Welcome Opportunity – Don’t Fear it
As any business owner or web developer will tell you, traffic levels fluctuate throughout the year at unpredictable rates. Thankfully an approximation can usually be made as to when these season related ‘events’ will occur, and appropriate measures can be taken to brace for impact. Traffic spikes can also occur at any time, when you least expect them followed by surprise events, take Donald Trump’s victory for example.
How to Prepare for Traffic Spikes
Traffic spikes shouldn’t be something to ‘worry’ about, but rather cause for the celebration of increased opportunity and potential influx of conversions. So how do we turn the tables on what we fear, and make the most of these bursts of opportunity as I like to put it?
1. Know yourself.
Before doing anything at all, make sure you have a solid understanding of your hosting infrastructure and its limits. Assuming you’ve decided to work with a professional reputable hosting provider such as EuroVPS, it’s typical to receive consultation and calculated recommendations based on your expectations and goals you’ve shared with them.
It’s important to understand how far your hosting plans resources will take you, and how easily you can adapt to sudden changes in traffic. There is nothing worse than greeting new opportunity with a redirect to a 404 page because your server failed to keep up with the unexpected load.
Prior to selecting what kind of server your website will be running on, its best practice to let the hosting providers (typically through LiveChat or Email) know the following:
- Number of visitors you expect to have on your site on average / month.
- Number of concurrent visitors : traffic simultaneously on the site at any given point (important to make an estimation of the maximum level you expect to reach taking into consideration traffic spikes).
- Providing an estimation as to bandwidth used can help paint the general picture of your sites network activity.
- Attempt to determine how much data your server will be serving on a daily basis. You will get this information by working out the traffic size you plan on serving, the type of data you will be uploading, and how long you expect each user to actively be on the website itself.
Generally speaking you can gather up all the information through usage statistics (assuming you have a live project running already). If proper monitoring has been configured it should be relatively easy to measure historic traffic spikes, and all this data has to go to your provider.
The same way a doctor can only truly help us if we share all our symptoms with them, a hosting provider can only suggest the right fit with the information mentioned above.
2. Law of Attraction Hacked.
A fairly simple method to control your traffic levels is to consciously decide which regions you want to engage with. It may feel like a mean undertaking, blocking one country after another, nonetheless proceed guilt free. In reality you’re making your operation efficient and effective for the target audience with whom you aim to make conversions with.
It goes without saying, as a website operator/owner you should have a relatively clear idea as to which audience you want to target based on the nature of your website and value proposition.
3. Test & Monitor
This intertwines and answers the ‘how to’ for step 1 of ‘Know yourself.’ It’s always important to determine the bottleneck of your infrastructure. To know where you’re likely to fall short in the case of a traffic spike. Monitor and observe specific elements of your website to determine which are resource or traffic heavy.
A great way to avoid any future headaches and surprises is to setup a test environment. There you will be able to simulate traffic levels and manipulate processing requirements whilst keeping an eye on the resource statics. Doing so will help you find out at what point your server ceases to respond to increasing demands. The information gathered from this testing will be more than sufficient to make an educated estimation as to your hosting infrastructure requirements.
4. Optimize your Website
A traffic spike can translate into a window of opportunity, for you’ll need to start thinking about site optimization. You can also reach out to experts in performance optimization if you have no experience or technical knowledge.
- Cache MySQL Queries – If you haven’t heard of this before, I would highly recommend ‘Googling’ and reading up on the host of articles out there available to guide you every step of the way. Caching your SQL queries can dramatically improve performance and reduce server workload. Perhaps the most effective feature of MySQL by far, where a select query is cached with the result set, enabling the same selects to run faster, as the data is fetched from memory. Thankfully the only thing you need to take advantage of caching benefits is additional memory.
- CDN (Content Delivery Network) – Put simply, a CDN is a network of servers around the world working together to cache static content of a site. Your visitors will benefit from the significant speed boost, as they will immediately be able to access data from the nearest server within their proximity.
- Optimize your site Graphics/Images – An easy and sometimes overlooked way to boost your sites performance is to compress your images. This will also reduce the load on the CDN servers mentioned earlier as your visitors will be able to access the data faster.
- Maintain your Website Coding – As children, we are always told to put away our toys when we’re done playing with them. A Web Developer must follow the same notion, making sure unused plugins and scripts are removed when work is complete. As a site grows, this additional ‘code’ piles up and can cause significant reduction in performance, resulting in far greater page load time.
5. Static vs. Dynamic Content
Sure, we all want to impress our visitors with engaging dynamic content, use too much however and your visitors will experience lagging, and ultimately be driven away from your site.
Dynamic content is typically created through PHP, ASP, Perl, and utilizes a lot of memory, and processing power, resulting in an inefficient use of resources. One quick and effective way to prepare for traffic spikes is to convert as much dynamic content as possible to static content. This can be done by taking the HTML from the view source, and adding this into the static index.html file.
Taking action beforehand can change how we view traffic spikes, and welcome them with open arms. Implement the above 5 steps, and you’re well on your way to doing just that. 🙂