Do you know that frustrating moment when you realize that your website has been offline for three days? Or that your shopping cart stopped working last week?
That moment is also valuable because you now know that something is broken, so now you can fix it. But at the same time, you wish you learned of this faster!
On a community website, this may not be an issue, as your users will let you know when the site is broken, but that is not the case for a blog, or an online store, or a landing page that is collecting leads.
You could set a daily reminder to check things are OK, but that will chip away at your precious time, and it quickly becomes boring, so you will begin to forget to do it or begin to think that you don’t have to monitor the website anymore.
I am all about automation, so let’s automate this!
The easiest way that is also free is to use Custom Alerts from Google Analytics. The logic is simple. You have an expected value of daily traffic (based on historical data), so you create a custom alert to let you know if it drops below that. Of course, you need to have Google Analytics installed on your pages for this to work.
Another way is to use a tool like Pingdom. I have used them for a long time in the past. They no longer have a free tier, but the value you get from the service I think is well worth the $10/month they ask for it. I like Pingdom because they provide more than just “your web site is down” notifications. They provide performance analytics too, which, as we know, is a factor in how your website ranks in Google searches.
But the real power of Pingdom is transaction monitoring. Transaction monitoring helps you know if a process is working, not just a page: a process like the signup form, or progressing through making a purchase. These are incredibly difficult things to set up tests by yourself, and you get that for $10/mo.
In House Tools
You can also write mini scripts that load your webpages and inspect the results for clues to determine if the page functions as you intend to. Since I am a software developer, that is what I use today for most of my projects.
The downside is that you have to write these scripts, test them, and maintain them. Depending on your team composition, that may cost you more than using something like Pingdom.
The upside is that since it is your code, you can do all sorts of interesting things with it, not just email notifications. You can use that to trigger different processes and even attempt an “auto-fix” by restarting relevant processes or clearing out the caches.
A more powerful subset of this is writing automated tests for your web apps using a tool like “TestCafe” to simulate a user interacting with your web application going through a purchase or signup process.
You can create custom monitoring and analytics tools to aggregate data from multiple signal sources that can provide insights not readily available in Google Analytics. For example, you can monitor how a campaign is affecting not only your website but also social media engagement across all the networks you care to track.