Four Ways to Prepare for a Web Traffic Spike

It’s one of those good news/bad news things for your site, especially if you’re new to ecommerce: a surprise spike in traffic.

Traffic on city streets at night

Someone, somewhere, liked what you had to say and shared it with others who also liked it and shared it, and so on. Maybe a subject you’ve written about or a product you offer is trending, and people searching for more info about it are organically moving you higher in searches. Sites such as Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon or Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button are notorious for bringing traffic to less frequented but interesting pages.

The phenomenon seems more akin to being hit by lightning rather than winning the lottery, since at least you’re set for life if you pick the right numbers, and getting zapped with lightning sure hurts. By hurt, we mean that if you’re not prepared for large amounts of traffic, your server or ISP may say “enough” and shut your site down, keeping people from seeing your brilliant content and boosting your visits.

The quickest but priciest solution is to upgrade your servers and buy a better data plan to anticipate regular high traffic. But if a big bump is a rarity at this point, then you might be investing for nothing. What should a site owner do to prepare for a temporary increase in traffic?

Start small

Create a minimal version of your page and be ready to switch traffic there. The lightweight page would have fewer photos and graphic elements. Consider what people visiting for the first time want to see. It will likely be one certain page instead of browsing your entire architecture, or seeing your funny gifs or the “About Us” page. If you don’t want to rebuild your entire site, at least prepare a basic home page.


Load testing programs can help you determine potential areas of vulnerability and how your site can accommodate all sorts of traffic. This method can be a good dress rehearsal or emergency drill of what can happen, which areas of your site you need to beef up or if any resources can be reallocated. Check with your host in advance to see if it can also accommodate extra traffic, and if there’s any extra fees for using a larger share of storage, even temporarily.

Optimize your page

Compress all the photos on your primary site. Instead of hosting video, place it on a YouTube page and link to it. Instead of a landing page bulging with content that requires scrolling, spread content into multiple pages. These strategies can reduce load time per page.

Consider the cloud

Moving pages off-site, such as a cloud database server, can make your main site more responsive. This method is less expensive than extra hardware and it can let you use multiple technologies. It can also offer as much storage as traffic requires and add a level of redundancy if your actual servers start crashing.

Overall, plenty of resources can help you prepare for extra traffic, since you’re not the only one to deal with this. Some of these previous experiences have become cautionary tales, in which even large businesses have been caught off guard since they unfortunately didn’t follow the four steps outlined here.

Image credit: Victor Habbick on

About Emily Miller

Emily Miller is a marketing professional and small business blogger who studied English and Small Business at Indiana University. She is currently writing to help startups and small businesses implement technology solutions for their companies.

One Response to Four Ways to Prepare for a Web Traffic Spike

  1. Kingsley says:

    Very good tips on how to prepare for web traffic spike. It’s also a good idea to use a web host that won’t just shut you down when you get a traffic spike.