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8 website monitoring best practices to keep your site running smoothly

Stellar website performance isn’t a nice-to-have: it’s the difference between visitors bouncing off your site versus moving smoothly through their user journey. No matter how great your products or services are, slow-loading, buggy pages will lose you customers—and they may not come back.

Last updated

9 Aug 2022

Website monitoring gives you visibility on your site’s uptime, usability, and functionality, so you can identify what’s working and what’s not.

But website monitoring can become a time-consuming, unwieldy process, and it’s easy to end up with complex, overly technical dashboards your team won’t really use. This article helps you focus on the website monitoring best practices that really matter to keep your team updated, your site optimized, and your users happy.

Get X-ray vision into your website performance

Hotjar’s user insights complement website monitoring data and help you spot performance blockers.

What is website monitoring? 

Website monitoring is the process of testing a website’s availability, performance, and functionality, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the site is working smoothly and visitors can use it effectively.

You can monitor your site through manual checks, but most companies use automated web monitoring tools to test the service and network to ensure that real users can access the domain, load pages, and complete transactions without a hitch.

Web performance monitoring involves checking factors like:

  • Availability: making sure the site is up and running for end users and that you have maximum 'uptime'. A high percentage of time when the site isn’t operational—or ‘downtime’—can cost you users, conversions, and, ultimately, revenue!

  • Functionality: checking that all pages, features, and elements are working in the right way

  • Speed: testing to make sure the site is working fast enough on both mobile and desktop devices

Why you need to monitor your website

Your customers want to use websites that are responsive, reliable, and let them do what they came to do without encountering blockers or distractions.

Your business, on the other hand, wants to delight your visitors and help them easily move through the user journey to minimize bounce, exit, and churn rates and maximize traffic, engagement, conversion, and retention.

Website monitoring lets you address all of these needs: doing regular checks on key metrics will ensure your site is performing well and supporting users in their jobs to be done.

Key website monitoring advantages for teams include:

  • Alerting you to bugs and functionality issues so you can solve them before they affect your customers

  • Giving you user data to optimize your site’s performance

  • Showing you where to focus your website optimization efforts to achieve your KPIs

  • Boosting conversion and revenue rates

  • Helping you understand how real users experience your site

  • Improving your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings

  • Prioritizing security features so users and their data are safe on your site

  • Improving your website’s design and content so it’s more relevant to users

  • Comparing your site performance with other websites to keep a competitive edge

  • Ensuring your web hosting provider is delivering 

I used website monitoring to track the uptime of our company's website during a major marketing campaign. By identifying periods of downtime and addressing them quickly, we were able to minimize the impact on our campaign and ultimately generated more leads and sales. Overall, website monitoring is a valuable tool that can help businesses improve their website's performance and ROI.

Mushfiq Sarker
Founder and CEO, Stream

Now you’re clear on why website monitoring is crucial for your business, let’s look at how you can monitor your site effectively.

8 website monitoring best practices

So what are the best practices for stellar website monitoring?

The best website monitoring practices for you will depend on your company’s particular needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all website monitoring process to follow—but these eight practices are a great start. You can switch them up and adapt them to your team, resources, and workflow.

1. Spend time setting up targeted monitoring

Don’t rush through the setup stage. It’s important to get the expertise you need to build a website monitoring process that works—mistakes at the start can be costly to fix! Getting engineering or developer input can be a great way to set things up smoothly and make sure the results are intuitive and accessible to a non-tech team afterward. 

Remember, you’re looking to set up targeted monitoring. Monitoring everything is a recipe for overcrowded dashboards and burned-out teams.

At the setup stage, decide which website monitoring performance metrics you’ll focus on based on what will have the biggest impact on your users and KPIs.

For example, for a site with several product pages and visuals, you’ll want to pay special attention to the average first-time render (how long it takes users to see something)—slow-loading pages and images are a high predictor of bounce. For all sites, uptime/downtime monitoring checks are crucial: you need to know ASAP if your site isn’t available to users.

2. Focus on key pages and functions

Once you’ve decided which metrics you’ll prioritize, decide which pages and site elements should be the focus of your monitoring efforts.

Use product experience insights tools to map out the most important pages within the sales funnel, so you can focus your checks and action plans on where they’ll have the most impact. 

For many sites, the most critical pages will be landing pages, product pages, and checkout pages, but it varies according to your website.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce site, and suddenly your customers can’t add products to cart, that’s a major red-flag functionality issue that you need to fix immediately. So cart button functionality and your ‘see cart’ and ‘checkout’ page should be your priorities for website monitoring alerts. Check out our guide on ecommerce website analysis for more. 

Pro tip: once you’ve identified your key, high-value pages, use them as an opportunity to check in with your users. Add a quick Hotjar Feedback widget or non-invasive Survey popup to understand how your users are experiencing the most important checkpoints in their journey throughout your website. 

3. Use website monitoring tools to streamline the process

Manual monitoring is possible—you can test out transaction and site functionality from different browsers. While this can be useful for certain kinds of monitoring, like content checks, it’s not practical or efficient. 

Instead, use automated website monitoring tools that can test your servers, check how users are experiencing your site performance, and monitor user behavior and feedback. Product experience insights tools like Hotjar (👋) complement technical monitoring data by helping you understand how your users feel about their experience.

Pro tip: pay special attention to website monitoring whenever you launch updates on your site.

Updates are a non-negotiable aspect of web upkeep that safeguard you from cyber risks and enable you to take advantage of emerging technologies. But certain website improvements have unintended repercussions, occasionally causing the site to slow down or causing existing functions to malfunction. Web developers make backups of your website prior to deploying enhancements, but sometimes issues may not manifest themselves until end users attempt to use them—so it’s important to monitor your site.

Taylor Murchison
SEO Growth Director, On The Map Marketing

4. Combine synthetic monitoring with real-user monitoring

It’s important to run synthetic monitoring using tools that mechanically conduct automated checks and tests of different functions, transactions, and site pages.

Synthetic monitoring uses servers in different locations to act as customers and ensure your backend is running smoothly, your server is available, and issues like SSL cert configurations are working well. It helps you detect bugs and issues at the origin point and it’s the best way to get alerts if your site’s down. 

But without understanding how real users are experiencing your site you’ll be missing crucial information

Real-user monitoring (RUM) uses monitoring networks to see how real clients across different browsers and locations are experiencing site performance. Google Analytics offers a basic overview, but combining synthetic website monitoring with real-user monitoring is the best way to get a complete picture of your site’s performance. 

Go deeper to understand how users are responding and why they’re responding that way. Use Hotjar’s Observe tools like Session Recordings to see where visitors are rage clicking versus clicking through successfully. Then deploy Ask tools like Feedback widgets and Surveys to hear more from users about the issues they’re experiencing.  

#The Hotjar Recordings dashboard synthesizes user recording data so you can see at a glance where you should focus
The Hotjar Recordings dashboard synthesizes user recording data so you can see at a glance where you should focus

In addition to backend monitoring, we monitor response times on the website from the user's perspective. This provides us with an early warning of problems brewing within the platform. Since the website monitoring occurs from outside our network, it has the ability to capture different types of failure scenarios than what our backend testing alone can identify.

Vinay Sahni
Co-founder, Enchant

5. Go beyond averages to understand individual users

Looking at averages for website monitoring metrics can offer a good overview, but you could miss crucial data. 

For example, maybe you see that average load time is 2.1 seconds for your visitors on a given day. Looks good, right? 

Not if you realize that while some users had a super-fast loading experience, a significant minority (maybe all those using a certain browser) didn’t. Without looking outside of the average range, you won’t learn what happened and solve the issue for these users. Look at percentages as well as averages to make sure this doesn’t happen—even if the overall average is fine, if 10% of your users are experiencing problems, you need a solution. 

You should also take every opportunity you can to drill deep into understanding individual user experiences. 

Regularly recreate user visits to your site by watching playback recordings that show you how they engage with different elements and pages. You can filter Hotjar Recordings by rage clicks or user dissatisfaction to gauge what role site performance and functionality played in negative user experiences.

6. Use historical data 

Look at previous website performance tracking and iterations to understand drops in performance and what your baseline should be.

You should regularly compare monitoring insights across different time intervals to see where you’re improving and spot website performance trends. Go further by matching performance trends with patterns in bounce/exit rates, session duration, and user satisfaction metrics.

Historical data can be of great use to you. It will enable you to benchmark internal performance over time, and at least get some indication of whether you need to react to drops in performance.

Sean Potter
Content and SEO Strategist at Hotjar

7. Set up streamlined alerts and alarms

It’s really important to set up alerts for red-flag website monitoring issues, so your relevant team members see them ASAP—you can’t always rely on your team to check your dashboard and spot the issue. 

Streamline your alerts to be sure the right information is going to the right people. If everyone gets spammed with every alert, your team will stop paying attention and you need to ensure the right people stay reactive to issues

When you’re setting up website monitoring alerts, make sure you include all the info and links required to dig deeper into the product issue or find a solution, like performance logs, so team members can jump straight into action.

Pro tip: set up the Hotjar Slack alert to tell key team members when there’s a dissatisfied user on the site so you can follow up quickly and reduce churn.

8. Make the data intuitive and accessible

Dashboards that bombard your team with complex statistics and measurements can be confusing for non-techies. What’s more, lists of figures don’t create an emotional connection or incite empathy for users’ experiences. 

Light a fire under your team with intuitive website monitoring interfaces that connect technical issues with your real-life users. Hotjar’s Observe tools like Heatmaps visualize user data in a simple, accessible way so teams and stakeholders get on board with fixes. 

#Hotjar Heatmaps visualize user click and scroll data through color-coded maps that help you quickly identify high and low engagement areas of your site.
Hotjar Heatmaps visualize user click and scroll data through color-coded maps that help you quickly identify high and low engagement areas of your site.

Your website monitoring data should be intuitive, accessible, and sharable. Use regular reports to communicate important information to stakeholders and your team. Reports are different to alerts: they’re more thorough and offer an overview of your website performance beyond putting out immediate fires—so you can strategically identify patterns. 

By combining qualitative and quantitative forms of website monitoring, you can tell a compelling story about your website and its users and get buy-in across the organization. 

With Hotjar Highlights, you can excerpt and share key snippets of Session Recordings, Heatmaps, and Survey results.

Engage in continuous, actionable website monitoring 

Use this list of website monitoring best practices to guide your process, and take a look at our ultimate website monitoring checklist to make sure you don’t miss any critical steps.

For great results, engage in continuous monitoring of your website and its users. If you decide you’re done once you don’t have any major site issues grabbing your attention, you’ll miss opportunities to improve website performance and make your users’ experience smoother and speedier. The best website monitoring is continuous and actionable.

Get X-ray vision into your website performance

Hotjar’s user insights complement website monitoring data and help you spot performance blockers.

FAQs about website monitoring best practices: