Link baiting is a proven form of attracting valuable and search algortihm friendly organic links to a site with thought provoking material, news or an incredible offer. Sometimes a well written article or blog post, or a ‘giveaway’ can result in tens of thousands of visitors in a day, along with organic links from their blogs or social news sites and forums. But what happens when your link bait is too good?
I was reading through DigitalPoint forums last night and found this account of excellent link (or traffic) bait, but an unprepared hosting account, which led to the site being booted off of its server.
I had a contact who works for a brewery, we got a load of branded soccer balls from them for pretty much next to nothing. We agreed we would cover shipping and post them out, taking applications from our site. The brewer gets some nice publicity and doesnt need to waste man-hours or post/packing costs, and we get some traffic and publicity.
Anyway I put up a page on the site for people to fill in their address. Within 12 hours, my stats were showing about 65 thousand page views. I don’t know how high it would have went – we got kicked off our host, for apparently using too much server resources. It was on a reseller.
We weren’t running any complicated scripts or anything, so its disappointing to say the least to get canned simply for a lot of page views – we were way under our bandwidth allowance.
Since it went a bit wonky I cant really post the url here. I’ve heard of peoples sites crashing from digg first page, but no way thought I was in danger of being overwhelmed with this. I did underestimate things, but I think more of the blame is on Godaddy for canning me with no real reason.
Brewery + Free Soccer Balls = An Amazing Offer and very geared towards college students & soccer fanatics, plenty of whom own blogs. This is an example of not only a good traffic builder, but also an excellent way of generating links, bookmarks and notice to a site (mixed with some posts on soccer forums and social sites). Heck, the linky mix of balls and beer is as much of a given as betting that all the SEO girls want Rand Fishkin.
Problem is, like many site owners who have small shared hosting accounts, this user was not fully prepared for the influx of traffic. Here are some ways to prepare for this after effect of a really good idea:
Bandwidth and Server Drain
Access your web hosting plan and allow for a boost in bandwidth for the rest of the month, so you do not run out of bandwidth. If you’re planning a link bait or see the profile of your news rising on Digg or Delicious, contact your hosting company immediately to let them know of the upcoming server load. Worse case scenario is that they’ll charge you a little more for this, but it will be worth it. If you can’t contact your host, it’s time to change to a company which you can get a hold of. Don’t mess around with bad hosting.
With a VPS (virtual private server) or reselling account, you should be able to handle this easily by limiting the amount of allowed bandwidth from other sites, and adding that bandwidth to your major bandwidth drain site. If you have a regular hosting account and fear a bandwidth drain, contact you host immediately for extended bandwidth.
Install WP-Cache 2.0
If you use WordPress to power your blog (or as a CMS for your site) the WP-Cache 2.0 plug-in can be a godsend for cutting down on server drain during link baits or marketing campaigns (which used to be the SlashDot effect, now commonly known as the Digg effect).
WP-Cache is page caching system which makes your site much faster and responsive. It caches Worpress pages and stores them in a static file for serving requests directly from the file rather than loading and compiling the whole PHP code and then building the page from the database. WP-Cache allows to serve hundred of times more pages per second, and to reduce the response time from several tenths of seconds to less than a millisecond.
Load Time & Advertisements
Sometimes the traffic will effect load time, but for variables which are not housed on your server account. If you’re running ads which come from smaller 3rd party advertisers (or hotlinked images), the link bait traffic may slow down their server too. This stall in some of the advertising scripts being called upon during the page load. What’s more important .. advertising impressions or load time? In this case the publisher was collecting valuable addresses and contact information, so that is much more important than a simple ad. [Hit counters and widgets may also fall into this group]
Slow Down Blog Commenting
PHP scripts like blog commenting can also slow down your server and stall the user experience. One way to slow this down is to require readers to register in order to leave a comment. Chances are, they won’t take the time to leave the comment. Or, just turn off the comment box on your blog and replace it with an RSS Subscription Link.
The Ultimate Change : PHP to HTML
Once in the past I had such a surge of traffic from a Google News #1 link that I had to save the post itself as an HTML file and replace the index.php file on my server with the HTML file.
This cut down on server drain dramatically and also served the story which 99.99% of my traffic over a three hour period wanted to see. The sacrifice led to the other stories on my blog not being read, and replaced with the breaking story, so consider this a last resort (or just redirect all of the traffic to the Dilbert Blog if all of these techniques fail)