Is Your Site Prepared For Holiday Traffic? Time To Upgrade Your Hosting
When you’re getting your online store ready for the holiday shopping season, there’s a lot to plan, like Black Friday deals, seasonal products, and marketing campaigns. Remember to include the store itself in your holiday prep, too.
For customers to find and buy your holiday deals, your site has to stay up and running—no matter how many shoppers show up. It also has to stand up to hackers who try to sneak in with the holiday crowd.
Here’s how to prepare your site to handle heavier than normal traffic, give your shoppers a great experience, and keep your store secure.
Can Your Site Handle the Traffic Numbers You Expect?
Black Friday isn’t just crowded in brick-and-mortar stores. More than half of US shoppers made at least one purchase on Black Friday in 2017, and the total haul for online Black Friday sales last year was more than $5 billion.
That’s a lot of people going online. If your hosting plan includes monthly limits on how many visits your site can have, you could find your site hitting its traffic limit on the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
And if you can’t quickly scale up your site’s capacity to serve a throng of shoppers, your site could slow to a crawl or even crash.
What to do now: Look for real-time scalability that you can activate with a click to keep your site online and running smoothly even when goods are flying off your virtual shelves. Or look for an upgraded hosting plan that doesn’t cap monthly site visits so you can turn all your attention to your sales over the holidays.
Are You Protected Against Downtime?
If your site does go offline during holiday sales, shoppers may only come back later if you have products they want and can’t get anywhere else. We’ve blogged about the importance of creating exclusive deals for Black Friday, and we just discussed why hosting scalability matters.
But there’s another thing that can lead to site crashes—hardware failure on the host’s end. It’s not common, because web hosts work hard to maintain their equipment, but it can happen. If it happens during peak shopping times, your business could suffer unless your host has a seamless Plan B.
What to do now: Find out if your hosting plan includes failover capability. Failover means your host is ready and able to switch your site to another server if there are any issues with your current one so your site doesn’t go offline due to issues on their end. Failover switches from one server to another are usually seamless, but some include a brief downtime during the transition. If your plan doesn’t include failover protection, it may be time to upgrade.
How Fast Do Your Store Pages Load?
Page load times are now a real factor in search results, so if you want your store to get found, it needs to get fast. When shoppers arrive, fast page loads can keep them in your store. The Financial Times found that just a one-second increase in page speed boosted engagement by 5%, showing that any improvement in load time is worth the effort.
Some page-speed improvements you can do yourself, like optimizing the images on your WordPress-powered site. When you’re planning page-speed improvements, keep in mind that your product pages will be the first place shoppers land in your store if they find you through product search results. But images and videos—the centerpieces of product pages—are often the slowest elements to load, and 40% of shoppers will simply leave if your page takes more than 3 seconds to load.
After you optimize your images, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check your pages’ performance and get more suggestions for improvements. Your site may need more improvements that can only come from upgraded hosting, like proper cache configuration, top-of-the-line hardware, and optimal server density.
What to do now: Check your site’s performance on PageSpeed Insights. Use the recommendations Google generates to talk to your hosting service about upgrading for load time improvements.
Does You Have Site Security for Your Online Store?
Shoppers aren’t the only ones who flock to online stores during the holidays. Data thieves and other malicious actors know that during the holidays, merchants are so busy filling orders that they don’t notice or don’t have the resources to deal with data theft attempts and malware attacks.
The last thing you need during peak sales season is a data breach or denial of service attack that throws your business into chaos when it should be racking up sales.
As with page speed, some site security practices are up to you, like ensuring that you’re running the most up-to-date versions of your store platform, plugins, and related software. The devices you use to work on your store should be updated and fully secured, too. And we all know that it’s important to use secure, unique passwords.
But there are ways your hosting service can help, too.
What to look for: Does your current hosting plan include regular scans to detect and remove malware from your site? Is there an upgrade option that protects your store even further by guarding against DoS attacks that could crash your site?
Does Your Host Provide Website Analytics?
Maybe the only thing more important for retailers than strong holiday sales is a serious post-season analysis of holiday sales activity. Much of this will draw on your Google, email, and social media analytics, but some of it should come from your site itself.
Is it easy for you to find and monitor your site’s traffic trends, uptime, page load speed, and other performance data? You’ll need it to see what works during this year’s holidays and to plan how you can improve for next year.
What to do now: Check your dashboard to see what kind of site data is available to you. If you’re not seeing the type of performance data you’ll need to refine your site, talk to your host about upgrade options.
Be Prepared with Upgraded Hosting
Make sure your hard work on holiday products and promotions pays off. Get ready now to welcome holiday season shoppers, give them what they want fast, keep your site safe, and gather valuable data.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.