How many visitors can my account handle?!?!?

Long Exposure of Vehicles Traveling at Night

Quite often our clients and potential clients ask us a question that on its face seems simple: How many visitors can my account handle? This question is not as simple as it seems.

As with any deceptively simple question there is more to it than a simple number. We wish we could simply give a number as a response but to do so would be disingenuous and deceptive from our perspective. We know that there is far more to the question and the answer than a simple number.

If all sites were created equal and all sites used the same amount of resources per visit, transmitted the same amount of data, performed the same SQL queries, etc – the answer would be simple. In the real world every website is different. We have some clients that are handling more than 100,000 visitors per month on our cheapest and least-powerful plans and then we have other clients on our most powerful and most expensive plans that are struggling with only a few thousand.

We don’t want to make what seems like a promise – that you can hit a particular number of monthly visitors – when it’s not something we can guarantee as we do not control your content or applications.

A site that can’t reach 100,000 visitors even on a powerful dedicated server.

Just recently we were working with a client to optimize their site as their developer reported that the site was slow and scoring poorly on various metric tests such as Pingdom, GTMetrix, etc. While we don’t usually work with content we are always more than happy to help as much as we can and I spent many hours working on optimizing this site. The first thing I did was copy the site to a completely empty high-performance server with 24 CPU Cores, 128 GB of system ram, and pure NVMe storage. What was the result? No improvement.

The issue with this particular site was not that the server was slow but simply that the site itself was very poorly optimized. There were no less than 5 “slider” plugins, two custom theme editors, several page editors, and all of these were used in various pieces and parts on every page of the site. The site was sending over 6 megabytes of data on page load across more than 190 requests. A large part of the problem was the sheer number of external resources that are being pulled in.

The site was pulling in no less than 6 copies of Google Fonts, 8 copies of JQuery, etc – and all of these loading from remote third party servers over which neither we nor our client have power over. Many times when we’ve seen a client report their site is slow it has been due to external constraints that would exist regardless of who the client was hosting with or how powerful the server and network are.

Optimization is important but the site needs to be built with speed in mind.

I was able to optimize the site down to around 4 megabytes and 60 requests on load but even then the site was not nearly as fast as the client would have liked. It was performing better but still not great. Even though I spent more than 8 solid hours working on this for our client the end result was that I recommended the site be overhauled by an experienced web developer. I am experienced in that I have been doing this for a long time but it would take me days if not a week or more to overhaul the site to the point that it would be performant. I did not charge the client for the 8 hours of work I did perform and I was happy to help as much as I could.

There is no way that site would reach 100,000 visitors per month as it was even if they were on a $5,000/month server all to themselves with the latest and greatest hardware. To tell any of our clients or prospective clients they can hit 100,000 visitors would be leaving out a lot of detail to the point of dishonesty.

It is possible even on shared hosting to hit 100,000.

We do have other clients that have built solid and optimized websites on the very same platform, WordPress in this case, that get well over 100,000 visitors per month without breaking a sweat. When we’ve looked at their resource usage [CPU, RAM] what shows up is their team working in the back-end administration and not the visitors. High quality and properly configured caching goes a long way.

Unfortunately listing an approximate number of visitors works when it comes to marketing and many of our competitors do it. I do have to wonder what they tell their clients when they can’t reach the number stated although I suspect they just point to some fine print.

The most honest answer is anywhere between a few hundred and a few hundred thousand visitors per month depending on the content and optimization of the site.

2 Replies to “How many visitors can my account handle?!?!?”

  1. This reminds me of the treaded bicycle tyres for paved road riding.

    The tread on pavement is detrimental (on bicycle tyres, not on automobile ones), but many manufacturers make very small (practically superficial) tread, instead of making their tyres be completely slick.

    Why?

    Because it’s easier to do that, than it is to explain to an average customer why tread on bicycle tyres is detrimental, even for riding in the rain.

    Similar goes to the “how many visitors” question. You’re damned if you answer it, and damned if you don’t. 🙂

    Maybe it makes sense to offer some ballpark value for “an average reasonably optimized WordPress website.” Perhaps with a link to this article.

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