How to Prepare Your WordPress for High-Traffic Events (10 Tips)

Last updated on Feb 15th, 2024 | 11 min

TL;DR: Preparing your WordPress site for high-traffic events includes upgrading your server resources (hosting), implementing web caching, optimizing images, cleaning the database, ensuring up-to-date components, and minimizing and compressing JS and CSS. Utilizing a CDN and removing unnecessary plugins or themes are also vital.

Does this screenshot look familiar to you?

Sudden spike in pageviews

If not, here’s what might have happened:

  1. A content piece has become viral overnight. 
  2. A promo campaign was launched, and users worldwide decided to take advantage of the great offering. 

Either way, the website owner from the example managed to achieve the first, and in many cases, the most challenging goal in their journey to more conversions - to attract a ton of visitors. 

Unfortunately, as you can see, the sudden spike in pageviews is followed by…nothing.

Which is a clear sign that their website wasn’t prepared to handle the influx of visitors. And that’s a common mistake for many site owners:

They spend most of their resources planning the next big thing, whether a content piece or promotion but forget to take care of their foundations - preparing their website for high-traffic events. 

In this article, we’re going to focus on the fundamentals, and more specifically:

What is a high-traffic event?

In a nutshell, a high-traffic event refers to a situation where your website experiences a significant influx of visitors within a short period.

It might be because of content suddenly gaining traction or an advertisement campaign on social media. 

Understandably, the question that follows is:

How many visitors is considered a high-traffic event? 

It depends. 

If you’re averaging 10 visitors per day, a high-traffic event for you will be 100-200 visitors. On the other hand, if you run a popular website accumulating thousands of pageviews per day, your number might be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions.

How high-traffic events can do more harm than good (if not prepared)

Imagine this…

You’re running a local boutique store accustomed to serving a steady stream of customers throughout the day. Let’s say 50-100 daily. 

However, one day, you decide to boost your sales and run a promo campaign.

The news of an exclusive limited-time offer spreads like wildfire, attracting a massive crowd of eager shoppers to the store all at once. Your order management and order fulfilment are quickly starting to strain, followed up by the crash of your entire system.

The sudden surge of customers overwhelms the store's staff and infrastructure, leading to:

  • long queues
  • disorganized shelves
  • and, ultimately, frustrated customers. 

Now, instead of celebrating your best month ever, you’re stuck picking up the pieces.

All your financial resources spent on the campaign were wasted as most customers couldn’t get your product.

The same exact thing will happen if you run an ill-prepared website during a high-traffic event.

All of a sudden, your servers and resources will become strained. Your load times will drastically drop, and error messages will start popping up:

Temporarily unavailable error message

The inability to serve your visitors will inevitably result in:

  • frustrated customers
  • bad online reviews
  • hurting your reputation and bottom line

But that’s only one side of the coin. 

The other scenario is when you’ve spent enough time preparing your site for the upcoming event. Then, all you have to do is reap the rewards of your hard work. 

And here’s how to do it…

How to Prepare Your WordPress Site for a High-Traffic Event

Here’s the deal…

Before getting your hands dirty and start implementing the optimizations listed below, there’s something else you should do. 

Make sure you have enough time!

Some of the techniques take longer to be implemented by you, your team, or your hosting provider. So, to ensure the entire operation runs smoothly, don’t rush things. Get a rough estimate of each task's length and plan accordingly. 

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty:

Re-evaluate your hosting and upgrade (if needed)

At the risk of repeating ourselves - having a solid foundation is key to achieving business success. 

And translating this into web terms - relying on a hosting service that consistently meets your needs is crucial. 

So one of the first steps in preparing your WordPress site for high traffic is to evaluate your hosting. 

If you're currently on shared hosting, consider upgrading to a more robust hosting plan or switching to a dedicated server, VPS, or a managed WordPress hosting service. These options offer better performance, enhanced security measures, and more resources to handle increased traffic. 

They typically provide faster server response times and can better handle concurrent requests, reducing the chances of your site becoming slow or unresponsive during high-traffic periods.

You can search for “best hosting providers 2023” in Google and flip through some comparison articles. 

Quick advice from us:

When selecting a hosting provider look for these things:

  • Scalability options
  • Good technical support
  • Price/quality ratio
  • Security

Don’t forget to backup

The preparation process requires you to implement a lot of changes to your site. Hence, there will be a higher risk of something going wrong. 

Regularly backing up your WordPress site is essential, especially before a high-traffic event. 

In case of any unexpected issues or data loss, having a recent backup ensures you can quickly restore your site to its previous state. Utilize reliable backup plugins or services to automate this process and store your backups securely. 

Plugins like VaultPress can help you schedule automated backups and store them on remote locations or cloud storage services.

Implement web caching

Web caching involves storing static versions of your website's pages and serving them to visitors instead of dynamically generating them with each request. 

Website without caching

By implementing caching to your site, you will experience a lot of improvements such as:

  • Your web server won’t have to handle each HTTP request
  • You will see an improvement in server response time
  • Your site will load much faster
  • Repeat visitors won’t need to re-download the same resource every time

Website with caching

You can set up caching yourself using HTTP headers, hire a web developer to do the job or install a WordPress plugin like NitroPack, which can do all the heavy lifting for you. 

Leverage fully-automated web caching. Install NitroPack today →

Apply image optimization

According to the Web Almanac:

A look at the median weight of the most common resource content types making up the weight of pages shows images are the largest contributor.”

Median page weight

In other words:

Large, unoptimized images can significantly slow down your site.

So applying image optimization is crucial for reducing page load times and improving overall performance. 

Here are a couple of techniques you can implement:

  • Convert your images into a next-gen format like WebP
  • Apply compression to reduce file size
  • Serve responsive images
  • Remove unnecessary images
  • Lazy load offscreen images 

Clean up your database

Regularly cleaning up your WordPress database removes unnecessary data and improves its efficiency. 

Over time, your database can accumulate spam comments, post revisions, expired transients, and other unused data, slowing down queries and affecting your site's performance. 

The following plugins can help optimize your database by removing these unnecessary data entries:

They provide options to clean up revisions, auto-drafts, spam comments, transient options, and more. Which gives you a reduced size of your database and improved overall performance.

Keep everything up to date

Ensuring that your WordPress core, plugins, and themes are up to date is crucial before a high-traffic event.

Updates often include bug fixes, security patches, and performance enhancements, which can help optimize your site's performance and protect it from vulnerabilities. 

Regularly check for updates in your WordPress dashboard and promptly apply them. Enable automatic updates for plugins and themes whenever possible, but monitor your site after updates to ensure compatibility and functionality.

How to update WordPress plugins/themes

Minify and compress your JavaScript and CSS

Optimizing your JavaScript and CSS code can significantly improve your site's loading speed during a high-traffic period and in general.

Applying optimization techniques like code minification and compression will significantly boost your performance.  

Minification refers to removing unnecessary characters, such as spaces, line breaks, and comments. This reduces their file size and decreases the time it takes for the browser to download and process them. 

Conversely, compression is applying algorithms to rewrite the files’ binary code, using fewer bits than the original.

There are tons of online tools out there that can do the job for you. Then, all you have to do is copy and paste the optimized code. 

If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can hire a developer or use a WordPress plugin.

Optimize your site’s code with a click of a button. Try NitroPack now →

Optimize your site's code with a click of a button. Try NitroPack now →

Use a CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) may sound complex, but its basic concept is quite straightforward. Essentially, a CDN stores copies of your website on servers located in various parts of the world. When someone accesses your site, they receive a copy of your content from the nearest server based on their geographical location.

To illustrate, suppose your CDN has servers in London, New York City, and Beijing.

In this case, visitors from Europe would receive content from the London server, while visitors from Boston would receive content from the New York City server, and so on.

By reducing the physical distance, loading times are faster, leading to happier visitors.

With CDN

Using a CDN is highly beneficial if your website attracts visitors from different parts of the world, not just one specific location. Especially in a period of a worldwide promo campaign.

Remove unnecessary plugins and themes

The greatest thing about WordPress is that it offers all kinds of plugins and themes. In a couple of hours, you can build a good-looking site that has Amazon’s functionality.

When you first start your WordPress journey, you feel like a kid in a candy store.

You want to try everything. Test several themes, and install all plugins. But as time passes, that could only lead to more problems. 

Having tons of plugins and themes you’re not using will only bloat your code, increase your site’s vulnerability to security risks, and slow down your performance.

That’s why it’s crucial to regularly review your installed plugins and themes and remove any that are no longer necessary. Keep only the essential ones that actively contribute to your site's functionality. Delete any inactive or outdated plugins and themes from your WordPress dashboard. 

How to delete WordPress plugin

Additionally, it’s a good practice to regularly review the plugins and themes you have active and consider replacing them with more lightweight or optimized alternatives whenever possible.

Replace all your speed optimization plugins with the best all-in-one solution. Get NitroPack today →

Test your website

Although it comes last, you should test your website before applying any of the abovementioned optimizations. It’s essential to set some benchmarks before and after changing things on your website.

That’s the single best way to learn what has a true impact on your site’s performance. 

You can test your website using tools like:

  • PageSpeed Insights
  • GTmetrix
  • Pingdom
  • WebPageTest

They will analyze your site's speed, performance bottlenecks, and areas that need improvement. They will also provide detailed reports and suggestions for optimizing various aspects of your website, such as:

Address any identified issue to optimize your site further and ensure it can handle the expected high traffic efficiently.

Next Steps

You now have the blueprint for preparing your website for sudden spikes in pageviews and planned high-traffic events.

We’ve covered a lot of ground, so here’s a handy checklist you can use when you start working on your site:

  1. Plan in advance so you don’t rush any of the optimizations
  2. Test your website prior to making changes to set some benchmarks
  3. Re-evaluate your hosting service and upgrade (if necessary)
  4. Don’t forget to backup
  5. Implement web caching
  6. Apply image optimization
  7. Clean up your database
  8. Keep everything up to date
  9. Minify and compress your JS and CSS
  10. Use a CDN
  11. Remove unnecessary plugins and themes
  12. Test your site’s performance after every optimization

Preparing your WordPress site for traffic spikes with NitroPack

We know that looking at a 10-step list can be a little overwhelming. But you can automate a lot of them with the right tools. 

In fact, NitroPack can help you a lot as it offers more than 35 out-of-the-box features:

  • Advanced caching
  • Complete image optimization
  • Built-in CDN
  • HTML, JS, and CSS optimization
  • Font optimization
  • And more

All you have to do is install NitroPack, and it starts optimizing your website automatically. 

Also, being an all-in-one solution, NitroPack will replace all your page optimization plugins, keeping your WordPress installation leaner.

But the best part is - you shouldn’t take our word at face value. You can test NitroPack for free and experience the difference in performance for yourself.

Test NitroPack for free →

Niko Kaleev
Web Performance Geek

Niko has 5+ years of experience turning those “it’s too technical for me” topics into “I can’t believe I get it” content pieces. He specializes in dissecting nuanced topics like Core Web Vitals, web performance metrics, and site speed optimization techniques. When he’s taking a breather from researching his next content piece, you’ll find him deep into the latest performance news.