Detecting errors on your website (part 2)

Steve Jackson

Steve Jackson

Detecting errors on your website (part 2)

In part one of this series we looked at a couple of considerations around handling error messages. But quite often you won’t know what are causing errors on your website. This tip looks at a few things you can set-up to alert you in case some of the more common things go wrong.

Site downtime

One of the things you may easily monitor is site downtime. If your website crashes for any reason you need to know immediately. We use pingdom to tell us how our website performs in terms of download speed when the visitor arrives to our pages and also to monitor if it is up or not. Pingdom, pings our website every second to make sure it gets the required normal response. If it doesn’t it sends an alert via email to us. As soon as the site crashes (and this happens only very occasionally) we immediately find out and can take corrective actions.

Often a server reboot is required and everything is back to normal and this can be handled in a matter of seconds. If the alert wasn’t present then we might not notice till an irritated customer contacted us to alert us that our website wasn’t working.


Your analytics tools can be set-up to send alerts to specific email addresses when something out of the ordinary happens. This could be a good or a bad thing, but either way you’d want to know about it so you could check out what was happening.

  1. Critical Traffic alert. Set-up an email alert so that if the traffic drops by more than 75% of the same day the previous week you get an email to check it out. This alert could mean a technical error has stopped people from arriving to your website (see also site downtime above) or it could mean something has changed on your pages and analytics is no longer tracking. In either case you’d want to fix the problem. It could also mean that you just have a very low traffic count for that day. If that were the case as a curious analyst I’d want to know what was so different about the same day the previous week and I’d run a comparison report.
  2. Specific Traffic Alert. You could set-up an alert that monitors organic search engine traffic for instance or direct traffic. If there is a 75% drop in SEO traffic it may be that a major search engine has banned you from their index and you can act to repair whatever problem there is. If there was a 75% drop in direct traffic again, it may mean your website is down or that you need to step up branding efforts.
  3. Process alerts. If you have a shopping cart or a lead generation process then you may want to look at step alerts. So if 75% less people move from step “A” to step “B” in for instance a shopping cart, from week to week then there may be a usability or technical problem with the website that needs fixing.

Action points

  • Install pingdom (or a similar tool) to monitor site uptime and download speed.
  • Identify critical performance areas in your analytics tools to set-up alerts.
  • Set-up alerts from Analytics tools that monitor traffic health across the critical performance areas (i.e. SEO, Processes and all traffic).


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