There are lots of free and paid-for tools to help you measure site performance. Often this can be a little overwhelming, especially when it comes to figuring out which tool is best for which element of your site, whether it’s SEO, speed, user experience or simple top-level stats.
It’s essential to measure website performance if you want to optimise the user experience and ensure that visitors are converting. For example, you can use tools to determine whereabouts in the journey users are dropping off and then make changes to optimise this, measure and repeat. Keeping an eye on these stats will also help you identify pain points and increase conversions.
In this piece, we’ll explore the five top tools that we use and recommend to our clients to measure the performance of their websites. We’ll also give you an overview of what you can achieve with each, and how much they cost.
Google Analytics is a must for anyone with a website. The tool is entirely free, and all you need to do is add your tracking ID to your website to get started. Once you’ve linked your website to your Google Analytics account, check out your dashboard where you can set up and download reports.
Under the Acquisition tab, you’ll learn invaluable information about how much traffic your website is getting and where that traffic is coming from (Direct, Organic, Paid etc.)
We recommend checking in on this weekly and keeping track of any peaks and troughs in your traffic, as this will tell if you if there are any immediate causes for concern.
Under the audience tab, you’ll also be able to learn more about the demographics of your visitors, including browser, device and location data which can help you to understand how, why and where users are visiting your website.
There’s a lot of information available to you if you know how to use it. Google Analytics does have its own Academy, which makes learning all of this much easier. If you’re just starting out, we’d also recommend allowing Google Analytics a few months to collect data before you get too in-depth, so that it has time to work out trends and so that you have a greater spread of user data.
There are lots of SEO tools on the market, but SEMrush is the one we use in-house, so it’s only fair that we recommend tools that we’ve tried and tested. SEMrush is a subscription-based software, starting at $99 a month but you can get a free two-week trial when you sign-up. There are lots of features of SEMrush, from competitor tracking and keyword research through to specific project management.
We use the platform to monitor backlinks, site performance, SEO visibility and how optimised each of our pages is for our selected keywords. But this is just the starting point; you can also manage your social accounts and their performance, set-up PPC (pay-per-click) ads and more.
If you’re just getting started on the free trial, we strongly recommend using the Site Audit and Position Tracking functionality under ‘Projects.’ The site audit will tell you what errors your website is displaying and how to fix these. Covering anything from Meta Information to technical site fixes, the tool will allow you to get your website in top shape. The position tracker gives you an understanding of how each of your pages ranks on Google, who your competitors are, and it will notify you when a page enters or leaves the Top 3, Top 10, Top 20 or Top 100 for a specific keyword.
Google Search Console has some similar features to SEMrush but is a free tool developed by Google to help website owners monitor, maintain and troubleshoot their sites. Google Search Console gives users the ability to request indexing, receive error alerts, review top-level stats and more. Google Search Console provides website owners the insight into how users got to your website via Google by giving you ideas into which queries your site is ranking for and how many impressions that term receives.
Overall, the tool enables you to keep an eye on your site’s performance and pick up on errors as soon as they appear.
HotJar allows website owners to see a visual representation of how users navigate their website. It achieves this through several neat visual tools, one of the main ones being heatmaps which can be set-up for individual or multiple pages. These heatmaps allow you to see how users use each page and which buttons or calls-to-action are the most frequented.
Other features of the platform include:
All of the data collected by HotJar should be analysed to help you enhance the user experience. At each stage, you’ll be able to see which areas of your site are redundant to users and which need optimising and improving to get them to the next step. We use the basic version of the platform, but we’ve set up the paid-for subscription for many of our clients which gives you access to more recordings, heatmaps, funnels, forms etc. starting at €89 a month.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that allows users to check out how fast their website loads on desktop and mobile devices by simply typing in their URL.
The tool gives you a ranking from red to green based on how fast your website loads, and then under ‘lab data’ you also get a run-down of what is and isn’t working. It’s a simple tool in comparison to some of the others that we’ve listed here. Still, it’s critical that your website loads quickly, as this can have a significant impact in other areas of your website’s performance. If you’d like to learn more about why website speed is so important, check out our blog: 3 reasons why website speed matters.
We hope this blog has given you an idea of which tools you could introduce to your website and what they can teach you. If you’d like to be the first to hear about our top tips and advice, please register for our newsletter.