How to Scale Your WordPress Site for High Traffic

Want your WordPress website to get more traffic? You have to scale it properly first! Learn how in the text below.

At any point in time, your website can see an enormous surge in traffic. Be it an excellent blog, a brilliant video, a viral meme, or a valuable review by a reputable authority, anything can bring unbelievable amounts of traffic to your site and break the internet. At this point, your site must perform at its optimum. This is the point where you create loyal customers and regular happy visitors.

Higher bounce rates, broken links, inadequate server resources, or site crashes bruise your SEO and SERP rankings severely.

Scale Your WordPress Site

WordPress landing page on laptop

It is the goal of every website creator to bring as much traffic as possible to a website and generate maximum leads for their business. However, if it ever so happens, then you must be equipped to scale your website accordingly. With WordPress, most of the technical aspects of creating and managing a website become very easy. Similarly, scaling a WordPress site is no rocket science too.

There are a few very fundamental changes that must happen to allow your website to:

  • Take more visitors
  • Properly log data
  • Apply multiple caching layers
  • Address HTTP requests
  • Create a high-end coding architecture
  • Load media resources optimally

This guide will help you scale your WordPress site at a moment’s notice. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Managed WordPress Hosting

Man with laptop in server room

The first step in efficiently scaling your WordPress site can be taken care of by a managed WordPress hosting provider. As the name suggests, managed WordPress hosting plans will take the burden off your shoulder. The provider takes care of the security, updates, backups, and performance of your site.

With ‘unmanaged hosting’, the service provider often leaves the task of running and scaling your site in your hands. However, a managed hosting service provider dedicated to WordPress offers scalability options that you can employ at your own pace very quickly. Many managed hosting providers also provide dedicated professionals that can scale your website for you as per your requirements.

2. Be Prepared With Vertical and Horizontal Scaling

While you choose your web host, ensure that vertical and horizontal scaling is possible with their plans. Essentially, vertical hosting refers to tiered plans, which you can upgrade as your needs change. If you think that your traffic is increasing steadily, then you must look at other plans that allow you more bandwidth, visitor capacity, more server resources, storage, etc.

Shared hosting is ok, to begin with. However, you can always choose to shift to VPS or dedicated servers when your site sees more traffic.

When your site begins to realize truly enormous traffic, your vertical hosting plans won’t serve the purpose anymore. Here you need to explore horizontal scaling. Horizontal scaling separates the website into many layers instead of hosting them on a single server. Essentially, you divide your website into layers like front-end server, database server, proxy layer, and image layer. This way, you can scale the resources for only those parts that need it.

3. Use SSD Drives

HDD next to SSD

HDD drives are slowly becoming obsolete as SSD drives have come into the market. SSD drives are more reliable, secure, and fast than their HDD counterparts. Before taking a hosting plan, check which kind of storage drives do they use.

This simple decision will smoothen a lot of things for your website.

4. Employ a CDN for Your Server

Employing a CDN is a great way to boost speed for your site. Especially if traffic is coming in from all over the globe, adding a CDN to your server can benefit you immensely. A CDN reduces the distance between the visitor and the server by caching the content at local servers worldwide.

Before and after CDN illustration

Image source: SoftLoom IT Solutions

It is great if your content doesn’t change very frequently.

5. Upgrade Your Security

Security tab in WordPress

With a boost in traffic, you will also see more threats on your site. Potential threats can break your site and even be dangerous for visitors. It is advisable to use a premium security plugin that takes care of your:

  • Server caching
  • Server-side CDN
  • Firewall
  • Security monitoring and management (especially for DDoS)

Apart from the plugin, ensure to keep up with the security practices that help you keep your website secure. Here is a security checklist you must create for yourself:

  1. Update your WordPress core, themes, and plugins
  2. Remove unused and outdated plugins
  3. Invest in premium and licensed plugins and themes
  4. Change your password periodically; maintain strong admin passwords
  5. Allow multi factor authentication

If you want to make sure that your WordPress website is 100% secure, it’s always best to hire a professional WordPress developer to check the technical side of things. Security plugins can save you lots of time, but they are not always enough.

6. Adjust MySQL/MariaDB

For each request WordPress makes to MySQL/MariaDB, including both read and write operations, it creates a load on the server. In high-traffic situations, multiple simultaneous database connections cause severe strain on the servers resulting in a “Connection timed-out” or “Server timed-out” response in the visitor’s browser.

It is advisable to make adjustments to MySQL and MariaDB to ease the strain caused by high traffic and resulting database requests coming from it.

You can also use a caching plugin that minimizes HTTP requests on your site. This will allow you to reduce the number of file transfers between servers and visitors. It will help you load faster, even with high traffic.

7. Embed Media and Use Lazy Loading

Image gallery on PC

As traffic increases on your website, the requests to load media files will put the maximum strain on server resources. Since media is an integral part of the internet today, it has become indispensable. But slow loading media files will be damaging for your website’s SEO and ranking. It is best to embed media from YouTube, Vimeo, etc., instead of uploading it on your own server.

You can also use lazy loading to drop the weight from your servers by loading only those media files on your website, which the visitor is currently looking at. Media files that are below or above the visible screen won’t load.

Wrapping Up

Either your traffic will increase gradually, or it will spike up suddenly one day. Whenever there is a high-traffic situation, your website must be equipped to take on the incoming load. These were the most fundamental tips which you can employ to scale your WordPress website according to your changing needs.

We hope these tips help you successfully scale your websites at a moment’s notice.

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Published on April 27, 2021 by Peter Hughes; modified on September 30, 2022. Filed under: , , .

Peter Hughes is a digital marketing consultant and author. Peter has more than 10 years of experience in SEO and Internet marketing.

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