Web 2.0 survival guide

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  • July 2, 2007
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Seeing thousands of visitors flooding onto your website when it gets featured on a popular social network is the best feeling in blogging.

Thanks to the fast moving nature of Web 2.0 you only have one chance to take full advantage of your moment in the limelight so I’ve produced a quick guide to stop you ending up like the thousands of people whose servers die for 12 hours as soon as they hit the Digg homepage.

Here are the 12 things you need to survive the Web 2.0 effect:

48 hours of your time

Assuming your content is really outstanding you might start getting traffic from sites like Digg, del.icio.us, reddit and StumbleUpon. This won’t all come at once.

If your site is on Digg it will take maybe 20 hours from submission to hit the homepage whereas StumbleUpon can start sending traffic within minutes.

Quite a lot of diggers will bookmark interesting content on del.icio.us when they see it on the Digg homepage so you can get a spike from del.icio.us/popular up to 24 hours after the site hits the digg homepage.

Getting traffic from these sites is a really addictive feeling and to make the most of it you should probably clear 48 hours to spend refreshing your stats and monitoring technorati to see who is writing about you.

Good hosting

If you are to survive the kind of traffic onslaught that sites like Digg and Slashdot can throw at you then the right hosting is a must have.

After reading the result of the Smart Hosting Experiment last week we switched hosts to the winner, Burton Hosting, and the uptime has been pretty much 100% ever since.

Bandwidth

Really you should try to find a host with unmetered bandwidth so you don’t have to worry about large spikes but if you are subject to limits there are a few precautions you need to take.

If you have high quality images adding up to say 250kb on a blog post that gets 20,000 page views in a day you quickly burn through 5Gb of bandwidth. You need to decide early on whether you want to move the images to an external image host or reduce the quality a bit.

Assuming your images are important I would recommend moving them rather than reducing the quality – first impressions count and you want your images to stand out.

Caching

Even with good hosting you can still have trouble if your pages are running several database queries when they load. Sometimes WordPress uses 16 queries just to load a blog page which will crash mysql on a lot of shared hosts if the site gets dugg.

If you run WordPress it’s pretty easy to install caching using the WordPress cache plugin. For other sites I recommend following this basic tutorial or this advanced php caching tutorial to learn how your pages can be cached.

The general principle is that when your page is loaded a copy is saved on your server. The next time the page loads it checks to see how old the cached page is and either loads if from the cache or generates a new cached version.

Bookmark buttons

Quite a lot of social bookmarkers use more than one bookmarking service so you will find visitors from digg wanting to submit your page to reddit and give you the StumbleUpon thumbs up.

To help and encourage this you should make sure you include a few buttons at the bottom of your page. WordPress users have it easy and can just install one of these plugins. Other people might need to either write some code or manually install them.

Remarkable content OR Thick skin

If your site hits the Digg homepage you better hope that your content is really good otherwise some of the comments can be quite harsh.

Luckily digg has ways to make sure only the best content reaches the homepage so it is rare that low quality content makes it and stays there more than a few minutes.

Before you publish your content run the text through Word to check spelling & grammar and maybe include a high quality image to make the page stand out from the crowd.

Remove your adverts

Visitors from social sites such as digg and del.icio.us at best don’t click on ads and at worst won’t even see them thanks to their ad blockers so there is no point in showing them.

Bloggers are also much more likely to link to a site if it is ad free so should consider removing your ads for a week until the web 2.0 effect has died down.

Remove your widgets

Unless your widgets are being loaded using an IFRAME they will probably slow your site down at some point. If your site is being hammered with hundreds of visitors per minute from Digg the chances of a widget slowing your site down shoot up.
Some widgets are backed by large companies with big servers but you really shouldn’t take the risk that a third party application could bring your site down.

Block duggmirror

Everybody loves duggmirror, apart from the poor webmaster who sees their traffic diverted from the original page and their hard crafted content reproduced elsewhere.

Assuming you use a good host and some kind of caching mechanism your site won’t crash so you won’t need duggmirror.

If you’re really confident about your hosting you can block duggmirror using robots.txt using the code below:


User-agent: duggmirror
Disallow: /

If you aren’t sure about your server handling the load it might be an idea to plan ahead. Implementing a htaccess solution to redirect social network traffic to Coral cache is a good way to take the load off your site if you really can’t hack the traffic.

Another solution is to make a static html version of your page and redirect the traffic to that instead. After a couple of days you can direct the traffic back to the original page again.

Make sure you can implement these solutions quickly should the need arise.

Comment moderation

We have all seen blog posts hit the front page of digg with a load of spam in the comments. Some unscrupulous people will watch for upcoming stories and add spammy comments just to get loads of traffic.

Make sure you are moderating comments. Nothing kills a conversation faster than the first comment being about herbal remedies. Also try to moderate real comments quickly to encourage more comments.

Nice friends

Sometimes the comments on sites like Digg are steered in a negative path by arguments or users who are being negative about the thread for some reason.

If you have some friends or readers from your site willing to post positive comments to help steer the conversation back on track you will find you get more diggs and a much more pleasant web 2.0 experience.

A web 2.0 loving family

Unless your family understands web 2.0 they might get a bit upset when you disappear for 24 hours to continually refresh Google Analytics so it helps if you can give them some advance warning and explain to them the importance of getting 20,000 new visitors.

It helps if they are social bookmarkers themselves so they can really appreciate the situation and offer appropriate words of congratulations, otherwise you will be treated to blank stares and comments like “Is that good?” when you excitedly announce how your site is being hammered with 1000 visitors per hour.

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