When running a business, websites are the centerpiece of everything you do. If your site stops working, you’ll miss out on customers or visitors. Your gateway to the world will be gone.
That’s why it’s so important to constantly keep tabs on the health of your website. You want to know about any issues as soon as possible, so you can fix them before they become a big problem. But unfortunately, DIY monitoring is extremely time-consuming and virtually impossible for busy website owners.
So let’s take a closer look at different types of website monitoring and why you need them, plus a few tools to automate the process.
What is website monitoring?
Website monitoring is a testing process that performs health checks on your website. They typically focus on things like performance, availability, security, and functionality.
When you monitor your site, you should ask yourself three questions:
- Is it online?
- Is it secure?
- Does it work well?
These three questions cover most website-facing issues. You may monitor one or more of these areas depending on your goals and needs.
Why is website monitoring essential?
Keeping tabs on your site isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s a requirement for anyone who prioritizes their website. Here are six reasons to monitor your website:
- To avoid losing money. When part of your website isn’t working or is difficult to use, people will go elsewhere or may not be able to find you at all. This means fewer sales and ad views.
- To protect your reputation. Your website is a reflection of you as a business owner. If it’s not working for visitors, they’ll lose confidence in your organization.
- To safeguard your content and data. Regular checks prevent potential security exposures from becoming massive issues.
- To identify problems with your site or hosting. Uptime monitoring can help you determine if the tools you use have problems that need to be solved.
- To maintain search engine rankings. Website problems — like hacks, downtime, or a poor user experience — can negatively impact your search engine rankings.
- To understand how visitors interact with your site. Monitoring can provide you with data on how visitors use your site and guide future improvements.
What kind of monitoring does your WordPress website need?
While there is some basic information about your website health within your WordPress dashboard — like the Site Health check — you’ll need to implement additional tools to set up thorough monitoring. Here are four different types of monitoring for you to consider:
1. Downtime monitoring
Many web hosts have a 99.9% uptime guarantee, but it’s up to you to determine whether they’re delivering on that promise. If they’re not, you may want to consider hosting elsewhere.
There are also lots of other reasons your site might go down, like faulty code, a security breach, a failed plugin or theme update.
But regardless of the reason, you’ll want to know the second your site has an issue so you can take immediate action. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having a customer call to tell you that your site is down.
That’s where downtime monitoring comes into play. It monitors your website 24/7 and alerts you right away if your site goes down.
2. Security and malware monitoring
Hackers can steal information, redirect visitors to malicious websites and programs, hijack your site for ransom, display offensive content, and more. And in some cases, hackers leave exposed backdoors that allow them to siphon data from your site whenever they’d like.
Regular malware scans and security checks identify vulnerabilities, let you know if there are any signs of a hack, and often make it easy to secure your site following a breach.
3. Performance monitoring
Your website’s performance can impact whether people stay on your site and take the actions you want. But certain metrics are also monitored by Google to determine search rankings. If they think your site’s performance is going to create a poor user experience, they’ll avoid sending people there.
Performance isn’t stagnant. Changes to the internet landscape in general, as well as to your site — new content and updates to WordPress, themes, or plugins, etc. — can all impact how it works.
Performance monitoring helps you identify ways to ensure that users can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for and that Google’s happy, too.
4. Analytics monitoring
Analytics help you determine what’s working on your site — and what’s not working! Here are a few pieces of data you can monitor:
- The number of visitors your site receives
- Where your visitors come from (paid ads, search engines, etc.)
- How people navigate your site
- Your bounce rate (the number of visitors who leave after viewing one page)
- Sales and revenue generated
- Your audience demographics (age, gender, location, etc.)
- Which pages receive the most visits
Once you have this information, you can make tweaks to your site, content, and marketing strategies to get more of the results you’re looking for.
Types of website monitoring tools
1. Performance monitoring software
Performance monitoring tools help you track how quickly your website loads. If you see a sudden increase in page load time, you’ll need to troubleshoot the cause.
Beyond page load times, good tools analyze how a page loads, which also impacts user experience. Performance monitors will look at indicators like:
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): How long does it take for your site to load the largest content element (usually an image or block of text) visible on the page?
- TBT (Total Blocking Time): Total Blocking Time essentially measures the duration between when your site starts to load and when the user is able to interact with it.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): This measures how often visible areas of the screen shift because other elements of the page are loading. If the site “jumps around” a lot while loading, your CLS score will be poor.
2. Network monitoring software
Network monitoring checks all of the behind-the-scenes components that make your website run, like your server and firewall. This is excellent for keeping your web host accountable and helping you determine if you need to switch providers.
Network monitoring will provide information like:
- Server uptime: The percent of time your server is up and running.
- Response time: The amount of time between when someone makes a request — like typing your URL into their browser or clicking a button on your site — and when your website’s server responds to that request.
- Bandwidth utilization: The amount of bandwidth used by your website. Many hosting plans have bandwidth caps and, if you go over these, your site performance will suffer.
3. Security monitoring software
Security monitoring helps you identify vulnerabilities on your site, along with any signs of a hack. This is a critical component of website security, because it helps you resolve problems right away and even prevent them before they cause major issues.
Security monitoring may include features like:
- Malware scans: Your site is monitored regularly for malware injected into your files or database. This allows you to quickly remove the malware and secure your website.
- Activity logs: A good activity log shows you all the actions taken on your site. You can then watch out for signs of security breaches, like suspicious logins or unauthorized page edits.
- Blocklist monitoring: This monitors your domain name and helps you know if you end up on blocklists, like Google Safe Browsing. If your site is blocklisted, it can have devastating effects on your reputation and search engine rankings.
4. Analytics tools
Analytics tools provide data about your website and can be either standalone or packaged as part of an existing plugin or hosting plan. The best option is one that covers a variety of data at once, so you can compare everything across different time periods all in one dashboard.
This also allows you to combine data for better interpretation. For example, simply knowing that your site received more visitors this month doesn’t tell you much. But if you combine the number of site visitors with traffic sources, you may be able to identify which of your marketing efforts are successful. Or if you see that, while visitors increased, conversions decreased, you might find out that you’re targeting the wrong audience.
The best tools and plugins to monitor your website
There are a variety of options available, but let’s take a look at six common website monitoring tools for WordPress.
Jetpack is an all-in-one website monitoring tool, providing options for downtime, analytics, malware, and activity. This means that you can handle all of your monitoring from a single location that you’re already familiar with — WordPress. And everything’s super simple and presented in a way that even beginners can understand.
The best part? Since it was created by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, it works seamlessly with WordPress core and major plugins and themes. And it includes top-notch support from people that know WordPress in and out.
Note that some of the features listed below are available for free, while others are part of paid plans.
- Downtime monitoring (free). Jetpack monitors your site 24/7 and instantly lets you know if it goes down so you can troubleshoot right away. You’ll receive an email notification when your site goes down and when it’s back online so you know exactly how long the issue occurred.
- WordPress analytics (free). View important data — like traffic volume, visitor locations, and search terms used to find your website — directly in the WordPress dashboard.
- Malware scanning (paid). Jetpack scans your site for malware, along with vulnerabilities that hackers can take advantage of. If they find anything, you’ll receive an instant alert so you can fix things as soon as possible. There’s also the ability to solve the majority of known threats with a single click.
- Spam monitoring (paid). This tool reviews comment and contact form submissions and compares them to a large, reliable spam database. If they match spam characteristics, Jetpack will either flag them for review or automatically get rid of them, depending on your settings.
- Activity monitoring (free). The activity log keeps track of everything that happens on your site, like edited pages, updated plugins, and user logins. It also provides details like when each action took place and who performed it, so you can identify anything suspicious. The best part? It integrates with Jetpack Backup so you can restore a full backup of your site from right before things went wrong.
- Easy, one-click setup. There’s no need for complicated integrations or confusing wizards. You can easily enable features with the click of a button.
- Support from WordPress experts. If you run into any issues, Jetpack support is available to help. And since they’re part of the Automattic team, they understand all aspects of WordPress.
- Access to additional, related tools. Depending on the Jetpack plan you choose, you can also get additional features like backups, performance enhancers, and marketing tools.
- While the analytics tools provide the basic information you need, they aren’t as robust as those from other providers.
- You may not necessarily need all of the features included in certain plans, so unused options could become overwhelming.
Pricing for Jetpack:
There are a variety of ways to structure your Jetpack plan. Some features are available for free, others can be purchased by themselves, and others are included as part of packages. Let’s look at a few options:
- Jetpack Free: Includes downtime monitoring, analytics, the activity log, and additional features at no cost
- Jetpack Scan: Just the malware scanning tool, for $3.95 per month, paid yearly
- Jetpack Anti-spam: Just the spam prevention tool, for $3.95 per month, paid yearly
- Jetpack Security: Includes malware scanning, anti-spam, the activity log, downtime monitoring, analytics, and additional security features for $8.95 per month, paid yearly
- Jetpack Complete: Provides all Jetpack features in one comprehensive plan for $29.95 per month, paid yearly
While Pingdom’s page speed test is free and an excellent way to find out how quickly your site loads, they also offer a variety of monitoring tools that go beyond speed. They have two primary options: synthetic monitoring and real user monitoring. The synthetic option uses technology to simulate how people interact with your site. The real user option, of course, monitors how real users behave on your website.
For more advanced situations, they also provide infrastructure monitoring, which keeps track of the health and performance of your server. We’ve broken down the available features based on the options available.
Features of synthetic monitoring:
- 24/7 monitoring of all website aspects.
- Downtime monitoring from over 100 locations around the world.
- Speed and performance monitoring. This also lets you know the root cause of speed bottlenecks, so you can solve any issues.
- Instant alerts via email or SMS if anything is wrong.
- Critical site flow monitoring. This examines important pieces of your site functionality, like checkout processes, so you know if they’re broken.
Features of real user monitoring:
- Digital behavior tracking. Find out how and where visitors access your website.
- Performance monitoring. View performance trends over time and fix any bottlenecks.
- Behavior filtering based on device.
- Metric comparisons over time.
Features of infrastructure monitoring:
- Real-time information about server health and performance.
- Notifications when resources go over set performance thresholds.
- Detailed data about performance patterns and resource usage.
- Pingdom is an excellent option for performance and server monitoring, but it lacks features for security.
- Pricing is based on changing metrics like pageviews, so it’s difficult to determine which plan you need.
- While the features are comprehensive, they may be unnecessary or too much for smaller sites.
Pricing for Pingdom:
- Synthetic monitoring: Starts at $10 per month for ten uptime, one advanced, and 50 SMS. Goes all the way up to $18,300 per month.
- Real user monitoring: Starts at $10 per month for 100,000 pageviews. Goes all the way up to $15,000 per month.
- Infrastructure monitoring: Pricing not listed online.
Google Analytics is a completely free tool for tracking website visits and user behavior. The data that it provides is extensive — monitor everything from demographic information of your visitors and how they arrived on your site to the success of marketing campaigns. You can track how visitors interact with your website and the path they take once they arrive, which helps you identify areas for improvement. And those are just a few of the possibilities — the analytics data provided is very in-depth and detailed.
Features of Google Analytics:
- Real-time data tracking. Find out the number of people actively using your site, where they’re located, and how they arrived.
- Audience data. Get information on your site visitors, from demographic data to interests.
- Acquisition data. Find the traffic sources that drive people to your site. This helps you determine which advertising and marketing campaigns are successful.
- Conversion data. See the number of sales your site makes and establish specific conversion goals.
- Site behavior information. Learn how people interact with your site and identify which pages are top-performing and which are driving people away.
- This is only an analytics tool and does not provide additional monitoring services.
- Since it’s a free service, there’s less support than premium solutions.
- It can be tricky to install tracking codes on your site, especially when setting up specific conversion goals.
Pricing for Google Analytics:
Google Analytics is a completely free service.
Similar to Pingdom, GTmetrix is an excellent speed testing tool that allows you to view site performance at any given time. But they also offer additional performance monitoring options.
With their monitoring services, you can run a variety of scheduled speed tests on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to make sure that your site is performing well at all times. And those speed tests can take place from more than 22 locations around the world and on a variety of device types. Plus, there’s advanced data included with every test that helps you identify and troubleshoot any issues.
Features of GTmetrix:
- Integration with Google Lighthouse. This provides optimization opportunities directly from the search engine powerhouse.
- Performance indicators like LCP, TBT, and CLS.
- Visual and written data. Filter performance information by date and view graphs and charts with summaries.
- Alerts based on web vitals, load times, and more.
- Playback videos. Watch how your pages load to figure out specific issues.
- Some data and information is geared towards more advanced users.
- This tool only monitors performance, not security or other aspects.
Pricing for GTmetrix:
Pricing varies widely based on whether you’re an individual or business, along with the features and monitored slots you need. Note: a monitored slot is each individual URL paired with analysis options like location and device. We’ve summarized a few plan options here:
- Free: For individuals with one monitored slot and 50 tests per week. Does not include features like mobile device testing.
- Solo: $10.67 per month (paid yearly) and includes three monitored slots, 175 tests per week, and additional features like mobile device testing.
- Champion: $63.75 per month (paid yearly). This plan is designed for small businesses and includes 15 monitored slots, 500 weekly tests, and advanced features like mobile device testing and hourly monitoring.
5. Crazy Egg
Crazy Egg is an advanced analytics tool that focuses on specific types of clients, such as agencies, eCommerce sites, and educators. They stand out largely because of their heatmap tools that track how visitors navigate each page and where they spend their time. This ultimately helps you arrange your pages in a way that leads to the most conversions.
Features of Crazy Egg:
- Heatmaps: These identify what visitors pay the most attention to and where they’re clicking so you can optimize for conversions.
- Ad campaign tracking: Specifically track people who arrive on your site from an ad.
- User session recordings: Track user interactions on your site, from the second they arrive.
- A/B testing: Track and compare multiple versions of the same page so you can determine which is the most effective.
- There are limited analytics features outside of heatmaps and recordings.
- There are no monitoring features beyond analytics.
Pricing for Crazy Egg:
- Basic: $24/mo for 30,000 tracked page views, 25 snapshots, and 100 recordings.
- Standard: $49/mo for 75,000 page views, 50 snapshots, and 500 recordings.
- Plus: $99/mo for 150,000 page views, 75 snapshots, and 1000 recordings.
- Pro: $249/mo for 500,000 page views, 100 snapshots, and 5000 recordings.
Super monitoring was designed specifically to monitor websites from a variety of perspectives. It covers site speed, downtime, file integrity, server performance, and other aspects for relatively comprehensive coverage. Super Monitoring sends instant alerts when something is wrong, but also confirms any issues from several locations so you don’t get flooded with false alarms.
Features of Super Monitoring:
- Downtime monitoring.
- Server performance checks.
- Form testing. Super Monitoring fills out contact and login forms to ensure that they’re working at all times.
- Process testing. It can, for example, ensure your checkout process works.
- Speed tests.
- File integrity monitoring. This checks files for unauthorized changes, which can help with security.
- Features don’t include analytics or security, other than file integrity monitoring.
- It can be quite expensive to get all the features.
Pricing for Super Monitoring:
Pricing varies widely based on the features you need. View all pricing options for a more detailed look at what’s included in each plan. Note: a “check” is defined as one URL with a single monitoring feature.
- Super: $5.99/mo. Includes one check and 15 SMS credits. Features like speed monitoring and change monitoring are not included.
- Hyper: $14.99/mo. Includes three checks, 40 SMS credits, and the same features as the Super plan.
- Extra: $19.99/mo. Includes five checks and 55 credits. Adds speed and change monitoring.
- Ultra: $29.99/mo. Includes ten checks and 95 credits. Adds transaction and core web vitals monitoring.
- Multi: $39.99/mo. Includes 20 checks and 160 credits.
Why do I need to monitor my site?
Keeping an eye on your site health is a critical part of being a website owner. Tracking performance, security, analytics and other data helps you improve your conversions, user experience, search engine rankings, and overall protection.
If you’re looking for a simple, comprehensive solution, Jetpack is the way to go. It provides monitoring options that cover security, site activity, analytics, and more.
If analytics is your primary focus, Google Analytics is an excellent free tool that can provide virtually any data that you could need. And if you’re specifically focussed on speed, GTmetrix may be the right fit for you.
But no matter what solution — or combination of solutions — you choose, the most important thing is that you stay on top of your site health so it performs effectively.