As of this article, we’ve had 13 clients appear on Shark Tank. Our two most recent were back-to-back appearances in January. DudeRobe was our most recent (Season 9, Episode 9) and, before them, Inirv was featured.
We’ve written advice on Shark Tank before but it focused mainly on how to pitch your product while on Shark Tank. For this article, we’re going to address the technical considerations for Shark Tank so your website doesn’t get overwhelmed by the rush of traffic and subsequently crash.
Why is this important? Whether you get a deal on Shark Tank or not, one thing is guaranteed: you will get a flood of attention. If you prepare properly, you can convert that attention into revenue…as long as your website stays live.
Getting “Slashdotted” in the Early Days
Slashdot.com is a website that was founded in 1997 and was one of the first user-curated news websites (i.e. Reddit, Digg or Fark). On these sites, a user posts a link to a news article from around the web. Other users then vote on the article by giving it a +1 or -1. The article with the highest score appears on top of all the other articles. If the link was to a high-traffic website (like Znet or AOL) everything was fine. If the top link on Slashdot.com was to someone’s personal blog or website, the site was typically knocked offline by the flood of traffic.
The Shark Tank Effect is Much Larger Than Slashdot’s
A moderate “slashdot” would typically see web traffic increase by 300-500%. A heavy “slashdot” would push that into the 3000-5000% range. In real numbers, the visitor increase could be as high as several thousand additional visitors per minute.
One of our clients experienced this first hand after making a Shark Tank appearance. Within the first five minutes of this client going on the air on Shark Tank, the number of users on their website increased by over 2,500%. When one of the Sharks offered them a deal 15 minutes into the show, the user count skyrocketed by over 159,900%!
General Advice for Shark-Proofing Your Website
A fast website is a necessity these days; Google’s ranking algorithm, over time, has increased the emphasis on a site’s ability to load quickly. Site load time is even more of a ranking factor for mobile device searchers. With that said, here are some steps you can take to keep your site from crashing due to a Shark Tank appearance:
1. Get a
GREAT dedicated host.
The number one speed factor for your website is Latency. Latency is the time a server takes to respond to a request from a visitor’s browser. A single web page can involve hundreds of individual requests. If your server’s latency is high, each request will cause a slowdown.
2. Use a CDN.
Again this is to fight latency. A CDN (content delivery network) will serve your website’s files from a network of servers all over the world based on the site visitor’s physical location. A shorter physical distance means reduced latency and faster site load times.
3. Be mindful of large media files.
Yes, video is the new king of content and yes, high quality imagery is important for your website…but that doesn’t mean you should plaster them all over your website. For images: use the smallest dimensions needed and reduce the quality of the image itself. There is no hard and set rule here. Portfolio images, for example, should be high quality and thus a larger file size is permissible. Use the proper image file type as well: JPGs for photos with many colors and PNGs for illustrations with fewer colors. Gifs should be used sparingly and optimized to have as few frames as possible.
For video, try to avoid auto-playing videos or video backgrounds unless it is truly needed.
4. Limit the quantity of files being requested.
5. Prioritize visible content.
When a visitor loads a webpage, they typically only see a part of the top of the page. The industry vernacular for this space is “above the fold”. Modern web technologies allow websites to prioritize the order which content is loaded, so make your visible (“above the fold”) content load first.
6. Avoid complication.
Build your experience with a mobile-first mindset and gracefully expand functionality for more sophisticated devices. If you keep it simple and put mobile considerations first (i.e. account for smaller screen sizes and slower connection speeds), you’ll have a faster, cleaner experience for everyone.
And think about where people are watching the show; they are on their sofa, not at their computer desk. Our own data backs this up: we’ve noticed that 70-75% of traffic during a Shark Tank spike is using a mobile device.
7. Start with an Apple.
Some things are a given: if selling consumer goods on mobile, focus on the iOS checkout experience. My personal experience and general industry wisdom bears out. Android delivers traffic, iOS delivers revenue.
8. Add a form to collect email addresses.
Ensure there’s email capture to collect data from customers who aren’t ready to purchase your product. This is also helpful if the product sells out, or if something happens to cause the checkout process to go down.
9. Set up your site for remarketing.
Ensure there are retargeting pixels installed onsite to capture the data of those who visit, and prepare a post-Shark Tank remarketing campaign to target those who not only visited the site but began browsing, as this shows a level of interest in your product or business.
How We Prepare Websites for Shark Tank
1. We upgrade to Cloudflare’s business plan.
We host all sites we build with WPEngine (an enterprise account), which means we already have a built-in CDN that meets our day-to-day needs. For Shark Tank, we upgrade them to Cloudflare’s business plan. The main reason for selecting this plan is Cloudflare’s Always Online™ technology. While every plan offers this protection, the Business plan allows for daily crawls.
2. We simplify the website.
Remember the number-killer of site speed from above? Latency. To prepare for Shark Tank, we make our client’s website as lightweight as possible. Video, when used, is set to not autoplay. Database queries (like the type needed to display a blog post loop) are removed from the front page.
3. We contact our host.
We always contact our agency rep at WPEngine to inform them about the upcoming traffic spike and what we have done in preparation. In the past, they have reviewed our website and set aside a dedicated support resource for the time of the show.
4. We stress test.
We utilize LoadImpact.com’s virtual user agent testing to send 1000s of concurrent users across the website. Each user views the front page and the about page and then signs-up on the email capture form. This process identifies choke points that could slow down the site or take it offline.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls for Your Shark Tank Appearance
1. Clearly communicate with the agency managing your site.
One of our clients on Shark Tank contacted us three weeks before the show saying “they had a big press hit coming” and asked us to review their website to make sure the website would be reliable with the extra attention. They did not tell us it was Shark Tank despite us being under NDA with them. We found out the “big press hit” was Shark Tank 5 days before the show aired.
To be clear, this wasn’t the client’s fault. They were swimming with the sharks and doing the best they could to follow Shark Tank’s rules.
What we do differently now: we’ve made it a point to tell all of our clients that the terms of the NDA allow them to give us details like this and we specifically say “especially if it is Shark Tank”.
2. Don’t use a server-based form solution.
Another client utilized Gravity Forms on their website to collect pre-order information. For normal traffic levels, this is a stable, flexible and affordable solution. It is not, however, the best choice to handle the traffic a Shark Tank appearance will deliver.
When the server crashed and Cloudflare’s Always Online™ service kicked in, the form was unavailable. Cloudflare served the static content, but Gravity Forms requires access to the website’s database to work properly.
What we do differently now: we offload form handling to a service like Formstack, Wufoo or Cognitoforms.
3. Did we mention communication?
When the client mentioned above told us they were getting a big press hit, we stress tested their site with 100 concurrent users. We told them the site was stable and they should be fine. Then, they made major changes to the website – they added a pop-up with a form served by Gravity Forms. After we noticed those changes and told them we needed to re-test, we learned that the press hit was Shark Tank.
What we do differently now: We thoroughly explain everything that needs to happen to prepare a website as soon as the client tells us they will be on Shark Tank.
Deal or No Deal, It Works Out Well for Everyone
Spoiler alert: Even when deals are made on Shark Tank, they often fall apart. But, even if the sharks don’t bite, the show’s viewers will. From our data, a single appearance on Shark Tank will generate on average 20% more revenue in a single day than a 30 day crowdfunding campaign (but keep in mind that crowdfunding can help set you up to land a spot on Shark Tank).
If you need help preparing for an upcoming appearance on Shark Tank, contact us today and request a quote.