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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Don’t Be Fooled: How to Spot the Difference Between Responsive Websites and Mobile Optimized Websites

Responsive-versus-mobile
With mobile traffic simply exploding over the last few years, mobile website design has become a huge concern for many businesses, especially those in the travel industry. But, there are so many terms floating around that it is easy to get them mixed up.

In this post, we’re going to explain the difference between some of the major terms that are often used (or misused) to describe different types of websites that cater to guests on mobile devices. In short, today we’re going to talk about the difference between mobile optimized websites and responsive design websites.

Both types of websites attempt to accomplish the same goal of giving visitors to their websites a great experience regardless of the device they’re using. They just accomplish this differently, and with varying degrees of success.

Let’s start by talking about what each is. Then, we’ll talk about the key differences, and finally we’ll show you some side by side examples.

Mobile Optimized Websites

Mobile-Website-2015Mobile optimized websites were the first come on the scene (we started offering mobile websites more than three years ago). These websites are geared primary for smart phones and smaller tablets. They are generally built entirely separate from your traditional website.

The strategy with mobile websites is to use your traditional website for desktops, laptops and larger tablets, and to show your mobile optimized website to people on smart phones and smaller tablets. So, when someone hits your website, your website will determine what type of device they are on and show them either the mobile website or the regular website.

Responsive Websites

Responsive

Responsive websites are much newer and now considered a best practice for all new website designs moving forward. But, they’re much harder to pull off for a web designer than a mobile website. They’re also much tougher to integrate into content management systems. Here’s why. A responsive website is shown to all of your guests no matter what device they are on. It’s the website itself that changes. Elements of the website will dynamically adapt to look perfect no matter what device you are on.

They work by querying what size your screen is and then displaying the website to fit that screen. To accomplish this, web designers have to style for four different ranges of screen size to make sure the website displays perfectly on all devices. Essentially, instead of building four different websites to accommodate four different screen size ranges, responsive websites handle every device with one website.

The Advantages of Responsive Design

While most mobile optimized websites will work just fine for many people, there are some strong advantages of responsive websites that make them better. These advantages become more and more important as mobile device usage become more prolific. Here are just a few of those advantages:

  • Responsive websites look better across all devices because they offer a higher range of adaptability. It’s the difference between one website with styles for four screen sizes or the option of just seeing a regular website or a separate mobile optimized site.
  • For the most part, responsive websites will keep all of your content and pages. Many mobile optimized websites will exclude content (and even entire pages) that are found on your regular site. This raised concerns with Google, which until recently indexed only the main websites. In some cases Google would serve up a page in search results that had valuable information on the main site, but that page or that information was not available to the searcher when they clicked through the search result to the page on their smart phone.
  • Consequently, Google favors responsive websites to mobile optimized websites. But, they still highly favor and reward mobile optimized websites over websites that are not mobile friendly at all. In Google’s eye, responsive is best, but mobile optimized still meets its requirement and is way better than websites that aren’t mobile friendly.
  • Responsive websites also save you time because you are only managing content on one website. Because a mobile optimized website is actually an entirely different website than your regular website, albeit with very similar content, you actually have to manage and host two separate websites. Now, if both your regular website and your mobile optimized website are connected to a central content management system (like LiveRez’s are), management of content becomes much easier.

Spotting the Differences

Because responsive design is the newer, hotter trend (and a best practice), a number of technology companies in the vacation rental industry want to claim that their mobile optimized websites are really responsive. Rather than just taking their word for it, you should learn to spot the differences. The great thing is that if you know what you’re looking for, the differences are pretty easy to spot.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of a mobile optimized set-up (regular site + mobile site) and a responsive design set-up. We’ll show you both the home page and a search results page at different sizes and then what they actually look like on a smart phone (in this example, we’re using a Samsung Galaxy S6).

Side-by-Side Comparison

Full Sized

Here are two websites — one responsive and one mobile optimized — at full width on a desktop. As you can tell, they both look good. But, they were both designed to look good at this size.

Full-Sized-Mobile

Half Sized (about Tablet Size) 

Here they are with the browser shrunk to about the size of a tablet. The responsive site still looks great, but the mobile optimized site is starting to display weird in spots. See how the booking box is moving over the navigation bar and the smaller images below? The properties still display okay in search results, but look at how much smaller they are than in the responsive website.

Just click on the image to view it full size.

Smart Phone Sized

Since you don’t always have time to check out a website on your phone (and you need to do this to really tell if a website is responsive), here are both of the websites with the browser shrunk down to about the size of a smart phone.  On the mobile optimized website, things are really starting to go wrong. The booking box is way out of place, and big parts of the page are missing, like most of the navigation bar and most of the text. And, on the search results page, you can’t even see the search results.

In comparison, the responsive website still looks great. The elements are now re-arranged to look great on the smaller page, and all the information on both pages is still there. The nav bar is still there, too. Everything is the same. The display of the content has just adapted to respond to the screen size.

Now, to be fair to the maker of the mobile optimized site, they were never intending for people with devices this small to actually get this version of the website. As you’ll see in the next section, people actually accessing this site on a smart phone are shown a different, mobile-optimized site.

However (and here’s the sticking point), to call the website below on the right a responsive website just simply wouldn’t be true. 

Mobile-Small

On Actual Smart Phone

Here are the websites side by side on the new Samsung Galaxy S6.  You’ll notice that the mobile optimized site has now switched to its mobile version, where the responsive website is showing pretty much the same content as when you shrunk down the browser. The big difference here is that the mobile optimized site is now missing a lot of the content it was showing on the home page.

Just click on the image to view it full sized.

Conclusion
Now that you know the difference between responsive design and mobile optimized, you’ll know for sure what you are getting when someone is trying to sell you a new site. But, if you have any further questions on the differences between responsive design and mobile optimized sites, feel free to give us a call at (800) 343-2891. We’d be happy to help.

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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Watch Now: The LiveRez Tools That Will Boost Your Bottom Line

LiveRez-Tools-WebinarLiveRez’s webinar from Nov. 19 on “The LiveRez Tools That Will Boost Your Bottom Line” is now available to watch online.

The LiveRez software is packed with a wide variety of tools to accelerate your bookings, increase your operational efficiency and ultimately boost your bottom line. And in this webinar, LiveRez Director of Sales and Marketing Tyler Hurst goes over a number of ways LiveRez helps you achieve success.

The full webinar is embedded below.

To see more LiveRez webinars and register for upcoming live webinars, make sure to check out our Webinars Page.

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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Checkout Options: How to Earn Extra Revenue When a Guest Books

One of the many handy features of LiveRez that helps vacation rental managers increase their revenues is the checkout options feature.

LiveRez allows managers to set up additional options at checkout for things like fly fishing lessons, gift baskets, lift tickets, etc. Then, when a guest gets to the checkout page they can add on these options for an additional charge (or for free if you set a charge of $0).

This option allow managers to build in certain concierge style services at checkout while opening additional channels for revenue.  And, the best part is they don’t have to put out any effort to “sell” these products and services; they can simply “offer” them as an option.

CheckoutOptions

Another cool part of this feature is the ability to set up a contact per option. Let’s say you are partnering with a local fishing guide to offer fly fishing lessons. You can set up the guide’s email address within the option, and then any time that option is purchased, the guide will get an email letting him know that someone has booked a fly fishing lesson. This helps you expedite the delivery of the services – again, helping you make more money without much extra work.

To learn more about how LiveRez can help your company earn more revenue, contact us now at (800) 343-2891 or email [email protected].

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the fastest growing vacation rental software provider for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation management, trust accounting and online marketing, with high-ranking, high-conversion dynamic websites and an extensive affiliate marketing program. The company is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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7 Reasons to Upgrade to LiveRez in 2014

2014Thinking about upgrading your vacation rental software in 2014? Here are seven quick reasons why LiveRez should be on your shopping list.

Partnership – LiveRez is unlike any other software provider in the industry, in that it views its relationship with the professional managers using its software not as a client/vendor relationship but as a true partnership. And, it backs this up by hinging its financial success on the success of its partners (it’s built into the pricing model).  Not only that, LiveRez doesn’t charge you more for the things you need to grow your business. That’s why LiveRez gives its partners free and unlimited technical support, free and unlimited property listings, free and unlimited owner logins, and free and unlimited admin users.

Reputation – Having partnered with more than 750 professional vacation rental management companies over the past six years, LiveRez is the most used cloud-based software platform for professional vacation rental managers. Additionally, LiveRez Founder/CEO Tracy Lotz has more than 20 years of experience in the online vacation rental industry, as one of the very first people to create a successful website where managers could advertise their properties online and as one of the first people to enable professional managers to take real-time online bookings. Simply put, LiveRez has the experience, the resources and the track record to help you grow your business, and it’s led by one of the true pioneers of the online vacation rental industry.

Cloud Based – If you’re not already on the cloud, 2014 is the year to make the switch. Cloud computing gives your business 24/7 access to your software online. Your employees can log on virtually anywhere, from any computer and from most mobile devices. They can access your software on virtually any web browser, and the system works on both Macs and PCs. There’s no servers to manage, no networks to maintain, no updates to install. Switching to the cloud can instantly improve the efficiency of your business.

Websites – LiveRez websites are the perfect combination of form and function. They look gorgeous, but, more importantly, they help you get more bookings. LiveRez believes that when you make it easier for a traveler to find your website and search for and book a property, you’ll get more bookings. Not only that, but vacation property owners looking for a management company will notice this, too. And, once you show them our online owner portals, they’ll be begging you to manage their properties.

CRM System – Want to communicate better across the board? Get guests all the information they need right when they need it. Keep your owners informed. And, follow-up with leads faster than ever. That’s what the LiveRez CRM system helps you do. All that, while dramatically reducing your workload through advanced automation technology.

QuickBooks – So many vacation rental managers around the world prefer to use QuickBooks. The problem is that to use QuickBooks they have to get tons of data from their software and move it into QuickBooks. And, most software systems on the market today provide little to no help in the process. LiveRez’s QuickBooks Connector offers a real-time integration with QuickBooks, allowing you to get all of your data to the right spots in QuickBooks, without the hassle of exporting/importing files or doing a bunch of manual entry.

Improving the Vacation Rental Experience – Upgrading to LiveRez will not just help you, but it will help your guests, your owners and your staff. You’ll give your guests the fastest and easiest way to book online. You’ll communicate better with your guests and owners. You’ll give your owners a complete self-service portal online (think that will make them happy?). And, you’ll make life easier on your employees, empowering them to be more effective in doing their jobs and serving your guests and owners.  And, all this will have a big impact on your bottom line.

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the fastest growing vacation rental software provider for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation management, trust accounting and online marketing, with high-ranking, high-conversion dynamic websites and an extensive affiliate marketing program. The company is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Do you have a Favicon?

For those of you who don’t know (and many don’t), a favicon is small 16 x 16 icon used to represent your website, most notably in bookmark bars and in the title displays of web pages (see image below).

favicon

But recently, Bing has been testing using favicons in search results. While the jury is still out on the importance of favicons – some say they help click through rates and could help SEO – this recent development from Bing at least begs the question: “Why Not Have a Favicon?”

Favicons don’t take that long to create – there are even some programs online that will convert an image file to a favicon or let you design it by pixel – and having a favicon will only add to your branding efforts.

If you’re a LiveRez partner and don’t have a favicon yet, contact Juston Clarkson at (208) 639 6121 or email [email protected].

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the fastest growing vacation rental software provider for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation management, trust accounting and online marketing, with high-ranking, high-conversion dynamic websites and an extensive affiliate marketing program. The company is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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LiveRez’s Tyler Hurst Gives Presentation on Increasing Online Bookings at 2013 FVRMA Convention

Tyler Hurst LiveRez FVRMA 2013

LiveRez’s Tyler Hurst gives his presentation at the 2013 FVRMA Annual Convention.

This week at the FVRMA Annual Convention in Orlando, FL, LiveRez’s Tyler Hurst gave a presentation entitled “The Anatomy of an Online Booking.”

This presentation covered the basics of:

  • Getting more traffic to your website
  • Increasing website conversion
  • Reasons why visitors abandon the booking process
  • Tools for testing your website
  • And more!

For more information on how LiveRez can help you get more online bookings, contact LiveRez’s sales team at 800-343-2891 or email [email protected]

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the fastest growing vacation rental software provider for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation management, trust accounting and online marketing, with high-ranking, high-conversion dynamic websites and an extensive affiliate marketing program. The company is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?

Please consider “liking” it and sharing it on your social media channels via the buttons below. You can also follow us and get notifications of all new posts via the “Follow” button Follow Us in the bottom right-hand part of the screen.