Today’s case study is about renting holiday homes. There are a million holiday homes out there in all shapes and sizes. So what about a castle? A reader sent us a link to the site of a beautiful castle, located in France: Chateau de Lastours. The rooms and apartments are for rent. Let’s have a look at their site to see how they can improve it and welcome more visitors!
Speeding up the trip to France
One of the first things you will notice about a site is the speed. How long does it take for a page to fully load? In this case, we used Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get an idea of the site speed. Unfortunately, this site doesn’t do so well. For the homepage on desktop, it scores a poor 33 / 100, and 30 / 100 for the mobile view. But the upside is that this tool immediately gives a lot of suggestions on how to improve your site.
For a site like this, it is important to have great pictures, so visitors can have a look at the location where they may spend their holiday. However, most of the time, quality images have a large file size, which slows down your page. Optimizing these images, for instance, by compressing them using a tool such as Kraken, you can keep the image’s quality, while reducing the file size.
Turn on browser caching and compression
Two technical aspects to improve your site speed are enabling browser caching and compression. Both sound complicated and I’m not going to lie to you, it is kind of technical, but improving these things will speed up your site a lot!
- Browser caching has to do with all of the web files a browser must load to properly display a site. The first time you do this it can take a bit longer to load a page. But if you have browser caching enabled, the second time a lot of these static files (such as HTML, CSS and images) are stored in the browser’s cache (which means memory) and can, therefore, be accessed much faster.
- GZIP compression is about compressing your web pages and style sheets before they’re sent to the browser. This makes your page load faster.
Both options can be activated by adding a piece of code to your .htaccess file. A .htaccess file is a configuration file for use on web servers running the Apache Web Server software. In our Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily edit the .htaccess file and put in an extra piece of code. Make sure to create a backup of your site before you do this, in case something goes wrong. But in my experience, following the steps from the Siteground tutorial, is a good way to do this. Here, you can find the tutorial for browser caching and compression.
Pardon my French!
Don’t worry, I’m not planning to curse my way through this review. But I do have some remarks about the different languages on the site. First of all, my compliments for having the ability to switch between several languages. This makes your site usable for a much larger audience. But I also see some aspects which aren’t ideal. When I open the blog page, I see posts in various languages. You should consider translating every post to every language so all your visitors can have the full experience.
Secondly, some pages have elements in various languages, which is kind of confusing. For instance, this wedding page.
Last but not least, a little comment on the menu items on the English version of the site. The ‘restaurant’ menu item is in French (Table d’hôtes). Now, my high school French isn’t what it used to be anymore, so I couldn’t figure out what this meant until clicking on the menu item itself and reading the page. This is not ideal. You want your menu items to be as clear as possible, to entice visitors to click on them.
Make sure you don’t get lost
Lately, Google is focusing more and more on structured data. Google uses this to understand the content on a certain page. There is some basic data that almost every company can add, such as structured data for contact details. But in this case, I’d also recommend adding structured data for lodging businesses. This way, Google can immediately recognize the purpose of your site and take that into account when potential visitors search for something that you can offer them. In our structured data training, we explain everything you need to know about implementing structured data.
Another important aspect of making sure that potential visitors can find you, is registering on sites like booking.com. You can optimize your site all you want, but a lot of potential visitors will never even search in Google for a vacation rental in France. Instead, they’ll just go to large sites that offer all the the options and information they need. Fortunately, Chateau de Lastours, can be found on booking.com, which makes them findable for a large audience.
Meeting the locals
The Chateau de Lastours’ site is already doing a great job with how their site looks. It has the right ‘look’ and ‘feel’ you want for such a site; it contains lots of pictures but not in a spammy way. And it has a clear menu which shows all the services they have to offer. Yet, I do have one recommendation: adding an ‘about us’ page. This is a small business, in which the owners themselves provide all the services, which can be a unique selling point you want to display on your site. An ‘about us’ page should contain a short introduction of the owners, why they decided to move to France and start this business, and how passionate they are about their work. Don’t forget to add pictures of yourself! Such a page will increase trust among your visitors and could convince them that they want to stay with these people.
Let’s go to the chateau!
All in all, the website of the Chateau de Lastours is already doing well on many aspects. It offers content in several different languages and has a clear menu which leads visitors to the right pages. The imagery on the site evokes the warm atmosphere of Southern France. Doing this case study, I immediately felt like packing my bags and spending a week at the chateau, and that’s exactly the kind of feeling you want your visitors to have. If the site owners improve their site speed, work a bit more on the different languages on their site and add an ‘about us’ page, they’ll surely attract even more guests to stay with them!