The Boost Hospitality Podcast is back for another season! We are now in Season 7, and we are currently on the fifteenth episode! Today I’ve invited Phil Tester. We’re going to be breaking down website jargon to help you understand why your website might not be getting as many direct bookings, as you think it should be.
Phil Tester is a good friend of mine. He has got a B&B called The Laurels, which is near Alton Towers in the UK. He’s also got a business called Laurels Tech, as well as an extensive background that he will tell you about on our chat. I’ve worked with Phil quite a lot over the course of the past year. He does a lot of fantastic work with website design and a lot of really good work when it comes to SEO.
We recently worked together on an SEO course, and he’s also helping the Boostly website with some technical SEO to make sure that it’s more visible for some of the phrases and the keywords that I want to be getting ranked for. He gets them more visible so the podcast, YouTube channel and the blog get more eyes on it. It also helps the Website Design pages, the Book Direct Mapping and The Academy increase their visibility on the web.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about quite a lot of things, but the main aim is to break down the jargon and Phil is one of the best people to do so. At the end of it, if you want to reach out to Phil to have a chat about your website, just drop him a line at email@example.com. I’ll also add all of this into the show notes as well.
About Phil Tester
I run The Laurels Bed and Breakfast with my wife, Helen. We’re just down the road from Alton Towers, so we have a ready-made market, which is great and is the reason we moved here in the first place. My background is essentially in engineering. I qualified initially as an Avionics Engineer for British Airways. Later in my career I moved to various departments, one of which was Revenue Management where I did a lot of analytics with the British Airways booking system.
I’ve been working with websites for as long as I can remember. From the very first time I went online, back in the early 1990s, I was fascinated with how to construct a website.
What made you want to know more about websites?
It was a passion that I’ve had for ages. I’ve always liked learning new stuff. Initially, I got into computers when we had dial-up modems. And that was when I built my first website, and I’ve essentially been into them ever since. But that was way before we ever thought of buying a B&B. Luckily that knowledge and experience I built up in my previous roles, fell nicely into what we do currently.
When we first moved here, which was six years ago, I went to the local group of B&B owners, which had been going for years. They’d been doing well as a group of Staffordshire accommodation owners, but some of the people there were very forward-thinking and got into the internet in its very early days. The trouble is they didn’t really know what they were doing. So when I went to the first meeting, I started asking some basic questions that they didn’t appear to know the answer to.
And that very quickly turned to into them saying, “Well, if you’re so clever, then why don’t you do it!” So, I did. And that’s essentially how it started and grew from there.
How many people has Phil Tester helped in the local area?
It will be hundreds of people in the local area. I did a lot of websites for clients who, shall I say, more elderly B&B and self-catering owners that hadn’t a clue how the internet worked which meant they were being ripped off by internet providers and website designers who were just interested in separating them from their money. That really annoyed me, and they were being overcharged or being charged for stuff that wasn’t even being done. Some had been charged for stuff that didn’t need doing either, so I wanted to kind of level the playing field.
When somebody works with you what does that normally entail?
It depends on what they need help with. I mean, I’ve helped the local B&B owners and self-catering owners with just advice on how they can improve their website, which I do for them for absolutely no fee whatsoever, right up to creating brand new websites for them, doing search engine optimisation, and trying to get them on online so they start to take their own online bookings. You’d be amazed by the number of website owners that didn’t even have online bookings when I first started working with them. So that was my kind of crusade to try to get them to take their online bookings because those guys were used to taking bookings by cheque. And in the post.
Where do you find is the most common area that people’s website might be running slow or be might be losing visitors?
You know, I guess it kind of falls into two camps. The people have done the website themselves, then the most common issue that I see is around images. Now, images are fabulous, and we need them on the website. But it was the lack of understanding of the size of an image and the impact it had on speed. Essentially, people were uploading four or five-megabyte images to their website, which take forever to load. So that was the biggest thing that I was seeing from people that have built their own websites.
The other thing I was seeing from people that had their websites built professionally, apart from the fact they didn’t have any search engine optimisation whatsoever, was mainly around the technical aspects of either caching or avoiding render-blocking, so avoiding code that stops and slows down your website loading.
What was the tool that Phil Tester recommended that everybody can go and get that’s got a WordPress website and download as a plugin will help smush all big images?
Smush is my favourite. There are others, but Smush automatically compresses your images as you upload it into your website.
The beauty of it is it’s free. But it also gives you a little option to be able to highlight on your website, just to you, what images are either too large or too small.
So people tend to whack in large images that are say 1000 or 1500 pixels wide into space that is only teeny weeny. A lot of time, when it’s an icon which should only be 50 or 60 or 100 pixels wide. Smush will show you that graphically.
Why does you recommend WordPress websites?
Essentially it is the de facto standard of websites. It can be used to a very high standard, but equally, it allows you to use it from a beginners perspective too. Websites such as Forbes News Feed use WordPress. I know Mercedes Benz used to use WordPress as their main website as well. So it is used by blue-chip companies and mega-million pound companies as well as someone who wants a simple site or blog.
It is the best for search engine optimisation in the way that it gives you the most flexibility for adding the sort of code etc., that you need. And lastly, because it’s open-source, which means that basically anybody can write code for it and the code is available. It’s not hidden. There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of plugins there, that are free and won’t cost you a penny, allowing you to add more functionality or to your website.
So I think those are the main three aspects that I would suggest that it’s best for.
All about Render Blocking
Rendering is drawing something, so when your screen displays a picture, that’s rendering the picture. So when your website first loads it, it will take time to draw that screen. In the 90s, early 90s, late 80s, if you uploaded a big picture, it would draw it one line at a time, and you’d see it scrolling down the screen. Now essentially what render-blocking means is code or activity that your website is trying to carry out that is stopping your websites from being displayed on the screen.
So essentially, what you need to do is to prevent or minimise the amount of stuff that’s going on in the background that is slowing down or stopping your website from being drawn on the screen, because what a person wants to see when they click on a link, they want to see your website immediately. Within a few seconds, if they only see a blank screen, then they’re likely to disappear.
And it’s the code running that’s stopping it doing that, that is blocking the rendering of your screen. So essentially, any code that is is preventing the first images or the first drawing of your screen being shown is the problem. That’s render-blocking code.
Is there anything that you can do to help Repuso?
I think the best thing you can do is, and that’s the beauty of a program like GT Metrix, is to test what you’ve loaded. Now that sounds complicated so hopefully, we’ll go through an example of it and show you that it isn’t Repuso. I’ve got it on on our bed and breakfast website. It does load quite a few lines of code. But they’re very, very small. And it does it quickly.
So I don’t see it as an issue, you’re more likely to get issues with other pieces of code, especially websites that use a front end builder, or any other plugins. So what I would always say is. If you’re adding new bits like that, always go somewhere like GTMetrix and test it. And you will see in black and white, what the problem is and how to mitigate that.
So one thing is, you’ll know if it’s a problem. Yes or no. And then you can make a choice as to whether you want to continue using it. Still, you can mitigate all that by using a caching and a program called WP rocket or something similar, which allows you to essentially defer or delay, the loading of that sort of code, so essentially allows your screen images to be drawn first, and then load the code.
Is there anything that people can look for when they’re doing that could potentially be slowing down their site or affecting their site?
One of the issues that I come across fairly often is the quality of where people are hosting their website. Now, the server that your website is on, they’re not all born equal. Now, if you’re on a what is called a shared server, it is exactly what it says. Someone’s got a company that has a server, which is basically where your website lives. It’s like your hard drive on your computer.
And what they’re doing is, they are hosting dozens or hundreds of websites on that one server. But what you’re doing is, you’re sharing the resources of that computer, which is why it’s called a shared server. Now essentially what that means is, if somebody else has got a problem on their websites, it can slow down your website too. If there are too many other websites using your resources, then you will also have your website slowed down.
So the option is to go for a VPS which puts you on a segregated part of a larger server. Or put yours on a server that is dedicated to either your one very expensive website, or only a few websites, which is more expensive than a shared server and a VPS. Still, it will allow you and your websites to operate at maximum efficiency at all times. So it’s worth asking your web designer, whether you’re on a shared server, or whether you’re on a dedicated or a virtual private server.
Reach out to Phil Tester
Facebook: Laurels Tech
Email Phil Tester: firstname.lastname@example.org