Ramping Up Your Promotional Web Site to Avoid a Crash
We frequently see companies like this spend thousands on advertisement development and placement, only to have the campaign go bad because someone forgot to plan for web site traffic surges.
Don’t let this happen to you!
If you are running a promotion that is driving traffic to a web site, here are some questions you will need answered before the launch:
How does your web site host plan to handle the surge of traffic?
When we kickoff a project, we always ask for the media plan for a project. The media plan can help dictate the hosting setup for the web site. For most campaigns we use a standard solution. If the campaign involves an email push or a web site takeover on YouTube, we might look at adding some servers. If it will have heavy TV coverage we might add the servers and look at adding a CDN (Content Delivery Network) for images and video files. And if that TV coverage includes a Super Bowl ad we might rethink the firewall, add multiple servers and plan on working the day of the game…. But regardless of what the plan is, we start early and develop and deploy a plan before launch to ensure best case scenario for the highest response possible with the lowest number of problems.
Make sure your vendor is aware of your media plan so they can plan early to put a solution in place for any traffic surges.
This is a tricky question that will get you a lot of answers depending on the vendor. Here is some background in layman’s terms:
Web sites can be hosted on dedicated servers or cloud servers. Dedicated servers take a bit longer to set up – think of dedicated servers as high-end appliances in your kitchen like the stove or the fridge. If they go down you don’t usually have a spare you can grab from the garage and get up and running in minutes. Dedicated servers take time to pick out, deliver, set up and get going. Cloud servers are faster to set up because they are servers in a shared server environment that are pre-configured and ready to go — just waiting for you to put your files on one server or multiple servers and go. Cloud servers are like the mixers and coffee machines of the kitchen appliance world. They go down and you can replace them with a quick change-out.
Some people think cloud servers are the way to ramp up quickly – and can be – but if you have security and privacy requirements dictated by your business and the type of data you are collecting, then cloud may not be the solution. Dedicated servers tend to be the better solution if you have security requirements. Cloud works if your promotion is more about content without data collection.
There are solutions that are all cloud or all dedicated, but there is also a hybrid that uses both. This works if you have heavy content and data security requirements.
To ramp up quickly, if you are using solely a cloud server solution, then you should be able to add servers quickly. Cloud servers can usually be added in minutes or a few hours (which may still be problematic for some promotions). If you are using a dedicated server or hybrid solution, the timing to ramp up may be trickier. Most people don’t want to pay the extra costs for a dedicated server to be waiting just in case things go wrong – and a dedicated server can take hours or days to get into place – time you may not have.
And speaking of costs, there are other factors in place that you will need to consider in your hosting solution like bandwidth, load balancers and firewalls. These things can have their own simultaneous user limitations or heavy costs involved in upgrading. We have seen many a competitor add servers, only to have a site go down anyway because the firewall only supported a fraction of the users coming in to the site.
The bottom line is that you have to look at your company’s security requirements, advertising goals, your budget and how the campaign works to come up with the best server solution and ramp-up strategy for your program. We work with our clients with these factors in mind to develop the best custom solution for your promotion.
Are any third party services on your web site that rely on another company’s servers being used by the web site like page tracking or plug-ins?
Remember to consider tracking tags and plug-ins that come from other servers. While Google Analytics can handle an influx in traffic, an ad banner tracking pixel going to a third party site may not have the bandwidth in place that you do – and could take your site down when the third party site crashes. Same with plug-ins – if you use them beware. You may need to plan on upping your usage plan to ensure bandwidth is in place, or rebuild the plug-in so it doesn’t rely on a third party.
The worst nightmare of any advertiser is that a “Site Unavailable” message is served instead of the promotion. But we have seen this happen to advertisers that thought they had it in control. Ask your host what message the user will see, and ask if you can customize the default error message “just in case.” This may be the most important message the user sees – and make a difference between them coming back later or not.
If you plan on running a promotion (or Super Bowl ad!) that might bring heavy web site traffic, call us at 516-365-3999 to help you so you don’t crash.
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