How to prepare your website for Black Friday and the holiday traffic
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Black Friday is just around the corner, marking the start of the biggest shopping season of the year with millions of people going online to stock up for the upcoming holidays. A Wells Fargo survey shows that 70% of shoppers won’t even visit a brick-and-mortar store for their holiday shopping anymore, preferring to browse, compare, and shop from the comfort of their own home.
And while this is a great opportunity for anyone selling products or services online, there are a few things you need to prepare for in order to make the most of your website and maximize your sales.
Holiday traffic spikes and how they affect your website
Black Friday and the days around it comprise one of the busiest periods of the year with online traffic spiking up to 10 times more than average! Eager to find the best deal and the best product, online shoppers tend to browse through multiple websites, compare price and features, share deals with their friends and family and ultimately buy, buy, buy.
Naturally, all that new traffic forces your website to use more and more resources. And if you don’t have enough of those, bad things begin to happen.
Slow loading speed irritates visitors 😩
The first and most common sign of a resource overload is a slow loading speed. Visitors don’t like to wait – a one second delay in loading time equals a 7% loss in conversion and 11% decrease in pageviews (according to Aberdeen Group). And that’s especially true and even more impactful during Black Friday when online shoppers don’t want to miss out and are more impatient than ever.
Site errors and unresponsive pages chase your visitors away 😤
The second and even scarier sign is the site errors and unresponsive pages. All of us have gone through the frustrating experience of picking a product online, entering shipping and billing details, only to land on an “Unexpected error” or an empty cart when hitting the buy button. The more scarcer your site resources, the more likely site errors become. The potential impact of those errors are huge – revenue loss, reputation damage, drop in customer base, and more.
Downtime causes direct sales losses 🙀
When visitors continue growing and resources deplete entirely, your website becomes more and more unresponsive until it eventually goes down completely. Even an hour of downtime can have a huge impact on your business, especially during Black Friday when competition is putting their best efforts to provide the best shopping experience to their visitors and snatch up as many sales as possible.
How much traffic can your website handle?
During Black Friday most online shops receive a spike in website traffic of 10 times the normal levels. While hard to do a precise estimate for an expected resource usage, there are a few things you can do to figure out whether your site can handle the holiday traffic.
- Analyze your site’s traffic behavior. Go over your website’s traffic statistics for the past few months and see how many visitors you get on average. It’s especially important to look for periods with a lot of simultaneous visits when a lot of traffic comes to your site at the same time. If you get plenty of those, this may indicate that your site will need a bigger hosting plan soon, even without the holidays spike, but it will definitely hit the current limits during Black Friday.
- Review your resource usage. See how much CPU seconds and program executions your site is using on a daily basis. These may sound unfamiliar if you have never hit the limits, but they are basic metrics that many hosting providers use to measure how many resources a single account or website is consuming as compared to the rest of the users hosted on the same machine, which you may find in the full feature lists of the hosting plans usually. During traffic spikes, predict at least twice the normal usage.
- Having a sale or promotion? Expect at least twice the usual traffic. Sales are the most effective traffic generators, especially if you promote them to your audience. Even without special deals and promotions being announced, during Black Friday and other sale periods, visitors go back to sites they have previously visited or ones they have found out about during price or product comparisons online.
Prepare your website and maximize your sales
There are a number of things you can do to make sure that your website can handle spikes in traffic and maintain a blazingly fast loading speed. Here are some of the most effective ones:
Use a stable, speed-focused hosting provider
A lot of your website’s capabilities for handling traffic comes from the platform it’s hosted on. We know this and we have dedicated a lot of time and resources to build a platform focused on speed and performance. Here are some of the things we do to keep your website up and running fast:
- Using premium Google Cloud infrastructure with а state of the art network, ensuring high availability and lightning fast loading speed.
- Ultrafast PHP implementation that can make your website up to 30% faster and decrease time-to-first-byte with up to 50%! Additionally, this unique setup increases server capacity by up to 20%, significantly improving traffic spikes handling, making it one of the must-haves for the holiday season. If you haven’t already, go ahead and enable Ultrafast PHP for your website in your Site Tools (available for GrowBig and higher plans).
- Unique MySQL setup designed to improve handling of slow queries and multiple simultaneous visits, especially common during traffic spikes and sales periods.
- Implementing the latest speed-enhancing technologies like Brotli compression support.
Make sure you use the right hosting plan
When you expect a lot of traffic, make sure your hosting plan will have the resources you need. If you are using our Cloud hosting plans, this is the best time to switch on the autoscale service. With autoscale enabled, you will have additional resources automatically added towards your account during traffic spikes.
If you’re still on a StartUp, consider upgrading to one of our best-performing plans, GrowBig or GoGeek, that have more resources and unique technology to meet traffic surges.
- With an ultrafast PHP implementation, available on GrowBig & GoGeek, websites can handle up to 30% more traffic without any additional optimization.
- GrowBig can handle up to 10 times more visitors than StartUp, while GoGeek can meet an impressive 40 times more traffic.
It’s essential to have the resources that you need before the traffic hits, especially if you plan a promotion or a sale. To help you get the right plan for the holiday traffic spikes, we’re running a limited-time 80% off deal on all upgrades to GrowBig and GoGeek. Upgrade today in just a few clicks and get your website the foundation it needs to meet new visitors and sales. Get advantage of this offer in your Client Area.
Caching is one of the most effective speed-enhancing technologies for websites and absolutely essential for traffic-heavy periods. For years we have been constantly polishing and improving our platform to offer one of the best and most comprehensive caching solutions out there. All websites hosted at SiteGround have NGINX direct delivery for caching static resources and Dynamic Caching for caching dynamic ones, enabled by default. Memcached is also available for object caching that can’t be handled by Dynamic Caching. With all layers of caching enabled, you can speed up your website up to 500%! Visit your Site Tools to make sure that you have all caching layers applicable to your site enabled.
Optimize your WordPress
If you have a WordPress site, we recommend that you install and take advantage of our SiteGround Optimizer WordPress plugin packed with some of the best tools for optimizing WordPress sites, like:
- File-based caching for yet another level of caching to improve performance and WordPress-specific caching controls to further leverage the Dynamic Caching and Memcached available to SiteGround customers.
- Amazing image compression and use of WebP which can decrease your image size (and the time it takes for your images to load) by up to 85%, while keeping the image quality high for your visitors to enjoy.
- Lazy loading for smoother browsing experience in pages with multiple images or media.
- HTML, CSS and JS minification to decrease the size and number of server requests and decrease loading time.
- Environment optimizations like WordPress Heartbeat API optimization and scheduled database maintenance to avoid clutter and negative effects on performance.
Download the SiteGround Optimizer plugin here.
If you have an international audience, you need a CDN to make sure that your site is optimized to handle the international traffic just as seamlessly as your local one. All SiteGround customers can get advantage of a free basic CDN in all plans that can easily handle occasional international visits. If you cater to international visitors more often, however, consider our Premium CDN that comes with dynamic caching for CDN traffic, more bandwidth and additional customisation settings. The SiteGround CDN is easy-to-use, requires no configuration on your side and is built specifically for our platform, ensuring a seamless integration and optimal performance. Activate yours in your Client Area.
If you have already covered all of these, we’re confident that your website is ready to handle the holiday traffic and new customers coming your way. Happy selling!