loads is a poor judge of its load speed. Your internet connection could be faster or slower than your guests. And, load speeds can vary based on a number of number of other factors, like device type, distance to server and more.

Make sure to watch your start render time, load time and your speed index. A start render time is when a page begins to show visible content. The load time is generally when users can start to engage with your website. And, speed index is a composite score balancing a number of page load metrics.

To get an idea of how your website compares, go back and test some of your competitors’ websites. You could also go as far as testing some industry leading websites not in your market. It will give you a good idea of where your website stands.

More Than Speed

Just remember, website speed isn’t the only important metric to examine. Your ultimate goal should to be to offer a great experience to guests and get more conversions. Make sure to check your Google Analytics account regularly to see how your website is handling visitors.

You can nearly always improve your visitor engagement levels and conversion rates to some degree by making tweaks to your design or content.  But, if your technology is falling short before the guest even gets to engage, you should consider starting fresh with a new website platform.

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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