How to Handle a Surge in Website Traffic?

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If you have a sudden rush of traffic, your website may go down, loading times may slow, and other functionality problems may occur. Sales events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are times when websites may go down through a surge of traffic.

Website Traffic

Here are a few tips to help you handle a sudden surge of traffic on your website.

You can handle more traffic if you simplify the buying process for visitors.

The most direct way of dealing sudden surges of traffic is to simplify the buying process so that people do not have to remain on your website any longer than necessary.

Create a more streamlined shopping experience that uses less KB on your servers. You do not have to keep your process streamlined and simple forever. Some websites alter their website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and then put it back the way it was when the events are over.

If your videos and your buying process are handled by another website and/or server, this will also help you entertain more traffic at any one time. Take a portion of your sales funnel off your website by either keeping it off site while people are moving through your funnel, or with redirections. Bring people back to your domain for the final stage of the sales funnel, which is usually the payment stage.

More servers and more bandwidth.

If your company is large enough to buy more website services, then this is one way you may better handle your increased website traffic. However, if you do not have a lot of traffic over the year, then these extra services may be a strain on your online budgets.

If you are a smaller business, then consider a service that allows more flexibility. A service that allows sudden surges of increased traffic may be better for you if your website bandwidth requirements are not as heavy during the rest of the year.

If people cannot get through and make a purchase when you are having a sale, then consider extending the sale a little bit. Some smaller companies have Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts codes that start on Thursday night and expire on Tuesday night.

Another option is to install server-side caching – particularly advantageous for database-driven websites such as WordPress and Joomla. The construction of this type of site means work is added to the server every time a page is requested. It, therefore, makes sense to install cache plugins and extensions. There are plenty of options available and are easy to install.

Their purpose is to store pre-built page content for a short period of time so that each time a page is requested, there is no need to go through the whole page build process.

Try installing a queuing system.

This idea has its good and bad points. The biggest perceivable advantage is that your website will not go down. If you are nearing the limit to how many visitors your website can handle, then the system puts the viewer in a queue and has them wait in line to use the website.

This advantage may come undone if people leave the queue before ever seeing the website. If on the other hand, a certain percentage of people were not able to access your website, assuming there is no queuing system, would the amount of people that cannot access be more than the people that left in the queue?

For example, if around 8% of your traffic could not access your website, then would installing a queuing system help? If the amount of people that left the queue before visiting your site was more than 8%, then you would be better off operating as usual and absorbing the loss of custom through people being unable to access your website.

Does a queuing system improve sales?

The advantages and disadvantages of a queuing system may be deceptive.

If people do leave the queue for your website, then are they simply the people that were in two-minds about purchasing from you in the first place?

Are the people that leave the queue the ones that may have looked at your website and not purchased? If that is the case, then traffic surges should be managed with a queuing system because it is more likely to filter out people that wouldn’t have bought anyway.

After all, if you have just waited 30 minutes to access a site with heavy discounts, are you not more likely to purchase because you are more invested in the website?

Take advantage of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales events.

After the 2014 Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Tesco website replaced all their Black Friday landing pages with an explanation that Black Friday was over for another year, and that pointed out they had other offers on right now. This meant that people researching Black Friday on Google and Bing were being converted as people landed on the Tesco pages. It was a clever way of pulling a little more publicity from the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

If you operate globally, selling your services / goods to all corners of the globe, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) offers advantages to website traffic control.

This works especially well if your site has a lot of static resources. A CDN distributes files to numerous servers in various locations around the globe. Then, when a visitor arrives and requests a page/file, it is delivered by the server closest to their location. Pressure on your own server is relieved, indeed your server doesn’t have to serve customers handled by the distributed servers.

Plan for them not to happen.

This might seem such an obvious statement, but it should be remembered that a surge in website traffic isn’t just because of “special events” and can inexplicably happen at any time.

A sudden burst of heavy traffic can give your visitors a poor experience so making your website more resilient to surges, in ways and with methods that are not specifically related to the buying or check out processes, is going to pay off in customer satisfaction.

There are small but significant measures you can take to bolster server and site performance:

  • Make sure your content renders quickly. This might mean reducing the size of images or opting for a simpler theme. (Remember – customers hate lag!)
  • Compress web page content so your web pages are zipped (compressed) and are unzipped by the visitor’s browser. Load on your site is reduced and your content is delivered faster.
  • Earlier, database-driven websites were mentioned. Another way to improve their delivery performance is to ensure the number of number of concurrent database connections is sufficient to handle expected traffic. Ideally, set the number of number of concurrent database connections as high as you can.

Some of the options mentioned in this article make good sense for any website, irrespective of traffic flow. Regardless of how many visitors you receive, you can aim to ensure they all receive your content as quickly as possible when they try to visit your website.

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