With over 450 million installations, WordPress is the single most popular way to create a website today. However, many people have the impression that WordPress is just for blogs or smaller websites that don’t get a lot of traffic. But is this statement accurate? Can WordPress sites scale for larger amounts of visitors, too?
In this post, we will address a simple question: does WordPress scale? The short answer: yes! WordPress is very scalable, as long as you make smart decisions as your site grows. We’ll also discuss why you should prepare your site for scaling, even if you don’t anticipate a ton of traffic.
Let’s get scaling!
Yes, WordPress Can Scale
As we mentioned in the intro, the short answer is that WordPress can definitely scale. There is no doubt about it. Every day, thousands of sites running WordPress manage heavy loads without any issues.
However, it’s important to note that WordPress is sometimes not scalable out of the box. It depends on your particular theme, plugins, web host, and many other factors. For certain types of sites, a default, unoptimized version of WordPress will struggle to scale.
That said, it’s fairly easy to make WordPress scalable, so it’s not a limiting factor in any way. It’s also essential for any site, as the failure to scale can result in a ruined reputation and lost customers. Thankfully, using an auto scaling solution like Convesio makes scaling effortless.
How can you make WordPress scalable? We’ll get to that in one minute. But first, let’s briefly talk about when you might need to prepare your site for scalability.
When Does WordPress Need to Scale?
When will you need to scale a WordPress site? In more situations than you think! Here are some of the most common scenarios that will bring a ton of traffic to your site in a short period of time.
Big Sales Events
Perhaps the most common scenario for scaling is a large sales event that is limited to a specific time period. Virtually every online business runs special offers on certain days of the year, including Black Friday / Cyber Monday, Easter, Christmas, and the Fourth of July.
Black Friday / Cyber Monday (BFCM), for example, is a 3-day long sales event that happens every November. Sales during BFCM make up a huge percentage of a company’s annual revenues – often 20% or even 30% of their total annual revenue!
As such, customers have come to expect sales on these days – which means that traffic goes up dramatically during these times. In 2021, for example, the Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend increased traffic by roughly 90% in comparison to October.
These are similar to Big Sales events, except they are only for your individual business, rather than being society-wide like Black Friday or Christmas.
For example, you may have a 7-day countdown discount for a newly launched product. As the deadline approaches, your traffic will increase at a manageable rate. But when the last hours and minutes approach, it will spike as customers try to grab the deal before it expires. No one wants to miss out on a big discount!
If you didn’t prepare for this, your site will likely slow to a crawl – or not work at all! This is a double disaster, as you lose both the immediate sale and you give a bad impression to the potential customer, scaring them off and losing future sales. First impressions matter, especially when it comes to selling products online.
The reverse scenario of having a countdown to launch a new product is also common. If you sell an item with a limited quantity (for example, a concert ticket) many people will rush to your site at the last minute to try and get one. This is how auctions work, like in the image above (which uses the YITH WooCommerce Auctions plugin.)
Viral Content on Social Media
It’s difficult to predict what will go viral on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok. Sometimes, the post you thought would get attention fell flat, while another post unexpectedly blew up. The cause could be a celebrity mentioning your product, an international news story, or simply a hashtag that spreads on Twitter.
For this reason, you should always be prepared for any sudden influxes of traffic coming from social media sites, especially if your content relates to current events.
Large Email Blasts
When you send out a large amount of emails at once, you’ll also get a large burst of traffic on your website. Even if you’re just sending a newsletter, you’ll still get web traffic, as some subscribers prefer to read articles on your blog, rather than in their email client.
However, this is even more relevant if your email blast is a sales or discount offer – especially if the deal is only for a limited time. When subscribers see a discount email, they’ll immediately rush to your site. Most email marketing providers can send emails in a short period of time (e.g. thousands of emails within an hour), which means you’ll get a ton of traffic all at once!
If you aren’t prepared for scaling and your site crashes under the load, you could lose both sales and email subscribers. Subscribers may unsubscribe from your email list in frustration. After all, no one likes to almost get a great deal!
Featured on Popular Media
Being featured on traditional media formats like a television show or newspaper article will also bring a huge amount of traffic to your site in a short period of time.
For example, if you are featured on a television show like Shark Tank, your business’s website will quickly get 10-100x as much traffic in a matter of minutes. If you aren’t prepared for it, you’ll give a very bad impression to millions of viewers. This can be disastrous, especially if people start complaining about it on social media. Not being prepared is a sure way to ruin your reputation.
Contests and Giveaways
Contests and giveaways will bring a ton of new people to your site that aren’t regular visitors. Indeed, this is one of their primary advantages as a marketing method.
However, this also means that you need to be prepared for a huge influx of traffic, most of which will come to the contest page – and not to other pages on your site that normally get traffic from “regular” visitors.
E-Learning & Membership Sites
Finally, e-learning sites need to handle a large amount of students accessing their sites at the same time, usually during a live course. The most successful e-learning sites have hundreds of thousands of users, so it’s important that every student is able to easily access the learning materials.