Prepare for traffic surges to your Web site

Black-out sales, free shipping days, search engine optimization, strategic link baiting—all are proven methods that can, when timed and executed well, ratchet up Web traffic. But if unprepared, dramatic traffic increases can lead to delays, hang-ups, outages, and even outright system failures that can negatively impact campaign success, as well as customer satisfaction and corporate revenue.


For online marketers and advertisers, the following advice is essential to building customer loyalty, delivering brand messaging, and establishing your company as a legitimate industry player. First, fight overload with a load test. Load testing tools let you simulate a specific number of artificial users to stress-test servers, databases, and pages. This will quickly reveal the thresholds at which your systems start to slow and ultimately break, and allow IT teams to proactively make adjustments.


The most effective tools load test outside the firewall—where the users are—and can be performed on-demand, automatically.When developing load testing scripts, consider all the issues you need to address, beyond “is the site up?” Test how crucial processes like search, shopping cart, checkout, login, and logout perform under exceptionally high loads.


You should also always monitor Web performance.Like load testing tools, Web performance monitoring tools measure the performance of your site’s moving parts. However, these scripts run all day, every day as a single synthetic user. The goal isn’t to overload a site with legions of users, but rather, to exercise a site as one individual might. That said, the same key functions should be measured.


Monitoring tools should be able to record and measure all relevant metrics—domain addresses, text, images, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, Flash and XML; track uptime; and identify bottlenecks.Most important, ensure the solution can test your site from multiple locations, outside the firewall. The more testing locations, the more accurate the performance picture will be.


In case, you don’t like what you find, your company must design a reaction plan.Even the most extensive testing, monitoring, and preparations can’t ensure 100% reliability, so have a reaction plan ready in case of an outage. Start with a humorous or personalized message that addresses the problem directly, and include contact information for visitors to use for immediate assistance. These tactics let customers know you’re working to fix the problem and that you care enough about their business to keep them informed.


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