When it comes to WordPress website management, Peter Drucker’s advice still reigns supreme: what gets measured gets improved.
Drucker’s advice tells us that to improve something, you need to track and measure what is going on it.
It is thus essential to understand what you need to track, but this often depends on your particular setup.
Since any WordPress installation can vary a lot from another, what’s important for you to track, might not even be on the radar for another WordPress developer.
Having said that, there are several key data points that are somewhat universal. Understanding what these are and tracking them can help you ensure your WordPress remains healthy and secure.
This will also allows you to ensure all users are held accountable, and that everything continues to operate the way it should.
Let’s deep dive into WordPress tracking.
While WordPress is relatively easy to operate, a lot of activity is going on beneath the surface.
While some activity might not affect the day-to-day operations of your website, not knowing what is going on can leave it susceptible to attacks, breakdowns, and downtime.
Furthermore, if you are not tracking the right things, troubleshooting WordPress will involve a lot of shooting in the dark. This wastes time and money and can lead to losses such as revenue loss, visitors loss and credibility loss.
Tracking WordPress has by the way a multitude of other benefits.
These benefits can include accountability, improving teamwork, improving your website performance and easing WordPress maintenance operations.
To help you ensure that you are tracking all of the right WordPress metrics and dimensions, we will be going through a list of the top ten things you should be tracking on your WordPress website.
Website uptime is directly proportional to how well a website is likely to do. Constant or even intermittent downtime is likely to put off visitors and leads to less revenue because the website is not online. Downtime can also derail SEO efforts since search engines cannot rank websites they don’ find.
Monitoring uptime is thus something you must perform since it can ruin anything on your website.
Whether there’s an issue with your login process or someone is trying to brute force their way into your website, monitoring failed login attempts can help you understand user behaviors and risks.
If you have a password policy in place, monitoring failed login attempts can help you understand how it’s impacting your users and your website. On the other hand, monitoring will help you know which areas you need to address if you do not have such a policy.
Either way, it’s a win-win.
Users are the bread and butter of many WordPress websites. Whether you’re running a simple blog, an e-commerce store, a membership-based website, or anything in between, there are many benefits to monitoring user accounts.
From an operational standpoint, keeping a record of user changes in a WordPress activity log can help administrators maintain user accountability.
In turn, this can help you make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible so that your website can continue to grow. It can also help you understand how much time each user spends logged in.
Whether you’re a business with staff working from home, an educational institution monitoring students’ studying time it might be beneficial to track users accounts activity.
Every WordPress user is assigned a role. This role specifies which resources and actions the user has access to. These rights should be set on a WordPress-centric principle of least privileges, thus ensuring an improved WordPress security.
As such, you’ll want to be aware and keep track of privilege escalations. While sanctioned privilege escalations are inherently risky, unsanctioned ones are downright dangerous and often the signs of a malicious attack.
Here, it becomes evidently more important why alerts are a crucial element to the proper management of WordPress.
You don’t want such activities to be buried in a log file (although, admittedly, this is always better than no tracking at all).
Instead, you’ll want to receive notifications straight away so that you can take proper action.
As the adage goes, content is king. It helps you build authority and leadership, foster trust, attract visitors, and increase sales, among other things.
More often than not, content also becomes an integral part of your branding.
As such, monitoring content changes is essential to ensure a consistent approach to how you interact with your website visitors and customers.
More specifically, you’ll want to monitor the following:
This can help you ensure that strategies are being implemented and executed, allowing your content to go the distance.
Just like content, your website’s theme plays a big part in your branding and how customers, users, and visitors perceive your website. This is true regardless of whether you’re running a custom or off-the-shelf theme.
As a visual representation of your online identity, changes can have a significant impact on your operations. Regardless of whether these changes are accidental or intentional, tracking them can help you maintain your website’s integrity and avoid reputational damage.
If you happen to be doing changes such as re-branding, you can stay in the loop as changes are deployed.
Plugins are the butter to WordPress bread. They provide immense extensibility and can turn WordPress into just about anything that you can imagine. While some plugins provide nice-to-haves, others become the website itself.
Tracking plugin changes – whether it’s changes to the plugin itself or changes by the plugin – can help you keep track of critical changes that could potentially affect your bottom line.
A case in point is WooCommerce, which in many cases becomes the main revenue driver on websites it is installed on.
Changes to the WordPress core file and settings can have a detrimental effect on your website. They can bring the whole thing down or change the behavior of your website in unexpected ways. While plugins and updates can have legitimate reasons to make changes in this department, attacks often focus on core files and settings.
Other actors, such as plugins (which we previously discussed) can also alter core files and settings. While in most cases this is fine, a plugin developed by a less competent or perhaps less experienced developer can inflict damage.
By tracking these changes, troubleshooting issues will become less problematic and easier to fix.
PHP errors come in different shapes and sizes from various sources. In most cases, these are generated by themes and plugins, and can happen for various reasons. It’s also important to note that errors differ in severity ranging from warnings to fatal errors.
Either way, you should acknowledge all errors. While a PHP notice or warning error might not have the severe and immediate impact of a fatal error, left unchecked, it can turn into a more serious issue over time.
Nipping it in the bud is always good advice for PHP errors, which is exactly what WP Umbrella allows you to do (among other things).
Slow websites aggravate visitors, who have come to expect sub-second loading times. Search engines also penalize slow-loading websites. This can also lead to higher bounce rates, negatively affecting SERP rankings.
To help you detect performance degradation before it becomes an issue, constant multi-location ping and response time monitoring can save you a lot of headaches. It also allows you to address the problem early enough before serious damage is done.
WordPress comes with a special debug system designed to simplify the debugging process throughout the core, plugins and themes, while standardizing code across them.
The debug mode of WordPress can be activated in the wp-config.php file through the activation of the WP_DEBUG_LOG and WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY constants.
If these constants are left set on TRUE, it can gives valuable information to hackers to shut down your website, so you need to monitor them.
Last but not least, if you want your website to be accessible, you need to make sure that it can be indexed by search engine crawlers.
Yet, when you do a migration or revamp your website, it might happen that you want search engines not to crawl it as it’s often a work in progress process.
So you tick this box in your WordPress admin panel.
Then, you go live but you forget to untick it and you less a countless number of visitor.
That’s why it’s always important to track that search engines are welcomed on your website!
Tracking important events and metrics is easier than you might think. As mentioned in the article, plugins are a great way to bolster the functionality of your WordPress website.
WP Activity Log is more focused on activity logging, while WP Umbrella focuses on performance monitoring and multiple WordPress sites management.
With both plugins installed, you can be sure that you have all of your bases covered, and you’re all set to make your own ding in the universe.
This article was written in collaboration with Robert Abela, the CEO of WP White Security whose also editing the amazing WP Log Activity plugin!