So the holidays are right around the corner, we’ve given you great tips on how to market your business and your services over the holidays in our Holiday Planning Guide, how to create a Winning PPC Strategy for the Holidays, and gotten you thinking about your E-commerce Marketing & SEO Strategy for the holiday shopping season. All of it is for nothing if your infrastructure isn’t stable and you don’t keep your website healthy.
What if you spend a good chunk of change on a really successful holiday marketing strategy, only to see your site go off-line due to an increase in traffic?
3 – 2 – 1
I saw the light bulb light up above your head; now you get what I’m talking about. So, now that we are on the same page let’s address some of the potential ways to manage your infrastructure to ensure it’s stable for the holiday season!
Talk to Your Business Partners
First and most importantly, speak to your business partners. No, not the ones you started the company with, the ones that help you operate your site, your technology business partners. This could be your hosting company, your CMS vendor, your eCommerce platform vendor, etc. to ensure that they have taken measures to deal with holiday traffic spikes. Get on a call with the support team and ask them questions about the efforts they are making to deal with the expected increase in traffic. Hopefully you like the answers you get. If not, it may be time to start thinking about a new provider for a long-term solution.
Optimize Website Functionality
Next, let’s address optimization and how it applies to website functionality. Regardless of season, your site and the experience users have when visiting should be optimized for them. Your primary goal is converting that visitor into a customer, no matter what your business. So it would make sense that you should be making it super easy for visitors to come to your site, find a product or information, use a coupon or discount code AND complete their transaction.
If you make it this easy for your visitors, they will leave with a smile (and a purchase) and you will have eased their holiday stress without ever letting them know, which ties right into our third point, user experience.
Provide an Optimized User Experience
If the user experience isn’t easy, it is likely that any surge in traffic will mean missed opportunities rather than conversions.
This means putting the customer first and making sure that it is dead simple for them to get in and get out without any hiccups. If the goal is to have a user land on the home page and search for products, then the search box obviously needs to be prominently placed on the page (like right there at the top and make it big).
Amazon, ebay and Google do this and, last time I checked, all were killing it online with their search tools. If reinventing the wheel isn’t your thing, I say follow those who already have proven success when it comes to user experience.
Now let’s shift focus to the behind the scenes operation of your website and talk about server load. How will your site handle increased visitors? This is important because it is a determining factor in terms of holiday traffic spikes.
There are ways to test the durability of your site and your hosting environment to simulate holiday traffic spikes, just ask your web host or development partner about load testing. If you don’t like the answer you get maybe it is time to think about moving to a more advanced host or even think about talking to us here at Forthea about teaming up as your development partner moving forward.
Prepare for Growth
Lastly, preparing for growth is such an important aspect of having an online presence. Whether it is short or long term, it is of utmost importance that you are in a scaleable environment both on and off-line to meet the needs of your customers. If that means being able to add more RAM, bandwidth or disc space to your web server, or increasing your inventory to meet the demands of your customers you need to be flexible enough to handle those demands.
Ultimately, your business needs to be able to scale with you as you grow and technology is a big part of that. Making sure you are prepared for things like holiday traffic spikes is just one way to evaluate if you are currently in the right place with your technology partners. Now is a great time to dig into that and to ask questions to make sure you aren’t asking them during your busiest time of year when your site is off-line because of a spike in holiday traffic.
Side Note – Tools to Help
As a side note there are free tools out there to help you stay on top of the status of your website, whether performing normally or potentially offline. The Uptime Robot is one of the tools that we like to recommend because it is free, and super simple to setup and configure, all you need is an email address and your website URL. Simple right?
That’s why we recommend it. This tool can send you performance alerts to let you know if your site ever goes off-line so you will be on top of the issue much sooner, minimizing the amount of downtime.