5 Ways to Make Sure Your Website Doesn’t Turn Into a Black Hole
Websites can be one of the biggest headaches for SysAdmins as they are potentially one of the most important areas of a business to monitor. If something goes wrong on the website, there will always be more than one person that will be losing their mind on getting it back up. On top of that, the website is the face of the company to customers. No website can mean no revenue or potential revenue being generated.
There are a plethora of tools that can help ensure your website is easy to manage, use and performing well. And also to ensure it is ranking well on search engines and doesn’t fail at critical times. Here are a few we would recommend using:
Content Management System (CMS) - WordPress/Drupal
Think of Content Management Systems as the skeleton of your website. The CMS will be the place your marketing department will be spending their time uploading and updating content, adding flesh onto the skeleton. Ease of use, straightforward User Interface and time for implementation are paramount when selecting a CMS.
If you want a user-friendly, widely adopted and supported CMS, WordPress is a free, open source system based on PHP and MySQL.
With a plugin architecture and a web template system, users are able to install and switch between themes easily, meaning the the look and functionality can be changed without altering the content or structure. The plugin architecture also allows users to extend its features meaning your website can be tailored to suit your needs.
If you are looking for a more advanced CMS then you may want to check out Drupal which is another free, open source framework.
The standard release, Drupal Core contains all the basic features common to a CMS such as user registration and maintenance, menu management, RSS feeds, taxonomy, page lay-out customization and system administration. A Drupal installation can serve as a simple website, a multi-user blog, an internet forum, community website providing user generated content or a full e-commerce enabled business site.
Website Analytics - Google Analytics
Google Analytics provides detailed statistics about website traffic and traffic sources along with basic analytics tools for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing purposes.
This useful free tool can track visitors from all referrers including search engines and social networks, direct visits and referring sites. It also tracks display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing, and digital collateral. Some of the features included are data visualization tools, segmentation for analysis of subsets (such as conversions), custom reporting, email based sharing and communication. More importantly, integration with other Google products such as AdWords and Webmaster Tools is standard, to make sure every aspect of the site from an audience perspective is covered.
Using Google Analytics means you can gain an understanding of how your web visitors are arriving at your website, what they do when they get there and also why and where they leave so you can make a judgement as to what parts of your website need improving.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Moz
SEO can be one of the most frustrating, yet most important areas for the success of any website. If done wrong SEO can also have potentially damaging effects. With well over half of all website visitors coming from Google, shady SEO practices can result in something just as bad as or even worse than an outage. Being blacklisted from Google can cause drastic decreases in audience visits and potentially kill any exposure you have on the web.
SEO tools like Moz can help all of your stakeholders involved in the website ensure they’re meeting their online marketing goals in the right way.
Moz has a series of SEO tools which populate its SEO Toolbox page, these include Open Site Explorer which allows you to identify content and link building opportunities, research and compare competitor backlinks, identify top pages, view social activity data and analyse anchor text. MozBar allows you to perform keyword research and page analysis from inside Chrome and Firefox, this includes MozScape link metrics and social data to help you evaluate to popularity of visited pages.
Website Performance Monitoring - Opsview
Now we’re in the SysAdmin’s wheelhouse where preventing a website outage is first and foremost. To make sure that doesn’t happen, monitoring everything in the infrastructure is the first line of defense against it.
Opsview provides website monitoring software which administers complete end-to-end monitoring of websites, web applications, web transactions and web services. This includes availability, URL monitoring, HTTP status, content monitoring, hijack detection which is what helps prevent DoS and DDoS attacks, and breaches if they occur.
Opsview applies this by carrying out various checks on web services, application level checks, and SSL expiry checks which helps ensure website availability and performance. Building up performance data can also help towards capacity planning for future web server and application updates.
User Testing – Optimizely
User testing and optimzation is a great way to ensure that your website is delighting rather than frustrating your web visitors. There's not much point spending all your marketing budget on getting people to your website if it drives them crazy when they get there. The Optimizely platform allows users to conduct A/B testing, multipage and multivariate testing that can be used for making data driven decisions. Use it to easily build a variety of page layouts then test which ones lead to the best goal conversion rate from your users.
Optimizely can act as your own on-demand technical team, turning your creative changes into instantly generated and deployed code. From this, you can track engagement, clicks, conversions, registrations and anything else that is required to help make sure users get what your website is supposed to do.
So from just starting out, to complete ownership, using some or all of these tools could help provide valuable a insight into the performance and useability of your website. Take action today, don’t get caught out by downtime and frustrated customers, strap on your tool belt and fire your website into hyperspace!