…er, your web site, that is….

A few weeks ago at SMX Social Media, presenter after presenter (myself included) stressed the importance of making sure your hosting would be able to handle the effects of a strong viral campaign. The message was simple: “If you’re going to target Digg, reddit, del.ico.us and the like, be prepared.” There is no bigger waste than seeing a great piece of viral content fall flat because the server couldn’t withstand the load. And yes, these sites can deliver a lot of traffic.

Here are some of the key reasons you should never allow your site or blog to go down, even for a few seconds:

Your website will be offline. Duh—of course! If your website isn’t up you can’t make sales. It can’t give information about your company. It can’t do any of the things that you built it to do. Any downtime is too much. It’s akin to promoting a sale for your store, hiring extra workers to handle the load, buying extra merchandise to sell in the store, and then forgetting to unlock your doors. All of your customers are waiting outside (on a social site reading a snippet of your story) and trying to get in (click through) and they just can’t. They get frustrated, walk away, and doubtfully return. But let’s look beyond that for a moment and see what you lose specifically from your viral campaign.

Links. Many of our clients have one major goal with viral pieces: get me links. But when your site goes down it makes this very hard. How can people link to a page that isn’t there? On Digg for example, people will throw up mirrors (such as DuggTrends) when your site goes down and will then give out links to the mirrors in the comment section. This is helpful to users, sure, but those precious links you are after will go to these mirrors instead of your own URL (or, more likely, nowhere at all).

Bookmarks. Your site just hit the homepage of Reddit. Many of those users will use another service (such as del.ico.us) to bookmark it for later. This will lead to return visits, more exposure, and possibly the “Popular” page there. But if your site isn’t up, people aren’t going to bookmark it. Why would you bookmark something when you don’t know what it is?

Increases your bury meter. Many users will feel that if your site can’t stay up then what good is it to them? And thus – why does it deserve to be on the homepage of “their” site? When your site goes down, you are just giving users another reason to bury it.

No user engagement. This is especially true for blogs. You want comments, you want people subscribing to your RSS feeds, and you want them to “look around.” If they can’t access your content, they can’t do any of those things.

What’s one of the easiest ways to prevent downtime? Talk to your web site host or server administrator. Find out the real capabilities of your hosting setup. Give them a heads up on your plans (date and times of your scheduled viral launches) and make sure they can handle it. If they say they can’t, get a better system in place before moving forward. If they tell you not to worry and they know that the site can handle “at least 100 visitors at a time,” step back. It’s not worth flushing all of your hard work down the drain because you were impatient.

There is analogy after analogy that I can write here to try to drive my point home. But when it comes to keeping your hosting up and really taking full advantage of the tremendous benefits of a successful linkbait piece, the best advice comes from the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared!

Chris Winfield is the President and Co-Founder of 10e20, an Internet marketing company that specializes in social media & search marketing services and is based in New York & Florida. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social | Social Media Marketing

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About The Author: is the President and Co-Founder of 10e20, an Internet marketing company that specializes in social media and search marketing services. He is considered one of the leading authorities on social media marketing in the world today.

Connect with the author via: Email



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