Unique visitors per hour. The flat line at the bottom is how many I usually get.
For the past few months, my site has averaged maybe, oh, 75-125 visitors or so a day. Then for a 24-hour period beginning on May 10th at 9am CST, 48,342 people came to my site. That’s more unique visitors than my site had gotten in the past three years combined. Here’s what happened:
I released a couple new e-comics two weeks ago (yup, gotta get a plug in for them somewhere) so I’ve been looking for ways to promote them. I’d heard of Reddit, a social linking website, and had visited it a couple of times. I’ve always had a vaguely positive opinion of it, but never made it a part of my regular internet surfing routine and wasn’t intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the site.
But I figured I’d give them a shot, and submitted the first installment of the Kameoka Diaries to their comics section. I figured I’d get, oh, 100 visitors and maybe four or five comments.
So yeah. I got a few more than that.
The whole thing has been a real learning experience. Here are three things I took away from it:
1) Reddit commenters are much more kind & encouraging than I thought they would be.
When I saw how popular my submission was getting and saw that it was getting dozens (and then hundreds) of comments, I wasn’t really looking forward to reading them. Maybe I’m just a pessimist at heart, or maybe I’ve just read one too many articles about what a cesspool the internet is, but I figured I’d have to wade through a sea of comments telling me how much I sucked.
But much to my surprise and delight, the vast majority of the comments were really friendly and positive. I don’t know if Reddit’s comment sections are heavily moderated or if Redditors are just naturally sweet people, but it renewed my faith in humanity a bit and made me want to keep making these stupid little comics. You can take a look at the comment section (and my replies) here.
2) All that traffic helped e-comic sales, but not by much.
I once heard something to the effect that when you offer a free webcomic, you’re lucky if 1% of your readership buys something from you. Now, I’m paraphrasing so I might be getting the exact details wrong, but either way, it’s a just a sliver of the whole.
So when I saw all the people that visited my website, I wasn’t expecting any miracles. But still, I couldn’t help but run the numbers: if just half a percent of the visitors bought something, that’d mean hundreds of sales… it was hard not to get just a little excited.
But alas, the 48,342 people that visited my site resulted in an additional 23 e-comics sales compared to the previous day. So about 0.048% of the extra visitors made a purchase.
Hey, don’t get me wrong; an extra 23 books sold is better than a kick in the seat of the pants. And I’ll admit: out of all the hundreds of sites I personally visit, only very rarely do I buy anything from them. So it totally makes sense, it’s just a bit sobering to see the hard numbers.
3) There are super-important aspects of website administration that I’m completely clueless about.
When I saw that my submission was starting to get a bunch of hits, I panicked a bit. I was afraid I’d hit my monthly bandwidth limit and my site would go offline. So I hopped over to my web host’s website to see what my bandwidth limit was, and how close I was to it.
Apparently, “bandwidth limit” is an archaic concept, because my rinky-dink, $5-a-month account has unlimited bandwidth. Great, I thought, nothing to worry about. So I went to bed, and then to work the next day.
When I got home, I had an e-mail from my web host. They said my “CPU usage” was beyond what was allowed. I’m allowed “4.5% CPU average” per day, but had used 64.5%! They said if it didn’t come down to the acceptable average in the next 12 hours, they would block my account.
Long story short: the next day the average CPU usage was at 29.6%; a significant drop, but still way above 4.5%. They suspended my account, but put it back up again right away when I requested them to do so (the site was probably only down for like five minutes). The day after that, the CPU usage was at 2.7%, well within the acceptable range.
What I find fascinating about the whole thing is that there’s this critical limit that they’ll shut you down for exceeding, and I didn’t even know it existed. And this is after running a website for almost five years! I guess I’ve just never had enough simultaneous visitors for it to affect me.
Even now I don’t really know what “CPU usage” means in regards to website hosting. Like, yeah, I get that I can only have 4.5% a day, but 4.5% of what?
And if you decide to raise your CPU limit, it’s really expensive. Adding just one percent costs an extra four dollars a month, which would almost double my hosting bill. And bear in mind that on that one day I was SIXTY percent over my CPU limit! Yeesh!
I’ve done a bit of research since then, and have taken steps to try to optimize my site’s CPU usage. I’ve also read that simple, static html pages use almost no computing power, whereas WordPress blogs (i.e. this blog) tend to be CPU hogs. So I figure next time I submit to Reddit, I’ll make a special static html page for my submission and link to that, rather than linking directly to the WordPress blog. We’ll see if that helps.
Reddit seems really awesome and I totally plan on submitting there again, and also try to get more involved in the community in general. Some of the people from the Reddit comics section recommended I also post about my comics on Reddit’s Japan section. The Japan section has like a tenth the subscribers as the comics section, so that would probably be a good place to test my static html page idea and see if that keeps my CPU usage within the acceptable range. I’m preparing those pages now and will probably put them up later this week, and submit them to Reddit Japan then.
Anyone have any other suggestions for lowering CPU usage levels? I’m all ears!