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How to prepare your website for a traffic spike

How to prepare your website for a traffic spike Doug Heise

Imagine you're a marketer tasked with managing a big product launch or multi-channel campaign. You put in countless hours crafting the perfect plan, manage your team to execute the flawless strategy, and see a huge spike in website traffic. Now imagine if the website couldn't handle the traffic load and crashed. For any organization, that launch would be considered a failure. Put the paper bag down -- this is just a hypothetical scenario.

The scenario, however, is a real possibility. When organizations see large spikes in traffic, websites are put to the test. Today, websites need to be prepared to handle an influx of traffic, while simultaneously adapting in real time to user feedback.

How does this affect marketers? Analyst firm Gartner predicts that marketing will have a larger budget than IT by 2017. If you're a practicing marketer, you've most likely taken on a few previously owned IT roles. While websites -- and the technology behind them -- fall under IT's responsibilities, marketing is ultimately responsible for delivering the user experience. The bottom line is that organizations need to prepare for the next high traffic event, and since we're the ones driving traffic to websites, we need to take a more proactive role to ensure that we're prepared.

Let's look at five ways that marketers can work with IT to prepare websites for high-traffic events.

Support external content

Marketers need to be able to adjust and edit website content quickly during launches and campaigns. To ensure these rapid content publishing cycles, your website must have an optimized web platform. With the right publishing support, you can easily pull content from external systems or third-party sources -- such as a CRM system or an RSS feed -- and move it into a web content management (WCM) system where it can be tagged and published immediately to multiple web and mobile sites.

Have a backend that can support high traffic

When a visitor comes to your site, you only have one chance to provide an engaging experience, or the person will leave. It's critical that your website can support the influx of content and traffic without crashing. Evaluate the performance and stability of your WCM system before a major launch to ensure that you can support rapid publishing cycles, high levels of traffic, and rich media content at any time.

There are multiple architectures that can be used for storing and managing data on the web. The industry is evolving to support a combination of traditional and relational databases with innovative storage systems like NoSQL for different purposes, making it possible for WCMs to perform under the stress of extreme traffic.

To support varying degrees of traffic and content, you need a platform that can scale and take advantage of the cloud for enhanced hardware scalability. Many platforms already do this.

Running in the cloud can save costs on many fronts including hardware, development, deployment, and ongoing operations. Extra hardware that sits idle waiting for one high-traffic campaign a year is expensive for most. The cloud solves this problem and will enable you to scale your website on demand.

Publish rich, relevant content

 In addition to scalability, to keep a captive audience depends on how engaging your content is. You must be able to deliver relevant content to each unique web visitor that encourages them to stay awhile. Your site's ability to engage a visitor with unique content at all stages of his or her experience is paramount.

Successful marketing campaigns also depend on rich media and interactive content. Therefore, it's now more critical than ever to add visual components to web pages. Sometimes content can only be appreciated when it is accompanied by videos or images. Hosting the content is the first step, but how well you can support supplemental content -- such as video and audio -- that engages visitors and keeps them on your site is also crucial.

Consider whether your website is scalable enough to support high viewership of rich media. Can it easily integrate this media into your online repository and external media libraries?

Build microsites for a more custom experience

Big marketing launches often warrant the creation of a unique microsite that contains a custom layout with a slightly different look and feel from the main site. However, it's important that the site can seamlessly reuse content from both your repositories as well as other sources.

When creating a microsite, ensure you're offering an in-depth resource to your visitors. In addition to the latest campaign content, equip your site to include videos and photos. The easier visitors can access related news from your archives and offer an engaging experience, the more traffic you'll be able direct back to your website.

Have social and commenting capabilities

Today, visitors want to see engaging content that they can engage with. Integrate social media capabilities into your website to increase staying time. Keep readers on your site by providing a moderated forum where they can communicate with others in real time. It's also important to optimize your content for maximum exposure -- how well can readers tweet, "like," pin, or share content via social networks? Make sure you've provided this option to readers as it will help drive traffic back to your site.

Ultimately, being proactive -- not just reactive -- on many fronts will position your organization to be ready for the next launch and keep visitors fully engaged. These five steps will prepare an organization's online channels to provide the best experience for its visitors and provide website support for the overwhelming activity that can surround large campaigns.

Doug Heise is director of product marketing at CoreMedia.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"The light trails on the street in shanghai China" image via Shutterstock.

Doug has over 15 years of experience as a digital media strategist and marketing specialist. Doug began his career as a co-founder and Senior Analyst with The Content Group, a San Francisco-based consulting and professional services firm that was...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Doug Heise

2013, July 26

Great example, Chris. Not only did they make it hard for people to download the app, but it appears that they compounded the problem by asking for access to a wide range of personal data including phone records. Contextual content and experiences can make a huge difference in terms of customer engagement, but you have to be careful not to overstep the bounds of privacy. It is easier than you think to cross the line - turning an experience that is relevant and timely into something that feels invasive. A lot of lessons to be learned from the Samsung experience.

Commenter: Chris Chasty

2013, July 26

The team behind Jay Z's Samsung app promotion just went through this nightmare, shows how even the biggest players can severely drop the ball in terms of not fully understanding the IT considerations for digital marketing.