Page Speed During Peak Season | Pantheon

Page Speed During Peak Season

Interested in the factors that affect page speeds, especially during peak season when it's crucial to keep your site running quickly? Dive into the following article to learn more. 

What do customers get when they come to your site? It seems like that should be an easy question to answer, but it may be a little more difficult than you think. Managing your web pages can be challenging, especially during your peak season, and there are a host of crucial factors to consider. Among the vital things you need to be thinking about are page speeds. How quickly a web page loads determines whether an individual will stay on page or click away and head somewhere else, due to lost interest. 

With this in mind, there are many different things you can do to affect your site’s page speeds, especially during peak season. It’s important to note this, so you can retain customers and keep your bounce rates as low as possible. To put it simply: Customers don’t like waiting around. This is as true in retail shops as in ecommerce, where customers are  looking to purchase their favorite goods and services online. 

This is why you need to be certain you are doing everything you can to make your site run quickly, even if it means spending a little bit of time taking note of what is going on. You want your site running smoothly and efficiently, so your customers are satisfied when browsing for the information and services they want and need. Here, we’ll take a look at the various factors affecting your page speeds, as well as what web developers and marketers should be paying attention to during the web design process — to boost page speeds and retain customers when it matters most.

Peak Demand is (Usually) Foreseeable

You would think marketing and web development teams would be able to predict seasonal demand. After all, people tend to head online more at certain times of the year, and this tends to follow a particular pattern — one you should be able to track by looking back at Internet usage over time. However, this might not necessarily be the case for a few reasons. For one, the Internet has grown tremendously in 2020, and this has made significant changes in what we can expect when it comes to demand for Internet usage. This means we may not necessarily be able to forecast demand as we might have been able in the past (i.e. pre-pandemic). 

We can still look at demand in previous years to get a good idea of what to expect and start getting an idea of when seasonal demand might be higher than normal. This is a great starting point, but it is not the only thing we have to rely on when it comes to predicting demand for Internet usage. Another thing to look at when it comes to predicting seasonal demand is if you are a brand-new company looking at industry-wide data — to get a good idea of trends and have a better understanding of what to expect for Internet usage. 

Additionally, with the rise of issues such as the pandemic throughout 2020, additional complications have been added to demand for Internet usage. This means there are other factors to consider, including stay at home orders, people working from home, and distanced learning — something that has greatly impacted the amount of demand in many locales. Any business needs to take into consideration whether these factors have the potential to impact them. On top of all this, businesses need to begin preparing for alternative futures. This includes a return to normalcy, as well as the potential for extended stay at home orders and a hybrid of the two, all of which may be possible within the future.

Peak Demand Fire Drills

As businesses begin to assess their sites and pages to determine if their systems can cope, they can utilize various tools to test and gather data, giving them more information about whether their systems are ready for the challenge ahead. Some of the best tools at their disposal include the website KPIs they have at their disposal, as well as traffic forecasts they can analyze to make predictions about the readiness of their sites. There are many different KPIs web developers and marketers can take into consideration to determine the readiness of their sites and see whether they are up to the task. For example, one of the best KPIs to consider includes not the standard “Page Speed” metric provided by Google Analytics, but the “Page Timings” KPI you can find in the behavior menu under site speed. 

 

Getting this metric under three seconds is optimal, seeing customers tend to click away after this three-second mark. It’s this Page Timings metric letting you know the percentage of pages loading in three seconds or less, making it an incredibly valuable bit of information, as it will show you just how well your site’s pages are actually doing (and how well they’re doing at different times of the year). Making sure to check it during peak seasons is an absolute must — this will let you know if your site is able to hold up to the rigors of the traffic onslaughts you’re experiencing during these times or if there are other major changes that need to be made. 

There are various ways you can model traffic to your site yourself. While not always the best option, it’s possible to purchase traffic to your site. However, this can potentially damage your ranking, so you may want to avoid doing this if possible. Another option is to consider running a paid ad campaign with targeted pay per click (PPC) ads, especially if you have not done so in the past. A strong targeted PPC ad campaign can bring in a large volume of traffic all at once, allowing you to analyze how your site is able to handle a larger amount of traffic within a certain time frame. You can also consider targeted campaigns through your social media accounts, especially if you already have a substantial following. Getting them to come to your site by having them follow a lead to a special offer can be a great way to analyze how your site holds up within a small time frame. This certainly won't hurt your marketing efforts either! 

While doing this, you can also consider holding a “fire drill,” so your team knows how to handle things, just in case any of your site’s key processes break down. Some common web hosting issues may include missing files leading to errors or plugins weighing a site down, so you can even mimic one of these issues and have a fire drill by mirroring one. Just be sure to do it during a time when you don’t expect to cause too many issues with your site visitors! This will give your team vital practice in finding and resolving issues, so they know what to do when a similar problem arises when there's a large influx of traffic during peak season. 

Focus on Resources

Once you’ve done plenty of testing, you’ll be able to identify any potential bottlenecks and failure points in your website's design. From here, you'll have the opportunity to make improvements anywhere you identify issues. This will vastly speed up your web pages overall, as well as during your peak season. However, it is important to continue with your efforts and not stop. Keep looking for opportunities for improvement, especially when it comes to spillover traffic. 

Always be prepared for spillover traffic during the peak season. You never know when you will have more people coming to your website, and you need to be ready for this. People will always be ready to bounce from your site if it takes too long for your web pages to load, and you always want to be ready for any additional traffic. Being ready for additional traffic is always a good thing! You want to be prepared for the people you may have coming to your site. 

Even if you are able to cater to the people you have on your site now, you never know if you will be ready for the people who will be coming to your site if traffic increases during a holiday rush or if something happens, such as another lockdown, as we've seen during the pandemic of 2020. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to be prepared, from measuring your KPIs right now to running tests to checking everything on your site, just to see if you are truly ready if something happens tomorrow. 

In preparation for peak season, are you interested in optimizing your website's speed but not sure where to start? Check out Pantheon's Website Speed Test for a great starting point when evaluating your website's overall performance. 

Hero image by Alessio Lin via Unsplash



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