How to Prepare Your WordPress Blog for a Traffic Spike (and Survive It)
A traffic spike is something that all bloggers want: it means that tons of visitors will rush to your site, generating more sales or ad clicks or affiliate revenue – any of these will mean a lot more money for you than you usually make. Add to that the fact that the traffic spike itself will result in your blog having tens of new subscribers and Facebook likes or Twitter followers which will turn in return visitors, and you will have all the reasons to wish for traffic spikes to happen as often as possible.
But despite all the positives, there is one major problem with a traffic spike: it can cause your servers to crumble under the pressure and what initially was a good thing can turn into something bad, because if your blog is down nobody can visit it. And this is why I have decided to create this article on how to prepare your WordPress blog for a traffic spike.
I got the idea for this article when a traffic spike hit one of my blogs, taking the number of visitors from a regular 500 to a whooping 35,000:
You can imagine from the analytics image above that I was extremely happy with this traffic spike. But it all could’ve turned into disaster if I wasn’t ready for it. So here is what I do and what I recommend you all to have ready for when a ton of traffic hits your blog:
1. Caching plugin
Probably the most important thing – using a great plugin like WP Super Cache. It is very important here to select the “Use mod_rewrite to serve cache files.” option from the Advanced tab of the plugin’s settings to reduce even more the load on the servers. However, I survived the traffic spike with regular caching.
2. Great hosting
This is again very important: you need a solid, reliable hosting company. I have already written about good and cheap hosting and you should make sure that you’re with them if you want to survive the traffic spike.
3. Image optimization
a) Most likely, your blog post has at least one image and if its size is too big, this means trouble. So make sure to lower the size of your image(s) on the blog post to reduce the loading time and server load. Use a program like IrfanView (free download) and save the image as a JPG with a quality of 80, with reduced size (maximum 800 pixels for the widest part of the image). This way you can save even 1MB for a single image, and that’s HUGE especially when we’re talking about a traffic spike and how to survive it.
b) Use an image or video hosting service – you can go for YouTube and upload the video there if you have a video with your popular article, or you can go to an image hosting service like Flickr to host the image and help reduce the load time on your blog, if the methods at point 3.a. seem too difficult to follow.
Plugins are usually beneficial to your WordPress blog, but they require time and resources to load. Therefore, make sure that you deactivate and even uninstall all plugins that are not totally necessary for your blog to run. That fancy plugin that displays a clock to the sidebar? Lose it! That plugin that displays related posts? Extremely useful, but eats tons of server power. Lose it! And make sure you deactivate as many as possible to reduce the load.
5. Keep visiting your blog
Probably this is the best way to see if everything is working fine, if you don’t have a monitoring tool for your blog. Keep an eye on it and be ready to contact your hosting company or restart your private server (if you have one) if the blog stops loading. During my traffic spike I had about 160 readers on my blog every second, so you can imagine how much that means if your blog is down even for 5 minutes!
Now you know how to survive a traffic spike with your blog. The only goal that remains for you to achieve is to actually get that traffic spike, so good luck with that!