What the bleep is website hosting, anyway?
Your website hosting is where you store all the images and files that comprise your website. Your domain is the www. etcetera that is your official address on the world wide web. Basically, if your hosting service does what it’s supposed to, everything loads quickly, and your visitor sticks around to look at more properties before bouncing out of there.
But unfortunately for many real estate websites, that's not the case.
Sounds kind of boring, we know. But stay with us!
Hosting can be the difference between a website that Google will put on its first page of results, and a website that’s left to moulder with all the dead bodies* on page two.
Why? Well, if your site is image-heavy, that can really slow down your page load times. And if you have an ordinary hosting service (which you’re likely to get if you don’t find someone who specialises in real estate websites), it won’t be built to handle all those images. Result: your site won’t load fast enough.
This has two flow-on effects: (1) Google de-prioritises slower websites like these, and (2) most of your audience will leave before ever seeing your website. They’ll see white, more white, more white, and then hit the back button. You know what we’re talking about. You’ve done this. We’ve all done this.
What you should be looking for in a hosting service
Roger Ong is one of our real estate website lead developers and hosting specialist for WebChoice. He says that real estate websites need a different kind of hosting service to other more traditional retail sites, because ‘Traditional hosting services that were used for other types of websites simply couldn’t handle the demands made by real estate websites.’
Why? All those high-res property images. It’s a speed-killer.
The solution? ‘At WebChoice, we obsess over page speed, and did our homework to find a hosting service that could handle the image-heavy demands of real estate websites. Now we use AWS cloud-based hosting.’ AWS stands for Amazon Web Services—as in Amazon, the ubiquitous buy-anything-on-there brand you’re probably familiar with.
Here are a few other things you should be looking for when deciding who you want to build your agency’s website:
Real estate websites are different from other kinds of websites because they are heavily used in the day-to-day running of the business. Listings, enquiries, advertising, CRMs, sales and property management, and all the integrations—all of this talks to your website.
And if your website goes down? That’s a day-ruining event. The impact is immediate, because so much of your work depends on it. That’s why it’s important to choose an agency who can guarantee reliable web hosting, with lots of back-ups, and a site robust enough that it won’t go down in the next strong breeze.
This isn’t just about if your business grows. Scalability can matter if you have a particular property listing that, for whatever reason, goes viral or gets an unusual amount of hits.
This is where an ‘elastic’ model of hosting can help. Your hosting service should be able to handle spikes in traffic without crashing the site (e.g. Splendour in the Grass, during their 2012, 2016 and 2018 ticket release meltdowns).
When searching for a provider for your agency’s website, ask about how well they handle these spikes. A good hosting system should be able to assign extra resources instantly and automatically, as your site demands it.
Why all this matters
If your website takes too long to load all those images, or it goes down too frequently, or it has problems when too many visitors log on at the same time, the same bad thing will happen regardless. Visitors who came to see listings will do exactly what the rest of us do when a website shows us nothing but white for more than a second: they’ll bail.
Real estate websites have different demands to other websites. They need to never (or almost never) go down, they need to handle spikes in traffic, and they need to be able to handle loads more high-res images than regular sites. And that's why hosting matters.
While there are plenty of other things to think about when choosing who to let build your agency’s website, we hope that at least we've helped you find the right questions to ask.
* According to Jay Bassi, Console’s in-house website specialist, almost nobody visits page two of Google’s search results. In his words, ‘You could practically hide a body on page two of Google’s results, and nobody would ever find it. That’s how bad page two is for business.’