Picture yourself at a restaurant, eagerly awaiting your meal. If the service is snail-paced, you’re less likely to return or recommend it to friends. Or, instead of waiting, you might even hop up and walk out!
Just like in hospitality, in the digital world, the speed at which your site serves its content is paramount.
Website speed determines how quickly a web browser loads a web page. Slow websites risk losing visitors, while fast sites draw more traffic and lead to better sales and conversions.
Why is website speed so crucial?
- The chance of a bounce increases by 32% when a page load time goes from one to three seconds.
- One in four visitors would abandon a website if it takes more than four seconds to load.
- Pages that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%.
- The two-to-three-second mark is the turning point where bounce rates skyrocket – 40% of consumers will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning a site.
What Factors Influence Site Speed?
1. Page Weight:
Modern web pages are often filled to the brim with features, rich media, and interactive elements. Every image, video, and script adds to the total ‘weight’ of the page. Page weight refers to the cumulative size of all these assets.
Template websites, while convenient, can exacerbate this issue. Designed to cater to a broad range of needs, they frequently come pre-loaded with excessive code, much of which is often unnecessary for a specific site’s purpose. This redundant code, combined with high-definition visuals, can significantly bloat a site’s size.
A visually engaging site can indeed attract visitors, but if the content is too ‘heavy’, it can hinder performance. The crux is in achieving a balance: creating a visually appealing site that’s streamlined enough for swift load times, thus ensuring a seamless user experience.
2. Network Conditions:
The quality of a user’s network connection, whether it’s broadband, 4G, or a slow public Wi-Fi, can significantly impact how a site performs on their device. While web developers can’t upgrade the world’s internet speeds, they can optimise how a site delivers its content.
Techniques like minification (the technical term for reducing the size of code files) and using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) help web content reach users more efficiently, ensuring a smoother experience even on less-than-ideal connections.
3. Hosting Location & Hosting Type:
The physical distance between a website’s server and its users can play a substantial role in how fast that site loads. Think of it like a delivery service: if the warehouse is closer to the customer’s home, the delivery will likely be quicker. In the digital realm, data from a server has to ‘travel’ to a user’s device. If they’re continents apart, this can introduce noticeable delays.
Thus, choosing a hosting location close to your primary audience can significantly boost your site’s speed.
Moreover, the type of hosting chosen can be just as crucial. Shared hosting, where multiple websites reside on a single web server, is a common, cost-effective option. However, the downside is that all these websites share the server’s resources. If one site experiences a spike in traffic, it can hog the server’s bandwidth, memory, and processing power, slowing down other sites hosted on the same server.
Dedicated hosting or cloud hosting options, though more expensive, offer better performance, scalability, and isolation from the “noisy neighbour” effect of shared hosting. It’s an investment in ensuring consistent and optimal load times, further enhancing user experience.
A Warning About Online Website Speed Test Tools
Marketing “gurus”… you know, the ones who email and call a thousand times a day to tell you that your website is broken and they can fix it for you… often wield website speed test tools as scare tactics, insinuating grave site health issues when in fact there is nothing to be worried about at all. Sure, there could be some room for improvement, but it’s very likely never as bad as these “gurus” like to make you think.
If you’re contacted by a marketing company claiming that your website speed needs fixing, try running one of these speed tests on their website. You’ll likely find their own website doesn’t score well either. You wouldn’t invest your hard-earned dollars in a company that doesn’t practice what they preach, right?
Google recently made it clear that such factors no longer heavily influence their ranking algorithms. Thus, while website speed test tools, such as pagespeed.web.dev or gtmetrix.com can serve as guides as to how you can improve your website user experience, you should avoid being coaxed into shelling out large sums to “experts” who likely cannot (or will not) genuinely help you with SEO.
5 Things You Can Do To Speed Up Your Real Estate Website NOW!
1. Compressing Images and Videos
High-resolution images and videos can show off a property in its best light. However, they can be a major culprit for slow-loading pages. Compressing your media files ensures that your site loads quickly without sacrificing visual quality. This is especially true for videos, which are growing in popularity for use as backgrounds throughout a website.
A method known as lazy-loading should also be used to only load images and video files once the user has scrolled to that section of the page instead of rendering every image and video on the page on the initial load. And finally, caching your media files can ensure that files can load faster for visitors.
- Image File Size: Strive to keep image file sizes between 50KB and 300KB. Remember, a 3MB photo can take several seconds to load, even on a high-speed connection.
- Image File Type: For photographs, JPEG remains the preferred format due to its efficient compression algorithms. PNG is suitable for graphics with transparent backgrounds. For modern browsers, WebP offers superior compression and quality, but ensure you have JPEG or PNG backups for older browsers.
- Video File Size: Background videos should be no larger than 4mb after being compressed by your website team. Videos should also be ‘streamed’ instead of ‘loaded’ to ensure optimal delivery of the video file.
- Video File Type(s): Some browsers require different video files. For optimal performance and compatibility, .mp4 and .webm versions should be used to ensure a video can play across all devices and browsers.
Partnering with a dedicated real estate website provider can streamline this process, ensuring visuals remain top-notch without bogging down your site. Something else to consider here is that most real estate CRM providers do not send compressed image files to your website provider. Therefore, your website provider will need to ensure that every image is compressed during the import process to ensure your website page load times are not impacted.
2. Ditch Unnecessary Plugins and Bloated Themes
While plugins can provide unique features to your site, they can also slow it down. Each plugin adds its scripts and styles, increasing the number of server requests. Inexperienced developers, unsure of how to code specific functionalities, often resort to plugins as quick solutions that can quickly lead to performance (and security) issues.
While plugins can introduce beneficial features, an over-reliance on them can compromise both site speed and security. Similarly, bloated themes, packed with myriad features, are frequently employed as a workaround for custom coding. However, many of these features remain unused, serving only to slow down your website. It’s essential to periodically review and remove any superfluous plugins.
In terms of themes, prioritise clean, efficient designs over ones bogged down with unnecessary features. A more streamlined approach not only results in a faster website but also a more secure and reliable one.
- Performance: Too many plugins or a heavily coded theme can cause your site to lag. Evaluate each one critically. If it’s not adding value to your users, it’s likely detracting from their experience.
- Security Concerns: Beyond speed, plugins can introduce security vulnerabilities. Not all plugins are created equal, and some can be an open door for hackers. Regularly updating plugins and using only those from trusted sources can help mitigate these risks.
3. Harness the Power of Cloudflare + Cloudflare Argo
Cloudflare serves as your website’s shield and accelerator. Through its services, like the Content Delivery Network (CDN) and advanced caching, you can achieve significantly improved site responsiveness. Cloudflare’s Argo service acts as a ‘traffic router’ – taking your visitors to your website on the fastest route possible.
Cloudflare Argo has helped our clients increase their page load speeds by +40% on average (an active subscription to Argo is required).
If you’re new to Cloudflare, it may be beneficial to enlist a web developer’s assistance for proper setup or work with a Cloudflare partner who specialises in real estate websites.
- Setup: While Cloudflare offers a plethora of benefits, setting it up might require a bit of expertise. Enlist your website developer’s help to ensure it’s configured correctly for optimal performance.
4. Choose a Website Provider Optimised for Real Estate Needs
Your website’s underlying architecture, primarily its hosting environment, plays a crucial role in its speed and performance. For real estate agents, this can’t be generic. Many website providers often fail to maintain regular updates and upgrades to their server infrastructure – meaning the websites on their servers get slower over time as more websites get added to their servers.
Before choosing your next website provider, check out their portfolio. Browse a few websites they’ve built. Do they load quickly? And, importantly, do they contain high-resolution imagery and video and STILL load quickly?
Here’s a few other important factors to consider when selecting a real estate website provider when it comes to website speed:
- Onshore Hosting: Ensuring your servers are onshore means that the data doesn’t have to travel as far, leading to faster page loads for local visitors.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): CDNs store cached versions of your site in multiple locations worldwide. This means a visitor from Perth doesn’t need to fetch data from a Sydney-based server, improving speed.
- Image and Video Compression: As discussed earlier, having in-built image and video compression in the hosting setup is invaluable.
- Modern Coding Practices: Updated coding standards not only ensure compatibility with modern browsers but also ensure efficient and faster page loads.
5. Simplify Your Real Estate Website’s Design
It’s not just what’s on your site that matters, but how it’s put together. The layout and structure can make a big difference to how quickly your pages load. Just like a well-organised cupboard is easier to search through, a well-structured website is easier for your computer to show.
Remember, everything you add to your website, like images, text, or other features, can slow down your site. The simpler and cleaner your website, the quicker it can be displayed. Think about what’s essential to keep and what you can get rid of.
For real estate websites, this is even more important. These sites often have lots of large, high-quality pictures, which can take a while to show. By carefully considering your website design, you can make your site both visually appealing and quick to load.
There are different tricks that can be used to make your site appear quicker, such as only loading parts of your website when they’re needed. But to avoid causing problems elsewhere, it’s best to work with a professional. Not only can a quick website be more enjoyable to use, but it could also improve its ranking on search engine results.
A fast and well designed real estate website isn’t just a nicety—it’s an essential asset in today’s digital world.
For real estate agents, in particular, where the impression you make can determine the success of a listing or sale, it’s vital to ensure that your site delivers an impeccable user experience. While there are many ways to enhance site speed and performance, working with a seasoned professional can save time, reduce stress, and optimise results.
At Stepps, our infrastructure is purposely designed for the unique requirements of a real estate website: from single agent or office websites up to multi-office franchise groups with hundreds of offices.
If you’re considering taking the next step to ensure your website performs at its best, our team works on a limited number of website projects each year – to ensure optimal attention is given to every website we build. Get in touch today to see if we’re a fit.