How to Prepare for a Surge in Website Traffic

Portrait of Laura Davey
by Laura Davey
Sep 12, 2018
Illustration with a computer and traffic lights.

So you’ve decided to invest in publisher advertising - you’ve chosen a great fit for your brand, written your copy and supplied a killer image. Job done. Time to sit back and relax, right?

Sorry to tell you, but your work’s only just begun!

Whenever you run an advertising campaign, such as sponsoring an email newsletter, you need to be prepared for it to really take off, especially if you’re launching a new product or reaching a new audience.

But, all this attention can go nowhere fast if you haven’t got the right process in place on your website. So, how do you turn a surge in traffic into measurable and effective results?

Follow this five step plan to get ready for your ad being seen and (hopefully) clicked by tons of new potential customers.

1. Set up campaign tracking

It’s likely that your company is already using a web analytics service, like Google Analytics, but now’s a good time to check that it’s set up in the best way to track your new campaign.

One of the most immediately obvious impacts of sponsoring a newsletter will be a spike in page views in the first few hours after it is sent out, with traffic continuing at a higher level than normal for at least a few days.

Page views by themselves are a bit of a vanity metric, though. To really understand the value of your traffic, you’ll need to use segments and goals.

To do this, first make sure the link you provided in the email newsletter has campaign parameters added to the URL, so you can identify traffic from that specific source. Check whether the publisher sending the email will provide this, or whether you’ll need to provide them with your copy.

Either way, next you’ll want to set up a custom segment using the unique campaign name and source so you can compare how visitors from the newsletter behave compared to visitors from other sources, or even from other newsletter campaigns.

Goals can also provide quantitative measures of campaign impact, and are particularly helpful for calculating metrics like ROAS as you can assign them monetary values.

One of the most common KPIs is sales, and luckily it’s also a simple goal to configure. Most websites will be built to show a ‘thank-you’ page after purchase, so it’s just a case of setting that page as the target of a destination goal. If you’re mostly expecting lead generation at this stage, then an event goal might be needed to track form submissions or downloads of a whitepaper.

You only get 20 goals per view, so consider if you’d prefer to measure just events or if you need to create a new view—and do this before your campaign goes out, because Google Analytics doesn’t backfill historical data.

2. Review your customer support

If you sell a B2C product, a purchase decision is usually pretty quick for someone to make. But, if you’re selling a product to businesses, particularly software or a subscription service, a buyer might need more time and research before they can hit go.

This means they’re likely to have questions. Does it have function x, is it compatible with software y, is it compliant with policy z?

Go back through customer queries you’ve had in the past and put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Does your FAQ section address all the most common issues? Are the answers comprehensive, reassuring and self-explanatory? If the answer’s no to any of these, then rewrite them and build this section out.

While this will help cut back confusion, there’s still nothing like connecting with a real person. How you make your customer support available is up to you. Email and lead forms are common, but this only works if you reply consistently and quickly.

In fact, the rule with customer service is that the quicker you can respond, the more likely you’ll make the sale. According to this lead response study by Drift, over half (55%) of companies don’t get back to a sales enquiry within a working week, but Salesforce recently found that 80% of business buyers expect real time communications.

So, if you don’t already have one, a live chat system could well be worth the investment in converting leads from your traffic. Just make sure you have people on the other end when your campaign launches.

3. Check and optimize your drip strategy

When a potential buyer visits your website from your email newsletter, you’ve done a great job in making them aware and interested in your product. But, that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to buy yet.

Think of the process in terms of the demand generation funnel. Currently your potential customers are at the top, but they need to evaluate and commit before you make the sale.

Lead nurturing is an important step in this process, and a common way to do this is through drip campaigns — automated emails sending out prompts and encouragement at every stage of the funnel. If you’re not using these yet, look at companies like Jumplead, Autopilot, the aptly named Drip, and even good old MailChimp, which can all help you create email workflows.

If you already have these in place, but it’s been a while since you set them up, investing in a new campaign is a good prompt to check them over again. If the information they provide is outdated or no longer meets the right needs at the right times, they’re not going to be as effective as they once were.

Make sure scheduling reflects your latest understanding of the buying process and lag times involved. Review the email content to make sure it’s up-to-date with current information on your company’s products, contact details and social profiles.

If you have the bandwidth, it’s also worth creating a custom email flow for people whose original source matches your sponsored URL parameters. How can you customize your outreach to more closely align with how they found you? The more relevant your copy, the better it will perform.

Checking that everything is still working from a technical point of view is also a good idea, which might involve testing that workflow triggers are configured correctly and consistently across your site, and that none of the links are broken.

Assessing, updating and optimising your automated workflows before new traffic from your campaign hits will help you maximize your conversion rates.

4. Make sure your website can cope with high traffic

This part often gets left at the bottom of the list because it’s not particularly glamorous and can seem daunting if you’re not a technical marketer. But, that’s really no excuse because it can make a huge impact on user experience, and ultimately conversions.

Remember dial-up? Waiting 5 minutes for a single page to load line by line? Nowadays, users expect a website to be fast. Like, really fast. A recent Kissmetrics survey found that nearly half (47%) expect a page to load in under 2 seconds, and a delay of 3 seconds will risk two-fifths (40%) actually abandoning the website all together.

The last thing you want is to lose your traffic at the first hurdle, so minimizing load speed is incredibly important. Luckily, there are a couple of fairly simple ways to check that your website is up to the job.

For a quick overview, try using a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It will provide suggestions like reducing image file size, leverage browser caching and using asynchronous loading which you can pass to your development team to implement.

As well as making sure your website is built well, you’ll want to make sure it can handle a spike in traffic. Because, if it can’t, downtime could risk killing any positive outcomes from your paid marketing campaign. Check-in with your IT team before it’s too late.

5. Set measurement goals from the start

Whether it’s a spreadsheet, slide deck or just an email update, analysis and reporting is a crucial final step.

Analyzing your results against the KPIs and targets you were expecting allows you to assess the benefit of your campaign. Did the sponsorship have the effect you needed? Maybe it wasn’t as great as you were hoping, or maybe it was even better than you were expecting.

Either way, having a solid plan for measuring the success of your campaign is important for informing your next steps and helping you refine your marketing strategy over time.

All together now

Publisher advertising, such as sponsoring an email newsletter, is a great way to generate website traffic from highly relevant potential customers. Making sure your website, customer support, marketing automation, data analysis and reporting systems are set up ahead of time will help you maximize the benefits of publisher advertising.