Black Friday is a date, highly anticipated by marketeers and store owners across the entire world. What started as a purely American tradition is now a global event. On this day stores give their greatest discounts and a lot of people are anticipating it to get the item or service they've been looking forward to for months. Usually on Black Friday online stores get a huge traffic peak and multiply their sales. However, you have to make sure that both your website application (e.g. WordPress) and hosting environment are prepared for this traffic surge. Otherwise you risk turning a great sales day into a disaster. Read on to get more information on how to prepare your online store for the upcoming Black Friday and get the most out of it!
Use Full-page Caching Everywhere You Can
When you use full-page caching, the footprint your site leaves on the server is greatly reduced. This makes it much more resilient to traffic spikes. If you're using WooCommerce + WordPress for your store, I recommend that you enable the SiteGround SuperCacher, and most importantly - its Dynamic feature. If you're using a different application, it's a good idea to research the available caching plugins/ modules/ extensions that you have at your disposal and test them out. Note that it's really important that you leave pages like your checkout page, cart page, customer profile page, etc. completely dynamic and out of any full-page caching. If you're using the SuperCacher, you can easily do so by using the Cache Exclusion list in your plugin. When serving cached content, the SuperCacher uses an NGINX reverse proxy service and a request doesn’t even reach the PHP service.
Switch to PHP7
PHP7 is great when it comes to performance. The fact it processes requests much faster and more efficiently allows your site to handle more requests while using less resources at the same time. Most of the modern web applications already fully support it and unless you have some old or not well maintained extension, your site should work fine on it. My recommendation would be to test how your site performs (on a staging copy; please, please, please don't try different PHP versions on your live site) with it and switch to PHP7 as soon as possible. Its internal Opcache mechanism, memory utilisation improvements and all the other optimization will make your website lighter and dramatically faster. So, for the pages that you can’t cache fully with the SuperCacher and for those dynamic requests of logged-in visitors, PHP7 does a great job!
After taking care of your PHP performance, it’s time to pay some attention to your database. Usually, online stores work heavily with a database. There are multiple queries passed all the time - when you browse your orders, when someone searches through your products, when someone places orders, etc. That's why it's a good idea to implement an object caching mechanism like Memcached on your site. It's available as part of the SuperCacher system on our GoGeek, Cloud and higher hosting plans. Basically, the object caching will improve the way your site communicates with its database, and reduce the load caused by those queries on your hosting account.
Implementing the previous recommendations will reduce the resources your website is using and allow it to handle much more visitors on the same hosting plan. However, no matter how optimized a website is, when visitors reach a certain number, it will need more resources to handle all requests. That’s why, one of the main reasons we recommend our Cloud Hosting to online store owners is the Autoscaling feature. It allows you to add resources to your cloud account when required without downtime. It's perfect for handling massive traffic peaks. We have an article in our Knowledge Base to guide you through the process. Although it's really easy and straight-forward to configure, you can contact us at any time to get help or advice on how exactly you should configure the Autoscaling option of your cloud. Last but not least, I would recommend if you aren’t on a Cloud hosting solution yet, to consider an upgrade before you start any promotions for Black Friday.
We wish you a successful Black Friday, and a huge peak in sales and traffic, which your SiteGround hosted sites will surely handle!