Performance optimization helps media company increase conversion by 25 percent

May 10, 2017 - 16:28

22nd Century Media is a rapidly growing US based media company located in Chicago. With a unique business model focused on ultra-local content in both physical and digital formats, they have been able to reach out to other areas of the US including Malibu of Los Angeles within a short span of time. Their success with the format has led them to look into expanding across the United States.

The primary mode of content delivery of 22nd Century Media is the print format which is wholly subsidized by advertisements and free to use. They expanded into the digital media space after the paper format met with success. The digital ecosystems consist of a corporate website with 14 other websites corresponding to each version of the print.

The digital version of all 13 websites run on Drupal 7 as Drupal is the platform of choice for most established media companies. The expansion plans of the 22nd Century Media included increased focus on their Drupal assets.

However, the technical team of 22 Century Media found that they had run into a bottleneck.

Immediate Challenges

All of the sites ran on a single server running into frequent outages. The sites also took a long time to load and were not very responsive. Frequent outages and restarting the server consumed the attention of the team and prevented them from further expansion.

Problem Identification

22nd Century Media approached Zyxware Technologies based on its long experience with Drupal development services. On a quick glance, we were able to understand that Drupal caching was switched off. Drupal caching is a fundamental feature of Drupal and should not be switched off unless there are other caching mechanisms to supplement it. A non-cached Drupal website would obviously become a serious performance issue to a site with a decent amount of traffic. On further debugging, it was found that the contextual display of banner ads required the use of sessions which would not work with Drupal caching switched on.

Solution

The solution involved switching on Drupal caching. However, with the current implementation of the banner ads, they would simply stop working. As the ads are the main revenue stream of the Drupal sites, this was not acceptable.

The solution we proposed was to switch the architecture of the banner ads from a session based setup to a cookie based setup which would remain independent of Drupal caching.
We also recommended bringing in server level optimizations for the site which would improve the performance of the website significantly. The server used Nginx which provides page level caching out of the box which would cache the pages served by Drupal.

Impact

The Drupal performance optimization and server level optimizations produced positive results. There were no longer any instances of site outage mitigating the need for frequent server restarts. All this resulted in improved user experience which led to the user conversion rate jumping to around 25% within weeks of the optimization. The technical team was then able to focus efforts on expansion instead of the day to day running of the site.

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