Pantheon Scales Mr. Money Mustache to 7 Million Monthly Pageviews

Going Beyond WordPress Hosting, Pantheon Helps Double Traffic by Removing Servers

In 2005, successful software engineers Pete Adeney and his wife had an epiphany—with the right money management and investments, they could retire at the age of 30 and spend their time raising their family. With a significant cut in expenses, smart investing, and a keen sense of what matters most, Pete and his wife have been happily retired for more than ten years.

Halfway into their journey, Pete realized that more and more friends and family were seeking his help and wanting to learn his money management philosophy. An avid writer, Pete began to put all of his thoughts, successes, and tactics on his website, Mr. Money Mustache, and the followers soon came. “Over the next few years the audience grew exponentially, helped by news interviews and features which brought in people from all over the world. Suddenly I had a cult-like movement that required some real work, but at least that work was very rewarding and flexible,” said Pete. Today, Mr. Money Mustache has more than 1.5 million visitors per month and can be seen regularly in interviews on CNN, Huffington Post, Forbes, and The Washington Post.

With Pantheon, we have experts that take care of performance and scaling, while I get to focus on content and audience.

Pete Adeney

As Mr. Money Mustache grew, so did the demands on the website. TV appearances and media articles began to create huge traffic spikes that would bring the site down. “The fun started to fade once the website started to break under the load. The site could generally handle its regular load, but it couldn’t handle peaks. I could see the site go up to 900 concurrent visitors and then choke, dropping to 100, chopping off the wave of potential users. It was all lost opportunity,” he explained. “Turns out that Wordpress sites with heavy traffic demands need a sophisticated management platform backed by experts to manage traffic and performance.”

A seasoned software engineer, Pete thought he would be able to code his way to scalability. Unfortunately the more he tried to fix, the more the site failed. “We tried bigger servers, but the problems returned as traffic grew again. The exasperated technicians at the hosting company had mostly given up on our cause and were probably hoping we'd move on and spare them the pain,” Pete recalled. Soon the site began to crash every few days, and Pete and his team tried a number of quick fixes including disabling comments and using lower quality images. “After a while, I just gave up on posting new content because I knew it would cause a rush of traffic. The site would go down at least once a week.”

The Pantheon Way

Pete looked at several hosting providers like WP Engine and Digital Ocean. However, they were unable to grok the underlying problems on the popular website. Mr. Money Mustache needed more than hosting; it needed deep technical expertise and WordPress know-how. “Many companies would tell me why they were rated high without actually talking about their technology, how it works, and how the problem would be solved. Instead, they seemed to be really excited about getting contracts signed in advance,” Pete said.

Out of frustration he tweeted to his followers that his site was down again and got a response from Pantheon’s CEO Zack Rosen who happened to be a devoted blog reader. Soon Pete was talking with the Pantheon team and getting the technical support he needed. “With Pantheon we knew we were speaking with a tech-savvy team that was more likely to make us successful.” Pantheon was able to fix a number of WordPress plugins, identify holes in existing site code, and quickly migrate the site to Pantheon’s platform. When the MMM team found themselves struggling to fix some of the site problems, Pantheon brought their partner WP Valet to the rescue. “The site was still pretty much dead. I didn't need directions on how to fix it myself. I needed someone to just get this done immediately, because we were in a total crisis situation. Pantheon’s team and partners were there and fixed it within hours. It has been running happily ever since.”

Dev, Test, Live

Today Mr. Money Mustache continues to grow quickly, and on the Pantheon platform, is easier to manage and scale without any fear of going down. With Pantheon’s Dev, Test, and Live environments, Pete and his team are able to iterate on their website and try new ideas to attract new audiences. “In retrospect, I realize how important it is to have experts aligned with my goals working on my website.” Pete clarified. “I've had time since those early days to learn a lot more about making changes to our website in the Pantheon environment.  Now I can see what's slowing down the code, how to make commits, and how to properly work through the development process and test before breaking stuff in the live version.”

With backups, the team knows they can restore their site to its previous version at any time. “It's reassuring to know that I can always go to a backup version with just a click of a button if something were to break. At the same time I can bring in more help to fix the little bugs at any point. It's really taken the stress off the business side. It simply doesn't break anymore,” Pete said.

Pantheon also allows Pete to maintain a parallel site for testing new ideas and content. “I really, really like automatically maintaining parallel sites. Building a test site was very complicated, and we weren’t able to create one. Then suddenly if the site broke we would wish we had put the effort into building a test site. Pantheon already has a test environment and it’s brilliant!”

Scaling Money Mustache

Since moving to Pantheon, Mr. Money Mustache has seen record traffic days. The main blog has seen more than 175,000 pageviews in a single day, whereas it would could not handle 100,000 before the migration. And Pete has peace of mind. “I'm back to what I like to do, which is thinking about what I want to write about. I don't think about hosting anymore. I know that no matter how big the Mr. Money Mustache site grows, it's still small potatoes compared to what it can grow into on Pantheon. It's just a matter of having more containers come up. In the end, I want to run good content and pretty pictures and focus on what our readers are interested in. Not tinkering with the infrastructure.”

Learn about scalable WordPress hosting with Pantheon.

Benefits

  • Peace of mind on a reliable platform 
  • Smooth scaling
  • Top-notch support
  • Streamlined workflow