In this article I would like to disclose some of the tools and services that I use to analyze websites and track their loading speed, performance, online presence & search engine rankings.
This is in no way a complete list of useful tools, there is always something new and exciting on the horizon, so feel free to share similar services in the comments below.
- Part 1: Website Performance
- Part 2: Brand Awareness and Online Presence
- Part 3: Search Engine Rankings & Backlinks
Part 1: Website Performance back to top
No matter if your website is old or new, you should run a couple of quick tests to check its technical performance, such as loading speed, homepage size, etc. Always do this after updating something on your website, you could accidentally hurt its performance without realizing it.
Why should you care about your website’s loading speed?
More reasons to care about the loading speed of your website:
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load;
- A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cause $2.5 million in lost sales every year.
Now that we know how high the stakes are, let’s check out some (free) tools that will help us out.
This service will visit your website and will analyze some of the most important aspects of it.
Below you can see what the test shows for the current homepage of HermesThemes.
It is important that you avoid any 4xx and 5xx errors, as these are signs of a poorly developed or maintained website, signs that search engines don’t like too much. Frequent examples are 404 Page Not Found Error & 500 Internal Server Error.
GTMetrix provides more information about your website’s speed and performance, as well as real recommendations on how to fix each issue.
Here’s what GTMetrix shows for our homepage:
Both services show that our homepage loads in less than 2 seconds, something that I’m proud of.
Some of the issues that return a low grade are a bit difficult to solve, for example the “Specify a Cache Validator” message. This one is difficult to achieve because the page loads external resources, such as the jQuery library, some third-party scripts, etc.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights displays separate recommendations for the PC and for Mobile visitors, so it is worth checking out as well. Their suggestions are somewhat more technical, so it might slightly more difficult to follow their instructions.
Here’s the score that our homepage gets:
Part 2: Brand Awareness and Online Presence back to top
If you care about your reputation, you should probably know when your business name is used anywhere on the web. Maybe someone wrote a positive article about your business or an employee, or maybe there’s a negative article about you in foreign press?
Thankfully there are services that will report every time they encounter your name.
Google Alerts (free)
“Monitor the web for interesting new content” is the way Google modestly describes this tool.
This (free) service lets us create alerts for specific keyword phrases and will send you an email every time it finds it somewhere on the web. You can set up alerts for your name, your business’s name, main keyword phrases, etc.
The screenshot below shows how an alert for “Siena House Hotel” would look like, and it takes 30 seconds to set up.
If you are in the hospitality business, it might be a good idea to set up alerts for the names of your front-office workers, for example your General Manager’s name, the receptionist, restaurant waiters, etc. This could potentially help you avoid bad press, or help you find good mentions of your business.
Of course you can set up alerts for your most important keyword phrases as well and monitor the activity of your competitors.
Mention.com | Real-time media monitoring (free & paid plans)
“Start listening to what’s being said on the web and social web. React quickly, collaborate, and analyze your online presence.“
The mission of this service is very similar to Google Alerts, but it works in real time and is web-based. You get access to a modern and sophisticated dashboard, where you can monitor all your alerts in real time and across multiple channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
A free basic package will get you only 1 alert and 250 mentions / month, so you can try setting it up for your brand name.
A starter package at 29 € / month will get you 3 alerts and 3,000 mentions / month, which in my opinion is a bit too expensive for most small businesses.
Part 3: Search Engine Rankings & Backlinks back to top
After you have taken care of your website’s technical performance, it is time to start tracking your rankings and backlinks in search engines.
Rank Tracker by Link-Assistant (free trial, $125 / year)
I’ve been using Rank Tracker for over 3 years now and I’m pretty happy with it. It lets you track rankings of websites for any amount of keywords and phrases. You can also monitor the performance of your main competitors, which is very useful. Notice a huge jump of a competitor for a keyword? Check what they did to accomplish that. Notice a huge drop of a competitor? Maybe you can use that for your own good.
And finally, this is the screen that you will look at for most of the time that you will be using this software.
Many other analyses and reports are available, such as finding your main competitors, their performance and technical details, etc.
Positionly (free trial, from $19 / month)
“Monitor daily changes, your competitors, measure SEO performance, and improve your search engine rankings.”
Positionly is a web-based service, so you don’t have to download anything and you can access it from anywhere, be it desktop PC or mobile.
Let’s sign up with them and see what they got to offer. The free trial is very convenient for this purpose.
It took about 10 seconds to finalize my initial keyword check-up, after which I got to see the Dashboard, which looks very stylish and intuitive.
There is also a page that is supposed to display the backlinks to your website, but you can’t see much because of the message below.
From what I have noticed in my account’s settings, I had to opt-out of an automatic upgrade from a free to a paid plan. If I would fill my billing details, in 2 weeks I might get charged for their service, which clearly states “no refunds“. Thus I decided to stop my test here.
Looks like a fine service, I’m sure many of you will find it useful.
SEO SpyGlass by Link-Assistant (free trial, $125 / year)
“If you don’t spy on your Google competitors now, you’ll hate yourself later.”
This is probably my favorite software to use. This little software shows you all backlinks that a domain has. (What is a backlink?)
This way you can find all the web pages that have a link to your website, you can analyze the content in which they link to you, the anchor text, the value that you get, etc. You can do the same thing for your competitors, so that you will know where and how they promote their website.
In this example I decided to test the website of one of our customers.
After the backlink data has been collected, we can see every single backlink and some characteristics for it.
To get a quick understanding of how well your website is doing, you have access to a Summary for all the backlinks in the project.
I love using SEO SpyGlass because it helps me better understand the way competitors build and market their content. For a local business this tool is incredible, as you could analyze the websites of all of your competitors and try to get backlinks the same way they do.
In Conclusion back to top
When it comes down to running a website, there is always something you can tweak and improve. No matter what tools and software you are going to use along the way, nothing will ever guarantee your success. That’s why you should always keep creating and improving, never leave your website unattended for years on end, expecting that it will perform as well as it did last year.
Some of these tools will help in identifying your weak/strong points, so keep up the hard work and one day you might reach the top.
What do you think about these tools and services? Have you used any of them? Have your say in the comments below.