how to prepare your wordpress site for an increase in traffic

Getting a surge of traffic to your website is exciting. After all, you want as many people to visit your site as possible. However, a sudden spike can also cause problems if you haven’t taken the time to prepare for an increase in traffic to your website.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get your site ready to handle unexpected traffic. You can install a caching plugin, implement a Content Delivery Network (CDN), or even find a better hosting plan. These tactics are important to implement in advance since it’s impossible to predict exactly if or when a traffic surge might occur.

In this article, we’ll explain why a sudden traffic spike can hurt your site and discuss some of the causes. Then we’ll show you three ways you can prepare for an increase in traffic. Let’s take a look!

The potential downsides of an increase in traffic

A graph showing website traffic.

Traffic spikes can cause various problems for your website.

You probably spend a lot of time trying to attract more visitors to your website, whether that’s by creating quality content or using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. Most of the time, these efforts will result in traffic that grows slowly and steadily.

However, you may sometimes experience a sudden burst of traffic. This is exciting, but also problematic, since unexpected spikes in traffic can cause a number of issues. For example:

  • Your site’s performance might suffer if your host doesn’t provide enough resources.
  • You may see downtime if the increase is enough to overwhelm your site completely.
  • It can be difficult to keep up with a suddenly higher level of interactions with your visitors.

Even one of these problems is enough to negatively impact your users and hurt your reputation online. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand when a sudden spike might happen and how to prepare for an increase in traffic.

How to predict when an increase in traffic might occur

The Ski Burn online store.

Seasonal products or content can result in uneven traffic patterns.

Of course, it isn’t always easy to predict when your site’s traffic might increase dramatically. However, there are a few common reasons it could happen to you:

  • Your content or products are seasonal in nature, prompting a sudden increase during a particular time of year.
  • A more popular website mentions or links to your site.
  • You publish a piece of content about a newsworthy or trending topic.
  • Your site goes “viral” on social media.
  • Your site is targeted by ‘fake’ or otherwise harmful traffic, such as spam bots.

Any of these scenarios can cause your site’s traffic to fluctuate widely. And since not all of them are predictable, it’s best to prepare for an increase in traffic before it becomes a possibility.

3 ways to prepare for an increase in traffic to your website

Without further ado, let’s take a look at three of the best ways you can prepare for an increase in traffic on your website.

1. Employ a caching plugin

When someone visits your website, WordPress needs to communicate with its database to load content. While this happens fairly quickly under normal load, this communication process does take time, especially if your traffic is surging.

Page caching eliminates the need for this communication by creating a temporary static HTML version of your page. That way, instead of needing to “talk” with its database, WordPress can just serve up the cached version of the page.

As a result, your server needs to do less “work” to load each page, which both:

  • Makes your site load faster all of the time.
  • Helps your server perform better and more efficiently during a traffic spike.

Beyond that, there’s also another type of caching called browser caching that lets you store certain static assets – like your logo – in a visitor’s browser so that visitor doesn’t need to reload the same asset every time they visit a new page.

If you’re using WordPress, there are plenty of plugins that will add caching functionality to your site. We recommend checking out WP Super Cache for the easiest way to implement basic page caching.

2. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

The Cloudflare WordPress plugin.

A CDN like Cloudflare can help you prepare for an increase in traffic.

With a normal website configuration, each time a visitor heads to your site, your own web server needs to serve up content, no matter where your visitor is located. A content delivery network (CDN) changes that by creating “copies” of your site’s content at different servers all around the world.

Then, a visitor downloads most, or all, of your site from the nearest CDN location, rather than your own web server.

This has a few benefits for your site if traffic ever spikes:

  • It lessens the load on your own server’s bandwidth and processing power by offloading some work to the CDN network.
  • Visitors will be able to download assets faster because they can get them from a closer location.
  • Your site will be more available because one “outage” won’t prevent people from being able to visit your site.

To prepare for a traffic increase like this, Cloudflare is a quality, inexpensive option to start with. But there are also plenty of other quality CDN solutions that you can try.

3. Switch to a more robust hosting plan

The SiteGround Cloud Hosting plan helps you prepare for an increase in traffic.

Some hosting plans can scale automatically with traffic increases.

Finally, let’s talk about your hosting plan. Where you choose to host your website – and what kind of plan you select – has a major impact on its success. Your host impacts reliability, uptime, security, and much more. It also determines how well your site performs when hit when unexpected traffic.

This is largely because your hosting plan provides you with a certain amount of space, bandwidth, and other resources. A small, budget plan might offer enough to keep your site running smoothly when you get 100 visitors per day, but might cause all kinds of performance problems when you suddenly have 1,000 visitors at one time.

For this reason, it can be worth switching to a more powerful hosting plan that provides extra resources and can guarantee excellent performance at a variety of traffic levels. Most hosts offer higher-tier plans that fit the bill. Some, such as SiteGround’s Cloud Hosting service, even provide auto-scaling features. This means your resources will automatically increase to cope with unexpected traffic bursts!

Conclusion

Sudden traffic spikes are surprisingly common, even on smaller websites. They may happen because you wrote a blog article on a popular topic, or because a site with thousands of daily visitors posted a link to your content. Since you can’t predict every time a surge might happen, it’s best to prepare for an increase in traffic in advance.

Throughout this article, we’ve provided you with three ways to get ready for a lot of unexpected traffic. Those ways are:

  1. Employ a caching plugin.
  2. Use a CDN.
  3. Switch to a more robust hosting plan.
Do you have any questions about how to prepare for an increase in traffic? Let us know in the comments section below!
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