Recently, one of my posts on this site got picked up at Reddit.com, resulting in a flood of traffic — nearly 40,000 page views in a matter of hours. Looking back at the traffic numbers, there are some pretty interesting findings, shared in this post.
For those not familiar with Reddit, it is a link aggregation site with a huge readership (over a billion page views every month) and thousands of topic areas (called subreddits.) I posted to the programming subreddit, an active developer community.
Before we get to the numbers, a word of warning: If you host your own site, make sure it’s ready! This site runs on a basic WordPress install, running on Amazon’s Web Services (AWS). We have a load balancer (ELB), two application servers (EC2), and a managed database server (RDS), which has proven to be a reliable configuration in the past. Within minutes of posting to Reddit, this formerly modestly trafficked site was deluged, and WordPress had opened millions of database connections. The servers went down!
Thanks to the flexibility of AWS, we were able to get some more powerful servers up and running with our website on it within minutes, and setting up some basic caching helped further. We’ve since invested a bit more tech time (installing memcache and S3/Cloudfront-based file hosting), and can handle order of magnitudes more traffic than we could previously.
So without further ado, what did this traffic spike really look like?
- More than 36,000 page views (mostly over two days)
- near 4X increase in average weekly visitors
– Before: 400/week
– After: 1500/week
Since the article was picked up, we’ve seen a continued boost in site traffic, both from the original reddit post and other sources, including Twitter in particular, as well as web development newsletters.
One interesting result is the shift in which web browser our site visitors use. Previously:
Now, our traffic looks like this: (excluding the two peak days, which were even heavier Chrome)
You can see that Chrome, a web browser popular with programmers, is now the most popular. We’ve essentially shifted the demographics of our visitor population. (The relative value of that traffic is a different discussion; as a company, we typically don’t sell to programmers.)
It will be interesting to see how the traffic lift plays out over coming months. What with all the other hit posts I’ll be writing (yeah, right). In any case, in the past we’ve seen top content providing a lift in traffic that can last years, as well as a definitive SEO boost as the number of other sites that link to ours increases over time.
One last thing: I’ve submitted a presentation proposal to the South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive conference on the Pink Sombrero topic. If you found this information useful, I’d appreciate a vote for my SXSW topic here.