Every business needs to know how it is doing. That's the idea behind exit surveys, customer feedback forms, suggestion boxes and other devices. Without feedback from the customer, monitoring inventory, expenses, revenue and other benchmarks, a business can take a quick slide down a slippery slope, without the owner ever seeing it coming – or being able to stop the slide.
Webmasters also have things they should be monitoring on their websites. Most of these can be classified as traffic related or server performance related. Here is my top ten list.
Traffic totals. You want to know how much traffic you are generating. If the line on the graph is heading down, you know you have to find out why.
Referrers. It's not enough just to know how many visitors you are getting. You need to know where they are coming from. I discovered I was getting a lot of visitors from a Thanksgiving site. They were all being funneled into my Thanksgiving Happiness article. Suddenly I knew I should get more links from other Thanksgiving sites. Valuable information.
Searches. Much to my surprise, my happiness site started getting a ridiculous number of hits from the search for "hairdressers". It just so happens I wrote a humor column on a hairdresser experience. I was surprised to see it getting so much traffic for such a generic, competitive search term. If that had been a term of a little more relevance for me, this information would have lead me to properly optimize the page and get even more traffic.
Pages viewed per visit. If people visit only one page per visit, you have some work to convince them to visit more pages, like those that make you money.
Pages visited. So you threw up on your site something cool as an add-on. How were you to know that other webmasters would link to it and send a whole bunch of traffic your way? Well, now you know, so add some copy to the page to pull visitors into the rest of your site.
Forms. Are they all functioning? A good website monitoring service can keep tabs on them for you. The last thing you want is to have lost hundreds or thousands of subscribers because a sign-up form stopped functioning
Shopping carts. Slow and complicated shopping carts are responsible for an estimated $25 billion in lost sales. Make sure yours is functioning properly. A good website monitoring service can watch this for you, too.
Download speed. Clear your cache and test your pages. Hmm. Maybe those images are a bit large. Time to compress them, or even remove some. Remember that some people are on a much slower connection than you are. I use a satellite connection sometimes, but when I don't, my connection speed is 28K.
Server speed. Are there problems with server speed? Maybe not where you are, but on the other side of the world. Global website monitoring can alert you to a transatlantic connection problem, so you can take it up with your web hosting service.
Server accessibility. All the web hosts promise 99% accessibility. But is that for real? Who monitors them? By one estimate, 75% of inaccessibility is not on the hosting server, but rather on the Internet's backbone network and in global routing. A global website monitoring service can help identify the problem, so that you can work with your web hosting company to resolve it before too many sales are lost.
Fun. If you are not having fun, audition for that drummer position in the local band. There is no point spending your life doing something that bores you. Webmastering should be fun.
David Leonhardt is a freelance writer, and an online and offline publicity specialist. Contact him at:
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