Coping with seasonal traffic spikes is a challenge for many businesses as the pre-Christmas frenzy gradually builds during December. This is a particularly testing time for ecommerce firms and streaming services, where server crashes and connection error messages are unacceptable in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.
Here are some of the steps firms can take to preemptively prepare for traffic spikes:
Choose a dependable hosting provider.
This is perhaps the most important step of all. We at WestHost are web hosting specialists with two decades of experience keeping companies online. We have a global network of data centers sharing the load across fast, efficient and reliable servers, backed up by round-the-clock tech support.
Consider server upgrades.
If your shared server struggled last December, we would recommend upgrading to a scalable VPS or a dedicated server. We won’t upsell you products and services you don’t need, but many of our clients invest in high-end hardware as their businesses grow. It’s a nice dilemma to have!
Study past data.
Unless a company is a startup or its circumstances have radically changed in the last 12 months, last year’s data will provide a good benchmark for this year’s activity. Sales data, site traffic and wider industry reports can identify common trends. Knowing what to expect makes planning for traffic spikes far easier.
Communicate internally about future plans.
If the marketing team has a huge mailshot or PR coup planned, they need to inform IT in advance. Conversely, IT upgrades shouldn’t be scheduled for busy sales periods. Departmental communication can lead to practical workarounds and solutions, rather than a retrospective blame game.
Streamline key webpages.
If your homepage features media content, don’t set it up to autoplay. If a product page contains ten large images, scale them down into thumbnails in an expandable slideshow. Take every opportunity to minimize the volume of data that has to be downloaded, to alleviate the pressure on busy servers.
Tidy back office functionality.
Remedial work on the programming side often involves deleting superfluous stylesheets or broken plugins. Messy databases are particularly troublesome for ecommerce sites, which need to operate as rapidly as possible. Page caching and cookies accelerate page downloads during peak periods.
Keep people informed.
If you know your website will be busy next week, upload a polite message this weekend informing of high traffic volumes. Edit delivery dates to ensure promises made in quieter months aren’t breached, and keep people informed at all times. Publishing final guaranteed delivery dates is advisable for ecommerce sites.
Focus on stock levels.
High traffic spikes often lead to strong sales. Drop shipping through multiple providers ensures availability, while previous sales data might indicate key ranges to stockpile. Encourage customers to register for email updates as items come back into stock, and don’t take money for unavailable goods.
Don’t always direct traffic to your homepage.
Many people focus all their inbound traffic efforts to their homepage, when other pages could load more quickly and spread traffic loads more evenly. Optimize SEO so it drives audiences to product sub-pages and landing pages, streamlined with minimalist backgrounds and compressed graphics.
Create a humorous error page.
If your site is forced offline by traffic volumes, the best approach is to try and keep people on-side with humor. A cartoon Grinch and a short apologetic message about unprecedented demand might just persuade people to come back later, rather than encouraging them to walk into the arms of a rival supplier…