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A little over a month ago, one of my blog posts went viral.
It was my post Apple iOS7 Tips & Tricks, published 6 days before the operating system was released to the public. It was based on my experiences as a beta tester.
My previous definition of a viral post was “any post that receives five times your average views in a week.” Because we all have those posts that catch some steam and spread like wildfire, and that’s awesome.
But this was different.
This post was viral.
That single post received 90,720 views in one day.
947,863 views to date.
It brought me the highest day of traffic for My Crazy Good Life, at 160,384 pageviews.
It crashed my blog and put me in hot water with my host.
It cost me a lot of money, and made me miss quite a few deadlines.
And that post spread to other posts within my blog, thanks to interlinks. In just over one month, my little blog had received over one million pageviews.
Boy, have I learned a lot in the past six weeks. And I’m sharing.
Here’s the timeline of the first 9 days the post was published:
Day 1. Published iOS 7 Tips & Tricks on a Friday afternoon after Karen noticed that my guest post on her blog (iPhone 101 Tips & Tricks) was getting a lot of traffic. I pinned it a few times and shared once on Twitter and Facebook.
Day 2. I noticed the post being pinned–a lot. Within 24 hours of being posted, the iOS 7 post was pinned about 2,000 times.
Day 3. Noticing my previous “record high day” of 2,200 pageviews being blown out of the water, I called my host. I’d heard too many bloggers talk about how they got so much traffic that their host shut them down. That wasn’t going to happen to this girl.
Me: So, I have this post that’s going viral. What do I have to do to my account to make sure it won’t be shut down?
Host Gator: Nothing! You’re good – you have unlimited bandwidth, so congrats and enjoy this!
Me: Well, I’m thinking it’s not that easy. You see, I’m at 2,500 views today and we still have three days until the operating system hits, so I’m thinking this is going to be pretty big. Like, tens of thousands of views probably on Wednesday.
Host Gator: I know! Seriously, you’re good – unlimited bandwidth. Don’t stress.
Me: You’re sure? I’m only paying $15/month for hosting. That doesn’t sound very unlimited to me.
Host Gator: You’re in good hands. Don’t stress.
Day 4. I sat, waiting and watching. And watching. I put an ad on the post and signed up for a Google dfp account. I also asked a few of my facebook boost groups to share the post for me, making sure I was getting the maximum amount of eyes on it.
Day 5. The day before the release date of iOS7, and I noticed my blog was a little slow. As I was heading to bed at 10pm I checked my email and there it was: a warning from Host Gator.
I had exceeded my bandwidth and unless I found a way to fix it, they were shutting me down. Their email chain said a few things: disable SEO by Yoast, as it causes excessive loading; enable a super cache; move the post receiving all the traffic to its own static page; disable the search feature on my blog.
I did the things I could, and received another warning about 15 minutes later.
I called them. This was exactly what I didn’t want to happen.
I was put in touch with the rudest customer service rep I’d ever spoken with. I had loved Host Gator up until this point.
I explained that I tried to avoid this by calling Sunday, why wasn’t this mentioned? I had unlimited bandwidth, right?!
Host Gator: Ma’am, UNLIMITED does NOT MEAN INFINITE.
Me: Well, ummm, yes. Actually, it does.
Host Gator: Well, not in terms of bandwidth.
Me: Oh, I must have misunderstood that from our conversation Sunday. Maybe I didn’t ask for enough clarification?
Day 6. The way this works is, you receive a warning that your host has blocked your account. You can choose to lift that block 5 times before it’s permanent.
At this point, Host Gator claimed they could do nothing for me. They couldn’t give me more bandwidth, they couldn’t congratulate me on the traffic and turn their heads to let my blog ride this out, even though my bandwidth usage before this post didn’t ever come close to what I actually paid for.
They couldn’t transfer me to a dedicated server without taking my blog down for 3-5 days.
Today was the release of the new Apple operating system.
My post had been pinned 118,300 times.
My pageviews had been doubling every day since the article posted.
And I was going to be shut down.
I emailed the person who takes care of my technical blog stuff. She listened to me swear. She swore with me. She shook her head when she heard what happened and she told me how to fix it.
I had to change hosting companies.
A Small Orange was recommended to me, and after emailing back and forth a bit (they’re quick and responsive) we had a plan.
Day 7. After a few heated phone calls, Host Gator logged into my WordPress blog, changed the password on me, and kicked me out.
They installed a cache plugin of their choosing, but didn’t activate it.
In addition, they disabled the cache plugin that had previously been activated.
Essentially, they broke their own rules (they said I had to have a cache plugin) and caused my CPU usage to skyrocket, which shut my blog down.
I was the girl. I was the blogger who was on the phone crying to a total stranger and attempting to keep her cool.
I was livid.
That night, my blog helper switched my accounts to a cloud server with A Small Orange. She worked in the middle of the night to avoid the peak traffic hours.
After a series of long outages all day long, Host Gator shut me down at 7pm, which was the start of my peak traffic time, 7pm-11pm.
Day 8. I woke up with A Small Orange. They were helpful and quick to respond to all of my questions. I knew more about caching and bandwidth and CPU usage than I ever needed to know at this point.
After noticing my views were slowing down a bit, the Ninjas at A Small Orange (that’s what they call themselves, it’s in their email signatures) helped me install a cache program into my server and showed me where to keep an eye on my views.
I just went from paying $15/month for hosting to $100/month. I also hired my someone to switch my three sites to A Small Orange and set up my ad network accounts.
Having a viral post is expensive.
Day 9. I had no idea that a viral post could bring you traffic for such a long time. I guess in my head it was a 1-2 day thing. I was 9 days after the post and still seeing tens of thousands of views. The traffic was pouring in from Pinterest at this point.
Total views on the viral post as of 10/30: 534,700
Total pins as of 10/30: 155,000
Here’s what I learned:
Things you have control over:
- Your analytics. You can check them regularly and monitor your traffic, which I highly recommend.
- Your hosting package: switch to a dedicated server as soon as you see a post getting big like that. If I had switched (using my blog helper, not what Host Gator was offering to do) that Sunday when I called to ask Host Gator about my account, I would have been moved to the new server by the time the operating system was released, and wouldn’t have lost those 12 hours of traffic (and ad money!).
- Ads on your blog. You don’t have to put them on every post or on your sidebar, but apply to networks and add them to individual posts that are doing well. The main reason? You’ll be able to quickly ad more of them to your blog when you have a viral post. I had to wait to be approved to different ad networks after this happened, which ended up costing me money.
- SEO. SEO your posts. 80% of my viral traffic came from Pinterest. The other 20% came from searches. To this day, 6 weeks later, 9/10 searches on my blog are for iOS7 issues.
- A great tech guru. Having someone “in my back pocket” during this crazy time was a lifesaver. She offered advice and knows a heck of a lot more about all this than I do. She was there when I needed her and quickly to offer her help at (literally) all hours. She understood what was going on and how important it was to me.
Things you have no control over:
- The speed at which your post travels. Don’t stress about being shut down if it’s going to happen–you can’t do a thing about it. You can’t stop people from clicking on or sharing your post.
- Your blog up-time or downtime. I had to contact a few people and ask for grace when my blog was unstable. I was told that writing posts, checking plugins and other “back end issues” would affect the way the front of the blog was
crashingperforming, so I should stay out. I had three sponsored posts that missed their deadlines, which stressed me out more than anything. But, there was nothing at all that I could do about it at that time except apologize and ask for an extension on my deadlines.
What I wish I knew then:
I wish I had listened to the quiet whispers in the blogging community and moved to a blogger-friendly host. Not only for instances like this (which I understand don’t happen often at all), but to support smaller hosting companies who understand the importance of blog up-time. A Small Orange responds quickly to my inquiries, is patient with explaining all of the confusing back end blog information that I don’t understand and more than anything, they are kind and respectful. If you’re turning your blog into a career, a blogger-friendly hosting company is a non-negotiable.
For 99% of hosting companies, bandwidth is limited, even if they advertise that it’s unlimited. Be aware of that.
What I’m doing different now:
I’m using Google dfp for my ads. It has doubled my ad income, which makes a huge difference. I’m also a bit more tied to my analytics, which I’m embarrassed to admit. Maybe once my traffic returns to normal, I’ll break away from checking and documenting my numbers so much.
My popular posts now have a place on my sidebar, for easy access from any page within my blog.
Adding a line at the top of my posts with a link for my email subscription. I’ve seen a 200% increase in my subscribers since doing that for all of my popular posts.
Bottom line: I followed my own rules for making a post go viral, and after several smaller *viral* posts, I hit it big. I’m reluctant to take credit for it, as it’s not something that can be replicated. I do, however, know that through creating pinnable images, using SEO, creating web-friendly content that was relevant to current trends and being a step ahead of most tech blogs, I did play a part in the success of this post.
After all was said and done, I made a few dollars. I lost a lot of time. And my pageviews have increased substantially (even after taking the viral post out of the mix).
And I’m pretty excited about that.
My viral post still receives between 200-600 hits a day. Still a lot of Pinterest traffic, but a lot of search traffic as well. I have been able to reduce my hosting plan to a $50/month one, but my overall traffic still isn’t anywhere near what it was last year at this time. I credit the viral post and a lot of linking out to other posts for the subscribers and readers I’ve gained.
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Thank you for this post! It came at a time when I needed it. I’m looking for a hosting service and this helped me so much.
Wow. A fascinating “issue” to have to be sure. I would have had no idea! Now I will sit and wait for my viral post to hit:)
Thanks so much for sharing this.
Great guide! Thank you for sharing. I’ve never had more than 3,300 views in a day, so I’d have had no idea what to do if I started seeing those numbers.
Oh how I can relate to your troubles! I didn’t have nearly that much traffic, but it did have a weekend where a post had over 15,000 views per day. I noticed that my site all but shut down. I had switched to a new host a month ago and he assured me that I would have more than enough bandwidth to handle any post going crazy. He was wrong on so many levels. Not only that, but he couldn’t offer 24/7 support. That meant that a few days later (last week), my blog shut down! I had exceeded my bandwidth and at 10:00 at night, there was not a thing I could do about it. The next day, I switched to blue host and I somehow lost a month’s worth of posts. After a lot of tears, coffee, and a 3 1/2 hour chat session with a very kind and patient blue host rep, we got my posts back, minus the pictures. I had to manually upload every picture again from my computer. I learned that having a post go viral is truly amazing, but it can also be your worst nightmare on the back end of things. I’m so glad your issue was fixed and congrats on such a huge success from that post!
I can relate. I went through the same thing when one of my posts went crazy viral. I’m a web developer by trade so at least I understood what the hosting companies were telling me, but at the same time jumping from $9 a month hosting to $100.00 a month kind of bit. Luckily my ad revenue went viral also so I could afford it, but I did nothing except deal with my blog for several days which involved much yelling at both Host Gator and GoDaddy. Finally found better hosting with less stress.
Wow, that is so crazy! So glad it all worked out in the long run and your blog is in a really good spot now! :) Good advice that I guess I should look into, though my blog isn’t really bringing in any money at this point, so I wonder if it’s worth it.
Wow, Becca, that is truly an amazing feat…and a frustrating affair! I doubt that any of my crafting or sewing tutorials are ever going to receive that kind of attention, but I do like being aware of all the pitfalls out there. I never really gave much thought to any of this, I am only marginally tech savvy, but information and education are never lost. Thanks much and here’s to that next viral post! ;)
Becca –A true “Be careful what you wish for tale”. As bloggers we dream of our posts going viral, but I doubt if our dreams include the drama you experienced ! Success can have consequences that are just as expensive and stressful as failure. When we do contingency planning, it’s almost always for “negative” events. Everybody assumes they can handle the “positive” events.
I am going to double check the contact information in my notebook of all the people who helped with my site and think about an alternate hosting provider. Great article!
I used to have Gator Host and also had a host company with them. All the sites I had, or my customers had on GH would get hacked and used for spamming. None of my other sites ever had that problem and I’ve now been with them for years longer than I had GH.
I’m so glad you found a great server host company.
It looked interesting so I clicked. I didn’t have a chance to read a single bloody word before being hit with a “LIKE THIS? READ MORE… SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up window? No thanks, moving on… Marketing fail.
Right here is the right website for anyone who wants to understand this topic.
You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really
will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that has been written about for a long
time. Great stuff, just excellent!
I just want to take a moment to seriously, seriously thank you. I read this a few months ago while I was still with HostGator. I had already been having issues with them so it was a no brainer to switch after I read this.
I couldn’t be happier with A Small Orange and I recommend them to absolutely everyone. The customer service alone is incredible and so are the prices. I’ve never felt like I knew more than the tech guy on the other line. That’s a great feeling. And upgrading is a breeze if I need to do so.
Again, thank you. I’m so happy with my host and I have you to thank for that.
This story scared the you know what out of me! I haven’t had a viral post like this but of course always wished for one! Thanks for sharing your story!
A couple of questions – couldn’t Hostgator just offer you more bandwidth and you pay them the $100 per month? Or don’t they have that capability? I just didn’t understand why a company would boot you out, losing you as a customer. I’m with BlueHost and hope to avoid something like this if I could. Maybe it’s unavoidable at some point?!
Also re your blog helper – what would you have done if you didn’t have a blog helper? I’m trying to imagine what I would do if in your shoes (without someone to help). Is this someone you paid/hired? A friend? Who would someone like me turn to, to switch accounts to a cloud server?
Host Gator offered to switch me to a bigger plan, but wasn’t happy about it. They said it would take my site down anywhere from 48-72 hours. That’s why I hired someone to do it on my own.
I would have cried if I didn’t have her–a lot. It’s someone that I hired–she has done a lot of backend stuff on my blog. I’m actually looking for a new one now! I’d recommend asking other bloggers who they have used for stuff like this–that seems to be the best way. And since I’m looking for someone… report back and tell me who you find!
I just started my blog and am no where near having anything go viral. Thanks for sharing your experience. Good to know for in the future.
A couple of years later and this is still a great post! Thank you so much for your insight!
I just came across this post today. I’m a newbie with a very small blog, but have been looking for posts like this to learn more. I had no idea something like this could happen. Thank you for sharing your learning experience with us all.
Thanks for sharing these tips! So much time is spent trying to get just a few people to visit your blog, you never rally consider what will happen when/if too many people want. It’s a good problem to have but still stressful.
It’s definitely good to know what could happen ahead of time!
what a nice post.learn so many new ideas.thanks
Wow! Great story, thanks for sharing. I am brand new at blogging and it’s certainly a big learning curve. I hope to eventually make a decent living online and can see theirs a lot to learn yet. Your tips have been very helpful.
Whow! I feel sorry what happened to you at host gator! I am glad you found a small orange! I use bluehost at the moment, and i am confident with that! I hope wou will do awesome in the future!
Lots of love,