Prepare for 2021 with Web Week
December 25 through December 31 has recently become known as, “Web Week.” This is a week where the majority of businesses see low traffic on their sites. Many businesses are using these days to test and update their sites for the upcoming year. At Alpha Hosting we recommend you take advantage of this dip in traffic. In this blog we will go through different areas you can test and update.
Load testing is the process of sending large amounts of fake visitors to your site to see how it reacts. What you want from a load test is to see where your site’s page load time spikes, or becomes completely unavailable. Then you know how large a traffic spike your site can handle based on your existing hosting solution. Since the purpose of load testing is to crash your site you’ll want to make sure to schedule it for off peak hours. We recommend working with your hosting provider and developer to setup, run, and interpret the results of a load test.
At Alpha Hosting our support team will be available to help 24/7/365. We understand the importance of using Web Week to test your site and are ready to assist.
Install a Smart Search Engine
The ability to add smart search on your website can ensure your traffic is getting the results they are looking for. We recommend installing Elasticsearch on your WordPress and Magento websites. At Alpha Hosting we include Elasticsearch for free in all our cloud hosting packages. In our client portal we will provide you with an IP address and port number to launch Elasticsearch on your website.
When installing Elasticsearch on WordPress we recommend you use the ElasticPress plugin. The ElasticPress plugin gives you quick access to a variety of highly customizable site search features. Plus, ElasticPress offers configuration support and advanced setup options. To learn how to install Elasticsearch to your WordPress site follow the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dcQMRAEuqE
The ElasticPress plugin is managed by 10up, a full service digital agency that specializes in WordPress. You can view some case studies showcasing what ElasticPress can unleash for your own WordPress projects on ElasticSearch.io. The 10up team is also standing by to help with any customization or expert consulting needs you may have for ElasticPress or WordPress in general.
With the recent updates to Magento 2, it is more important than ever to include Elasticsearch on your site. Elasticsearch is now the only smart search option available on the Magento 2 platform. To learn how to install Elasticsearch to your WordPress site follow the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aok_J3u-JW4
Caching is going to help you win the site speed battle and save you during a large spike in traffic. Think of it as adding super speed and strength to your site. Depending on the application (WordPress, WooCommerce, Magento, etc.), you have several options for caching. Most popular caching plugins (we recommend W3Total Cache) for WordPress and WooCommerce can utilize Redis for caching. With Magento 2 we’d recommend setting up Varnish for caching since it is natively supported.
At Alpha Hosting we offer free redis with each of our cloud hosting packages. If you are on a package and don’t have redis set up, Web Week is a great time to get this set up. It’s important to get this setup and tested well in advance of any critical sales days.
One additional caching trick for large sales is to turn your most targeted landing pages into static html. Instead of the content being served by your application, it can just exist as an old school static html file and some images. We’d recommend creating these for your homepage, primary sales landing page(s), and maybe even your top category page(s). This is a short term strategy and won’t help if those pages are intended to change frequently. If you’re running a powerful CDN (Content Delivery Network), like Cloudflare, you can set up rules for this. The CDN will automatically generate a static html version of the pages you indicate. Then those speedy, static pages will be served to the visitor from the geographically closest server.
CDN (Content Delivery Network)
One of the easiest and most effective ways to provide a fast browsing experience for your visitors all over the world, is to employ a fast and secure Content Delivery Network from a proven leader in CDN technology. Alpha Hosting is proud to be a partner with Cloudflare, and we include their Pro version with our cloud hosting packages.
Over Web Week, we recommend examining your current CDN. Most CDNs have a number of features you can tune to match your specific needs. Are you using a CDN? We highly recommend installing one, if not. If you are currently on a cloud hosting plan and don’t have one, reach out to our support team and we will help you get it setup; or if you are looking for a more inclusive plan, let us know and we will point you in the right direction to upgrade.
Even if you are happy with your CDN, this is still a good time to check your site’s bandwidth, loading times, update page rules, and verify the control panel configuration.
Since every site is built a little differently the number of PHP workers you need can vary. The best way to find this number is to look at how many PHP workers you’re currently using. Hopefully your current web host provides this information for you. At Alpha Hosting we provide this information in the client portal. Once you get a baseline for how many PHP workers you may be using, and what your traffic volumes are, then you can plan for future increases. If your current web host doesn’t provide you with handy graphs like this not to worry! Just call or chat with one of our awesome team members. We’re glad to help get you sized correctly and rest easy knowing you can upgrade or downgrade with the click of a button.
Plugins and Extensions
Most, if not all, modern CMSs have some form of plugins. Additional code intended to enhance the feature set of the stock application. When it comes to these plugins and extensions there are two main things you’ll want to focus on during Web week.
First, make sure all your plugins are up to date. If it’s been a while since you’ve done this you’ll definitely want to test the updated versions on a development site before going live. Updating plugins isn’t a once a year thing either. If you don’t do this on a regular (see weekly) basis then you should create a plan for doing so in 2021. This goes a long way to preventing the If you are on a WordPress site, Web Week is a great time to make sure all of your plugins are up to date. We recommend you update any plugins needed and then check your site to make sure these updates haven’t broken anything.
Keeping plugins updated is an important part of your general website maintenance. We recommend you make a plan to check for updates monthly or quarterly depending on the volume of plugins you have on your WordPress site.
Check Live Pages
As your site grows pages and blog posts can get disheveled. During these slower periods it is important to go to each page of your site and make sure everything is working correctly. Check links, page titles, and content in general. This can be a tedious process, but links and layouts can get compromised when making other site updates. You don’t want users to stumble upon a broken page that could result in a lost sale or transaction. We recommend using a handy dandy spreadsheet for keeping track of all your URLs, the various pieces of information about each you think is most important (page titles, descriptions, keywords targeted, etc.), and a column for the last time the page was audited.
Also, it’s never a bad idea to test multiple pages each time you update a plugin or change something across your site as a whole. Even a few pages you think are unrelated to the change you just made.
We hope this blog helped you make a plan for Web Week and keeping your website up to date!