6 tips to prepare your website for the holiday traffic spike

As you approach the upcoming busy season, you and your team are probably super excited about the holiday hecticness and revenue spike that come with it. You’ve likely rolled out a new product line, have clever new marketing slogans and are running incredible discounts that will be impossible for your customers to resist.

However, most marketers, e-commerce platforms and sales managers typically forget to ask themselves a very important question:

Is your website prepared?

It’s not like your website has been overlooked completely – in fact, you may have spent quite a bit of time and energy with some fresh new imagery, discount pop-ups and loading new products into the system.

What many people don’t take into account, though, is running the right tests and optimization efforts before, during and after the busy season. When this happens, your website could totally underperform and there are few things more frustrating for a customer than a laggy website or clunky checkout process.

Here are 6 things you should be doing to prepare for the holiday traffic spike.

1. Run a Site Audit

The first thing you want to do is see how well your site is performing and whether or not it can even handle an increased traffic load. Run a site audit 4-6 weeks before the busy season to make sure you have enough time to make the necessary adjustments and recommendations. 

There are some amazing online tools that will give you in-depth site audits in a matter of minutes, including HubSpot, SEMrush and WooRank. In a matter of minutes, they’ll give you an overall Site Score and break down things you can do to improve SEO, website traffic, site speed and more.

These sites will even list out all the errors and warnings on your site so you can quickly correct things like:

  • Broken links
  • Duplicate content
  • Images without alt tags
  • JavaScript errors
  • Missing meta descriptions 

Keep an eye out for anything labeled as a critical error – those are the things you’ll want to get fixed ASAP.

2. Install heat maps on your site

Have you ever used heat maps on your site? If not, now’s the time. You can install code from a provider like Lucky Orange – which won’t have any impact or page speed or site performance – that will give you some amazing data on how people are using your site.

The three main things you’ll be able to track are clicks, mouse movement (which indicates eye movement) and scrolling. With the heat maps, you’ll get a beautiful visual representation of what activities people are performing on your site, how far down each page they’re looking, and what they’re clicking on.

That data will be invaluable when you’re looking for ways to optimize your site. So, get one of these heat maps installed before the busy season and come back and look at it after.

3. Run some A/B testing 

A holiday traffic spike is also an awesome time to run some A/B testing because you can get a ton of meaningful data in a short period of time. Consider a few opportunities to run A/B testing for things like your main offer, your hero statement or the language in your CTAs. 

This will give you the chance to see what’s converting, what’s resonating with your audience, what’s delivering results – and what’s not. 

If your busy season is a week or two long, give it a couple of days of A/B testing and then figure out which component of your test is converting better. If your busy season, like many businesses, starts with Black Friday and runs through the holidays, then you’ve got a good 5-6 week window. In that case, run your A/B tests for at least a full week before optimizing.

Some CMSs even have tools to automatically optimize for you. For example, if your website is on HubSpot, then they have an awesome tool called Adaptive Testing, in which you can test up to five variations of something and HubSpot will automatically review what’s performing best and start serving that version the most often.

4. Test the functionality

This one seems obvious, but really run your site through the wringer to make sure there are no gaps in the customer journey, faulty pages or confusing functionality. Have everyone on your team run usability tests by checking it once, double-checking it and then doing it all over again.

Here’s a tip: ask someone who’s not familiar with your website at all – maybe a friend or family member or Linda from Accounting, and ask them to look at your site. You’re probably too close to the situation, so having a fresh set of eyes can be invaluable at this point. Ask for honest feedback, points of confusion and opportunities to improve. Listening to that will only make the customer experience run more smoothly.

5. Make your messaging as clear as possible

Have you ever heard a radio ad or seen a commercial for some kind of discount or special offer, only to go to the website and find nothing about it? Pretty crappy user experience, right?

You need to make sure that both the messaging and layout of your site are as clear as possible so there’s no confusion whatsoever and the website visitor is 100% clear on what they’re supposed to do. Start with the navigation: is everything easy to find? Are there clear directions?

Avoid general terms whenever possible. For example, stray away from boring CTAs that say stuff like “Learn More” or “Click Here.” Instead, use actionable language like “Get Your 15% Discount!” or “Grab ‘X Product’ Before They’re Gone!”

If you’re running some kind of promotional campaign or special offer, make it clearly apparent right at the top of the home page. Remember, if you’re seeing a spike in traffic, this is probably why. Don’t make it difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for. 

6. Make sure your site is secure

Security is of paramount importance, especially if you’re running transactions on your website or collecting personal identification information (PII) in any way. First, make sure your site has an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, which ensures that the connections between networks are secure. 

There are also security tests you can run to look for vulnerabilities, especially if your website has a point-of-sale system or checkout functionality. Similar to the site audit, you can run tests to see how secure your site is and what points need to be addressed.

Once you’ve confirmed that your site is secure, put up visual indicators on your site to make people feel good that their information is safe. For example, PayPal and most SSL Certificate providers will give you some kind of badge icon or “This website is protected by…” language that you can display. 

Turn Data into Action

Okay, so now the busy season is over. Your team was crazy busy, you dealt with an influx of customers, had maybe a few hiccups along the way and hopefully made a bunch of money. Now the hard part is over and it’s time to relax, right?


The follow-up from the busy season is just as important as the preparation. Have a team meeting and talk about what you learned, what could have gone better and how your website can work better and smarter for you.

Look at the heat map data to see what people clicked on, looked at and scrolled to. What insight is it giving you? What action can you take? Were there any surprises in your audience’s behavior? What’s the bounce rate? What are the highest and lowest performing CTAs, and why?

You’ve also got a really captive audience right now. What does your follow-up plan look like? If you’re not pushing retargeting ads, nurturing emails, and more special offers, then you’re missing some huge opportunities to keep the revenue stream coming.

Remember, optimizing your website shouldn’t be a seasonal, crunch-time process. It should be happening all year long so that by the time the next busy season comes around, your website is a lean, optimized machine that’s delivering the results you need – and the headaches you don’t.