The last few weeks have felt like the website goblins launched a wide scale attack on nearly every active website. Hosting companies have had widespread outages and updates seem to be destroying network connections. Chances are, if you run a blog or website, you know what I'm talking about.
Between this blog and two websites I manage for my day job, all three sites have had issues in the last few weeks.
A couple weeks ago, one of my day job sites crashed unknowingly. I found out when I went to access a blog post and an error code greeted me instead. After a week and half of headaches, including changing hosting companies and driving my web designer crazy, we got that site back up and running.
Then literally, less than a week later, our other website went down. It seemed to be a part of their global hosting outage but when everyone else's sites were restored, ours still sat vacant. Of course, this happened right before Thanksgiving, so you can only imagine how reliable support was during this time.
And on this blog, I had finally gotten around to performing the latest WordPress update. Everything seemed to go well. Until I realized something weird in my analytics. According to my site stats, I was getting average numbers of visitors. But according to Google Analytics, I was barely getting any traffic. In fact, it did get down to zero! Long story short, something in the update messed with a widget and things got funky. I uninstalled and reinstalled the widget, and looky there, the analytics are back to normal!
So what has all this crazy website goblin action taught me?
We need to actively monitor our sites and our analytics!
While one of the sites that went down was brought to my attention by someone else, the other two were only recognized by my own investigation. Because I regularly visit and check my site data for all my sites, I was able to quickly (relatively speaking) jump on the issue and work toward resolutions.
Obviously, the first two instances would have been recognizable without checking analytics - just going to the site proved they were under attack by the monstrous little goblins. But I would never have caught the issue on this blog without checking both analytic platforms and comparing trends.
I've also had instances on the opposite end of the spectrum where my analytics show an unusual spike in activity. Usually this is because a blog post was shared somewhere that it gained additional traffic. And in these instances, I want to both know where the traffic is coming from but also who I should thank for the exposure. If it was shared to a public group of location where I can join in the conversation, I want to be able to do that.
But if I'm only checking my analytics once a month, I might be missing out on key opportunities to capitalize on the boost in traffic.
I don't think there's any perfect formula for how often to check your analytics. However, I think it should be at least weekly.
Depending on the amount of traffic you get and how often you share content, you might want to check your analytics daily or only once or twice a week. Whatever schedule you decide on, it's important that you adhere to it. It only takes a couple minutes to glance over data, check for trends (or anomalies), and determine if any action is required.
I also recommend that you set aside time at least once a month for a full in-depth analysis of your stats and analytics. This means really diving into the data and determining how your site is running. You should be considering factors like these:
- New and returning visitors ratios
- Bounce rate
- Visit duration
- Pages per visit
- Mobile traffic
- Geographic traffic
- Site speed
There are plenty of other factors to consider and, depending on your goals, there may be numerous other factors to review.
You should also be keeping track of these results every month so that you can track trends monthly and annually. Maybe you notice certain months produce unusually high amounts of traffic. But if that trend repeats itself every year, that says a lot about your audience and your niche. This is information you can use to your advantage!
It's important to remember that, in order for your site to be successful, you need to be serving your audience. If you aren't monitoring their behavior on your site, how can you be sure you're providing them with what they want?
Checking your analytics and determining your site activity is one of the best ways to make sure you will see success with your audience.
As for my situation, I find it scary, honestly, that all three of the sites I manage have literally zero traffic at some point during the same one month period. I wholeheartedly believe in the goblins that are out to sabotage our sites! But at least all sites (fingers crossed) are functioning as normal now.
I'd love to hear from you. How often do you check your analytics? And have you ever avoided disaster or benefited from regular monitoring? Sound off in the comments below!