Almost Famous? How To Manage Your WordPress Website For a Surge In Traffic

by Jeff Trumble on

Learn how to prepare your WordPress website for a sudden increase in traffic and avoid a decrease in performance

Your WordPress website serves as the center of your brand’s online universe in today’s digital world. One major factor in the success of your website is driving traffic and ultimately keeping your visitors on the site, leading to an increase in sales, form submissions, and other types of conversions. 

A massive surge in quality traffic is most website owners’ dream. Unfortunately, the results of a traffic surge to your WordPress website aren’t all positive. Being unprepared could lead to experiencing slow page load times or even a crash – both are things you want to avoid to keep business flowing consistently.

What causes increases in traffic to your WordPress website?

A surge in traffic to your WordPress website can occur for many reasons. Your latest blog post goes viral, a social media post gains tons of shares, you run a successful marketing campaign, your SEO strategy takes off, or your brand suddenly gains a level of fame. 

Look at the Shark Tank Effect, for example. A sudden boost in popularity for your brand can send tons of traffic your way. Many contestants of the famous show Shark Tank have experienced this. As a result, they proactively reinforced their websites to be prepared for the traffic surge – or suffer the consequences.
 
Take a look at this example from Fortress Clothing’s Google Analytics before and after appearing on the show (courtesy of BuildThis).

Fortress Clothing website traffic before appearing on Shark Tank

Fortress Clothing website traffic after appearing on Shark Tank

Fortress Clothing website traffic after appearing on Shark Tank

A surge in traffic such as the one seen above is excellent for business. It can lead to an increase in sales or lead generation and can take your business to the next level. If your site isn’t prepared for a massive surge, however, you may, instead, experience downtime and other issues that impact your business negatively.

What’s at stake for your WordPress website?

When your WordPress website experiences a surge in traffic, there are technical implications. Downtime and lagging site speed are two of the most significant issues that can arise. 

There are also multiple other things you need to consider beyond the technical aspects. Be sure to account for things like the ability to convert visitors into customers, and micro-conversions like newsletter subscriptions and social media follows. 

Your website is the one piece of real estate you genuinely own online, so make the most of it, and don’t be caught sleeping when your site gets hit with a surge in traffic.

The stats don’t lie!

A slow load time for your website can cost you revenue. A recent study from Portent showed that the highest eCommerce conversion rates occur on sites with load times of 0-2 seconds. The study showed that for each 1-second increase in page load time, conversion rates dropped by 4.42%.

That’s something you can’t ignore. 

Page load time impacts other vital stats as well. For example, a Google study showed that as page load time increased from 1 second to 10 seconds, websites’ bounce rates increased by an average of 123% percent. 

And what happens when your site won’t load at all? A surge in website traffic can cause your site to go down. Even if it only lasts for a short while, the impact can be severe. 

In 2018, for example, Amazon’s website went down on Prime Day, one of the brand’s highest revenue-generating days of the year. During this time, shoppers were unable to complete their purchases. Experts estimate that the downtime cost Amazon somewhere between $75 million to $99 million. 

While your business likely isn’t operating at Amazon level, you can easily calculate the loss you might incur by multiplying the average revenue per second times the number of seconds your site is down. The bottom line is, whatever that number is for you, you’d rather those dollars be headed into your bank account than see your customers leave your site to make their purchase elsewhere due to downtime.

Stats like lower conversion rates, increased bounce rate, and lost revenue spell disaster for your business. Fortunately, you can take some proactive steps to prepare your WordPress website for a surge in traffic, so you experience none of the above.

How can you prepare your WordPress website for a traffic increase?

At Rocket.net, our priority is to keep your WordPress website up and optimize performance so you can focus on growing your business. We pride ourselves on the fast load times, robust security, and optimal content delivery.

We understand the impact a surge in traffic can have on your website – both good and bad. Our team has seen what works and what doesn’t work, and we’ve put together a list of five actions you can take to prepare your site and thrive when that surge hits.

Purchase managed WordPress hosting

Choosing a hosting provider is not an activity to be taken lightly. Even in times of regular traffic, your choice of hosting provider can have a considerable impact on the performance of your website, and by default, your business. 

Managed WordPress hosting takes your website hosting beyond basic options like shared hosting. For example, with shared hosting, your site is hosted by the hosting provider. You essentially share resources with other sites utilizing the same server, but that’s essentially where the relationship ends.

With managed WordPress hosting, on the other hand, your WordPress website benefits from WordPress-specific services, as well as performance tweaks and proactive measures put in place that help to optimize your website. 

The proactive nature of managed WordPress Hosting, along with the tools and features that often accompany the service, will help you be more prepared in the case of a traffic surge. 

Here are a few of the key benefits you receive when getting set up with managed WordPress hosting. 

  • Fast loading times and page speed
  • Support from true experts
  • Easy-to-navigate control panel
  • Security measures specifically for WordPress
  • Developer-friendly tools
  • Scalability 
  • Premium DNS
  • WordPress website backups
  • Migration assistance
  • Multiple-website management
  • Staging sites for new builds or redesigns

As you can see, there is no shortage of benefits to selecting this option for your site’s hosting. By choosing managed WordPress hosting, your site will be well-prepared to handle any unexpected or expected surge in traffic.

Leverage the power of a CDN!

Site speed is critically important to your site’s performance. And if you experience a sudden boost in website traffic, your website can struggle to load content and show it to your visitors quickly and efficiently. 

Using a CDN is especially important if your website’s traffic is distributed over a wider area. Say, across the United States, or even globally. The key here is to ensure that your content is delivered quickly and at the highest quality, no matter where in the world it’s being viewed. 

A content delivery network (CDN) can be the perfect answer.

What is a CDN?

Cloudflare defines a CDN as: “A content delivery network (CDN) refers to a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content.”

CDNs set up data centers strategically across the globe. The CDN then serves up content to your site visitors closer to where they live, rather than having to connect to an origin server, which could be much further away. These benefits of a CDN lead to the fastest load times and better performance for your website, no matter where a visit originates. 

To ensure our customers get the most out of their WordPress websites, we partnered with Cloudflare to deliver all traffic that runs through the Rocket.net platform through Cloudflare’s Enterprise CDN. As a result, our client’s websites load much faster and perform optimally across the globe.

Optimize the user experience

In 2020, Google announced a new focus on user experience as a factor to determine search results. When the user experience algorithm hit, Google stated that it would hinge on three pillars of user experience: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. 

When you experience a massive surge in traffic, you’ll want to be sure you’ve accounted for the user experience that will greet this new wave of potential customers. To create a solid user experience, according to Google’s standards, you’ll want to focus on the following. 

Load Time

Ensure all pages, images, and other elements on your WordPress website are loading quickly. 

Responsiveness

Your visitors should have a smooth experience on your site, no matter what device they’re viewing it on. Elements on each page should be responsive, whether scrolling, clicking, or otherwise engaging with your site.

Visual Shifts

Avoid awkward advertisement placement, images that aren’t correctly formatted, and unnecessarily heavy embeds. 

Another thing to consider is navigation. Set up your navigation clearly and simply so visitors to your WordPress website can easily find and land on the content they’re seeking. If you make your visitors work too hard to find what they need, they’ll likely bounce quickly from your site.

Create and publish quality content

A strong content strategy can help introduce your website and brand to new customers and strengthen relationships with existing customers. When visitors land on your site, it’s essential to have valuable, informative content that adds value to those visitors’ lives. 

When you experience a surge in visitors to your WordPress website, if those visitors find subpar content, they’re likely to bounce. A high bounce rate severely limits your ability to convert your visitors into paying customers, and it also leads to negative stats like low time on page and increased bounce rates. And make no mistake, Google is watching, and the search engine giant doesn’t like to see those kinds of stats on your site. 

To stay on the right side of Google and keep your site visitors happy, focus on creating long-form, beneficial content. There is no shortage of content out there, so be sure to take the content you produce to another level and add ultimate value for your visitors.

If you focus on a solid content strategy for your website, conversion optimization becomes more straightforward, and your site won’t suffer when you see that massive surge in traffic. 

To add the most value for your visitors, be sure to vary the types of content you use. Creating written blog content is very important for several reasons, but you’ll also want to mix in an ample amount of visual and other types of content.

Forms of media used within content strategy 2021
Image: Forms of media used within content strategy 2021 – Source

By varying the types of content you produce, you prepare your WordPress website to appeal to the diverse needs of the visitors coming from the recent surge. You’ll be ready to wow them with the content you’ve produced, and they are more likely to share that content and come back for more.

Setup opportunities for visitors to convert

When that surge in traffic hits your WordPress website, it would be a shame if you weren’t set up to convert your visitors into paying customers or subscribers. Imagine if your visitors landed on your site, but you had no way (or limited options) of converting them? You’d be missing out on tons of business. 

To ensure you’re capturing as much new business as possible from the traffic surge you’re experiencing, be sure to set up the following to increase your conversion rates for both micro and macro-conversions. 

  • Strong product descriptions with simple actions to add to the cart and make a purchase
  • Lead magnets like eBooks and white papers to collect email addresses for each download
  • Newsletter sign up forms 
  • Simple subscription sign up if you offer a monthly software or technology subscription
  • Clearly displayed icons linking to your social media channels to increase followers
  • Social media sharing buttons to improve your content reach 

Each of these conversion optimization actions above can ultimately lead to a boost in your revenue. With each conversion form, you’ll want to have a concise, clear CTA as well as info about the value a visitor would gain by filling out and submitting the form or signing up for your offer. 

Take this form from Netflix, for example. When visitors land on the site, they’re instantly met by a form where they can add their email addresses and get started. Just below that, Netflix reassures you that you can cancel any time, and then a bit further down the page, visitors find info about the value.

Netflix homepage “Get Started” sign-up form
Image: Netflix homepage “Get Started” sign-up form – Source

Whether it’s a micro-conversion like moving people into your newsletter to enable your brand to stay top of mind via email marketing or a macro-conversion like directly converting visitors to make a purchase on your site during that first visit, these are opportunities you can’t afford to miss. 

Conversion optimization is vital, whether during a traffic surge or in regular times. So, set up your site to drive business, so you don’t miss out.

Resources to help you prepare for a boost in website traffic

If you’re a big enterprise business, you likely have resources in-house to help you strategize and prepare for a situation like a sudden surge in traffic. But, you’ll still need to be aligned with the right hosting provider partners to ensure your ship stays afloat during the rise in traffic. 

If you’re a small business or blogger, on the other hand, you may need to look outside your company’s resources to get help. Smaller operations don’t often have personnel or technology resources on hand to help with a website traffic surge. Fortunately, available support can enable you to withstand the rise without breaking the bank. 

Let’s take a look at two partnership resources you should have in place to ensure your WordPress website is optimized for a sudden boost in traffic

Sign up with a responsive managed WordPress hosting company

We covered the value of managed WordPress earlier in the article. In that section, we focused mainly on the technical implications of managed WordPress hosting, but let’s take a brief look at the additional benefits that partnering with the right company can add to your brand. 

Responsive Customer Support

Many hosting companies tout their customer service, but those same companies often fail to deliver when you’re in a pinch. If a sudden surge in website traffic hits your site, you’ll want to be sure you partner with a hosting company that offers fast support. You should have access to professional WordPress support through multiple channels like phone, email, and live chat. Response time should be measured in minutes, not in days. 

Strong Knowledge and Experience

There are tons of hosting companies out there started by marketing agencies and others looking to make a quick buck. The problem is, many of those hosting providers lack the knowledge you require from the company managing your WordPress website’s hosting. Look for self-serve resources on your hosting provider’s website, and dig into the team’s pedigree to ensure they know what they’re doing. 

Proactive

Being reactive in the digital world is not a good idea. When choosing a hosting provider for your WordPress website, do your research to ensure your provider of choice is proactively monitoring your site. Look to make sure they are automatically updating plugins and themes and WordPress core updates. Always on website security should also be in place through a WordPress Website Firewall and malware protection.

Partner with an experienced web developer

Optimizing your website takes skill. It’s not something that you should place in the hands of a novice. It’s essential to have someone on hand who can jump into your site, bringing many years of experience to the table to optimize it for you. 

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a web developer in 2021 was $75,073. Most small businesses and bloggers can’t take on a salary like that, not to mention the cost of insurance and other benefits. Thus, the best option is to build a relationship with a trusted web developer or agency.

ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a web developer in 2021
Image: Source

By building a relationship with a web developer or marketing agency, you can set up an arrangement where you only utilize their services as needed. You can bring the support to optimize your website in the case of a traffic surge and then have them on a small retainer for updates and other monthly work until the need to increase hours arises.

Summing it up..

Don’t be caught off guard. Please take the necessary steps to ensure your website is optimized nicely to receive a significant boost in traffic, whether that happens tomorrow or it hits down the road. 

A surge in traffic to your WordPress website can happen at any time and for various reasons. Maybe you ran a campaign that struck a chord with your audience. Or, perhaps you’re an SEO genius, and Google took notice. Whatever the case may be, you need to be prepared to benefit from that surge. 

Setting up ample opportunities to convert your visitors is essential. Equally important is ensuring that your site loads super fast and visitors have a fantastic all-around user experience. Keeping your visitors on the site to boost your stats and earn sales is the key to success, and if your site isn’t optimized when a surge in traffic hits, you’ll miss out a lot. 

So, get your team together and begin planning. Take a look at each of the recommendations above. Then start implementing each one as a part of your strategy for your business to take the online world by storm!