Getting lots of organic traffic is every webmaster’s dream – but heavy traffic, or sudden spikes in traffic, can drive visitors away if your website isn’t equipped to handle it. Whether you’re just starting out with no traffic in sight, or your site is poised to break through to big numbers, you can prepare your WordPress site for heavy traffic in order to avoid the slowdowns and crashes that can come from a high volume of hits.
Heavy WordPress Traffic Places a Heavy Load on Your Site
Traffic – the flow of visitors to your site – builds your brand’s visibility, and if you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur, it also brings sales. And of course, heavy traffic can mean a boost in both those things. Organic traffic to your site can gradually increase over time, or it can spike suddenly in response to things like a viral post or a widely promoted sale. In some cases, you may be trying out different ways to increase the traffic to your website yourself. In any case, though, many hits to your site at once can dramatically increase the burden on your site’s servers, which must process every request. This can cause your site to slow down, or crash entirely, when servers simply can’t keep up with the volume. The end result in either situation is that potential visitors can leave your site, never to return. This brings us to the question, can WordPress handle heavy traffic?
WordPress is a content management system and site builder that contains all the elements that make up your site, including its source code, themes that control appearance and layout, and plugins for customizing functions. In its self hosted form, a WordPress site can be set up with any hosting provider, using the host’s servers to store and process requests by visitors for site content.
All these elements play a role in how well a WordPress site can handle heavy traffic or traffic spikes, and whether you’re new to WordPress or a seasoned developer, you can take steps to modify them to make it easier for your WordPress site to manage high traffic volumes without crashing.
Consider Hosting and Server Side Issues
Most new WordPress sites start out with the most economical web hosting available until that coveted jump in traffic comes along. Low cost hosting means shared hosting, so that your site is hosted on servers carrying hundreds, if not thousands, of similar sites, all of which are drawing on the host servers’ common resources of storage and bandwidth. If your site is small and has minimal traffic, that isn’t a problem – but if any site on the common server experiences a sudden influx of traffic, it can slow down neighboring sites, or cause them to crash.
For that reason, some hosts limit low-cost plans to sites that get fewer than 1000 visitors per month, and sites with more must move up to a higher tier plan or consider another kind of hosting. If you’re still using shared hosting and your WordPress site begins to get heavier traffic, you can help it out by moving to a different hosting environment that is better able to handle high volume, such as a Virtual Private Server, or VPS hosting, in which your site is partitioned on a shared server with fewer users, so that it can claim a larger share of available resources. Large sites with very high traffic can also opt for dedicated server hosting, in which all the resources of an entire server are reserved for just one user.
WordPress is considered “web server neutral,” which means that it can run on any platform that supports its databases in MySQL and MariaDB. With that being said, it’s also important to note that WordPress web hosting services are also available to site owners as well. Making sure that your hosting provider is able to support the latest versions of these platforms can help create a stable environment for running WordPress, so that it’s less likely to crash under heavy server demand.
Optimize Your Site for Traffic
WordPress sites can also be optimized to perform better under conditions of heavy traffic. Limiting elements that can cause a site to load slowly can make it easier for the site and its servers to process large volumes of visitors. Images and image-heavy themes can take time to load, so limiting visuals and optimizing the ones you do use can help keep the site running even during peak times. Likewise, plugins can cause an additional burden on a site that is already heavily loaded with content, so keep their use to the minimum you need for essential functions. In this way, the server can process requests more quickly even during times of high traffic.
Heavy traffic can mean longer wait times while your site is loading, so it’s important to minimize any issues that could present even more problems, such as broken links or large video or image files. For example, if a site that contains only 5 images and 4 template files receives 1,000 visitors, those files must be loaded 9,000 times to process their requests.
Manage Comments More Efficiently
A viral post or page can result in a flood of comments, which can also contribute to a heavy traffic load. To help process comments more efficiently, consider a comment management plugin or third-party commenting platform like Disqus to lighten the load.
Use a Caching Plugin
Caching can help your site handle heavy traffic by creating HTML versions of your site’s pages and posts, which reduces the number of times that WordPress has to use its native programming language PHP to request your content. In this way, visitors get quick access to requested pages, which reduces slowdowns and avoids crashes during peak traffic times. Caching plugins, such as WP Total Cache and WP Super Cache, create cached versions of content for easy loading and faster speeds.
Consider a Content Delivery Network
To manage WordPress high traffic, a Content Delivery Network can help. CDN technology allows your site files to be served from the server location that is closest to the web visitor’s location. This reduces the distance between your visitor’s web browser and the server that’s hosting your site, so the pages they request can load faster.
Heavy traffic is a sign of online success. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking for ways to drive traffic to your website, you can take steps to ensure that your WordPress site is ready to handle the load.
Have any questions about the WordPress platform? If so, review our WordPress hosting guide or call one of our Bluehost customer support experts today.