Basically, websites built on WordPress don’t differ in terms of their monitoring needs from websites based on other CMS. However, thanks to the world’s largest developer ecosystem, the monitoring setup is greatly facilitated by the availability of ready-made plugins. Let’s find out what and how you can monitor in WordPress
What website features are worth monitoring and with what?
Below I mention the top five areas of a website that should be monitored. It means monitoring selected values and drawing conclusions from their variability and also ensuring that you receive alerts when any irregularities occur.
1. User behavior
Monitoring of users’ behaviors is primarily a statistical analysis of traffic, based on Google Analytics or another similar tool. Tracking the number of users and visits, the sources of their acquisition, paths between sub-pages, recording conversions, attribution, etc.
Google Site Kit– an official Google plugin that integrates with WordPress data not only from Google Analytics but also Search Console and AdSense – can help in consuming the data collected by Google Analytics.
Besides convenience – i.e., access to data in the WP dashboard – the plugin offers insights generated based on data from all connected sources.
Another popular plugin, which also works with Google Analytics, is Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin. The plugin’s authors, Monster Insights, claim that the main advantage of their product is that it displays only relevant values among the very large amount of data available in GA. Over 3 million active installations and 85% five-star ratings seem to confirm that there must be something to it.
Google Analytics is the unquestioned market leader, however, it’s not the only solution available. Other popular packages also offer plugins for WordPress – including Matomo Analytics(formerly known as PIWIK).
In addition to statistics on site traffic, you can also monitor their specific locally recorded behavior. For example, file downloads with Download Monitor.
To monitor the actions of logged-in users in the CMS there is the WP Activity Log. It records any actions, such as editing, publishing, adding a plugin, changing a menu, etc. A key feature of the plugin – but in the premium version – is email and SMS alerts.
2. Proper functioning
Detecting failures (unavailability), but also errors (malfunctions) and a decrease in performance or speed – these are the tasks of external site monitoring.
Services such as Super Monitoring, verify website availability, content, loading speed, and key processes (e.g., shopping) by pretending to be users every minute. They can also remind us about expiring domains and SSL certificates.
Plugins for WordPresseliminate the need to log into a separate monitoring panel, displaying reports and detailed data about recorded events (e.g., screenshots or HAR files) inside the CMS.
Well-known plugins offering enhanced security for WordPress-based websites – such as Sucuri Security or Wordfence Security not only secure the site in various ways. They also continuously monitor a given WordPress site for threats. They detect unauthorized file changes, scan for known threats, and watch out for outdated components.
Complementary to security monitoring is the detection of presence on blacklists (e.g., Google Safe Search or RBL), implemented by the above-mentioned Super Monitoring.
Similarly, as in the case of security, SEO plug-ins, apart from their basic functions, also perform monitoring. Rank Math SEO, which is rapidly gaining popularity, as well as the long-established Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO, retrieve and analyze data from Google Search Console and detect 404 errors on the site.
Going a step further than 404 errors, you can use Broken Link Checker to detect both internal and external links that have stopped working.
5. Programming matters
A developer looking after and developing a WordPress-based site has many opportunities to monitor elements that are important from a programming perspective.
To begin with what seems to be the most crucial to monitor – bugs. Bugsnag is a WordPress plugin that records site crashes and errors and sends alerts via various channels – email, SMS, chat, or to a ticket system. In addition to these alerts, error history and statistics are also available.
One of the WP plugins that are most often used by developers is Query Monitor. It’s a tool used to track software-generated database queries, API calls, hooks, linked scripts, and more.
Meanwhile, the WP Crontol plugin is used to control what is periodically run by the WP-Cron system. Of course, this is not just passive monitoring in WordPress – WP Crontrol also lets you manage scheduled runs.
Also, when it comes to something a little more administrative than programming – updates – you can use the help of a “smart” plugin. Easy Updates Manager helps you get your updates under control with extensive configuration options for automating WordPress (including Multisite), plugins, and themes – and getting notifications.
Since nothing works in a void, in addition to the above-mentioned features of your site, you can and often should monitor its environment. It is not directly connected to a single website or a specific technology, so in this case, it is more difficult to use WordPress plugins.
Position in search engines
Complementing the on-site SEO mentioned above is “rank tracking”, i.e., monitoring the position in search results (mainly Google) for selected keywords. Among the top tools, only Wincher offers a plugin for WP.
Reputation and mentions
The most “marketing” type of monitoring is tracking mentions and opinions about the brand and searching for discussions about the category. It allows you to stay up to date with what is being said about the brand and its products or services – but also to react to sales opportunities that appear anywhere on the Internet.
A key component of the business environment that you need to constantly keep an eye on is your competitors. There are tools for estimating the popularity and traffic sources of websites (Similar Web) as well as for monitoring advertising activities in a given industry (SpyFu).
There is also a possibility of direct monitoring of the websites of selected competitors – namely detection of changes (e.g., new components of the offer). This can be done with such tools as Visualping or ChangeTower.
Too much data to monitor in WordPress?
When we want to monitor all important aspects of a website and its environment we come to a point where we gather a lot of data and reviewing it all continuously would be too time-consuming.
This is where two functions of monitoring systems come in handy:
- Alerts and cyclic reports – well configured will make it unnecessary to keep track of the recorded data. Alerts will immediately inform about non-standard situations and cyclical reports will give a general overview of the situation once a month.
- Integrations (data export) – will allow you to combine data from many sources and display them on one dashboard, built for example with Google Data Studio or Klipfolio.
About the author
Konrad Caban – for almost 20 years he has been helping clients to achieve their business goals through Internet marketing, managing a digital agency SITEIMPULSE. Before that, he was a co-founder of a popular Internet café and a publisher of one of the first electronics magazines.