In a perfect world, you’ll always know when your website is about to receive a spike in traffic. Maybe you’ve just launched a new campaign, you’ve just sent a targeted email, or you’ve got some killer social media ads. All of these things could lead to a peak in traffic, but there are also so many situations you can’t prepare for.
This is the dream, right? There couldn’t possibly be any downside to all of that traffic. Only, there is. Your dream just became a nightmare. You were completely unprepared for this spike in traffic. Your website which performed so perfectly when only a reasonable number of people were visiting a day is suddenly taking a bullet to the heart. It’s bleeding out fast. Browsers are timing out. Your bounce rates are spiking. Even worse, people can’t make sales.
You feel that loss of revenue deep in your soul. Where did you go so terribly wrong? When did more traffic become bad traffic? Sure, you can get your website back up and running, but by then it’s too late. Your campaign lost its traction. Your hope and outlook on life are a bit stunted. You start to regret choosing this industry after college. Before you abandon your career, altogether, take a few minutes to reflect.
Was your website really prepared for a peak in traffic? Website scalability should be right up there with aesthetic and content when it comes to making your website user-ready. According to Neil Patel, just a one-second delay in your page response time can result in a 7 percent reduction in conversions.
With all of that in mind, you need to prepare your website for an increase in visitors. This isn’t something you do once before a big marketing campaign. This is a habit you should get into doing all the time. You never know when your website will receive a spike in visitors, and it’s best to always be prepared. Make the following steps a regular part of your cyber-arsenal.
Test Your Website Speed (Accurately)
How often have you tested your own website speed? If your website loads perfectly for you every time, don’t take that as news that it will always load the same for visitors around the world. You need to test your page speed regularly not only to track your progress but to identify any areas that need improvement when it comes to page load time.
However, there’s a lot that goes wrong with traditional page speed tests, particularly web testers. These test your website speed under prime conditions, and they don’t replicate the majority of users’ experience on your website. First of all, most users likely don’t visit your homepage first. They’re likely directed to a blog post, landing page, etc. This means testing your home page load time isn’t all that important. Always check a few of your most popular pages through these internet testers to see how they all stack up. Odds are, the results will surprise you.
Decrease Your HTTP Requests
Next, it’s time to get serious about preparing your website for peak visitors. The first step is to reduce the number of HTTP requests. This doesn’t mean you need to simplify your page elements. However, being strategic with how your pages function will make the most difference.
Start by combining CSS/JS files. When your browser has to retrieve multiple scripts, this takes time. The fewer files that need to be retrieved, the better. If you use a few images, for instance, multiple times, consider condensing them into a sprite sheet. With a sprite sheet, the browser only needs to retrieve the image once.
Finally, use queries to load only the parts of the page that are needed. For instance, you might not need all of the desktop images to display on mobile in which case a conditional statement will help you increase your speed. All of these steps above might not be necessary for your particular website, but they’re worth considering when you’re gearing up for spikes in traffic.
Use Server-Side Caching
As the name implies, server-side caching is the process of caching data on the server itself. This can be cached at any point that makes sense. Using server-side caching is especially important if you’re using a web development platform like WordPress or Joomla. Because these CMS systems add work to the server during the page request process, you need a way to store this data for a short period of time.
There are both free and paid plugin options for WordPress and Joomla that help you establish the right caching protocol. The most common are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache for WordPress and JotCache for Joomla. Though simple to install and set up, these are highly effective.
Upgrade Your Server
You guessed it. There’s no escaping the value of a great server. You thought you were getting a great deal when you stumbled into that ultra-sale on shared hosting, but now look where that got you. While it’s true that shared hosting is affordable and fine for many types of websites, it’s not usually a good choice for businesses that rely on website performance.
You need a server designed to handle strikes in traffic. If you have a small website or even a medium website that’s optimized for performance, you might be able to get away with a shared server. After that, however, it’s time to upgrade.
When you share a server, you share the problems of all of your anonymous neighbors. That’s like if you lived in an apartment and everyone on your floor shared the same internet connection. Imagine what would happen if one neighbor was a dedicated video game streamer who went live 24/7? You probably wouldn’t be able to do anything online quickly.
The same goes for your shared server. That’s why a VPS or dedicated server will have more resources, more space, and fewer problems from neighbors. These are more scalable, and they’re a better fit for growing websites that have unpredictable bursts of traffic. Basically, you can count on them to be ready for anything.
Bracing for Your Next Peak in Traffic
Are you ready for your next spike in traffic? If your website isn’t scalable, it’s not future-proof. We live in a world where users want your website to load perfectly the first time. They won’t stick around one, two, or three more times to see if a refresh will solve the load problem.
As of 2019, a reported 53 percent of visitors will leave your website if it takes over three seconds to load. That’s a statistic that should have you racing to test your website speed. If your website isn’t optimized for load time, it’s not ready for peaks in traffic.
Whether you’re planning a new marketing campaign or you’re hoping to gain traction online in general, you need to be ready for anything. Who knows what the digital world will throw at you next? All that we know for sure is that you’ve got to follow these tips above to make sure your website can handle incoming traffic like a pro.