Regular site maintenance and monitoring does not have to come at a huge expense.
We’re big advocates of regular audits and an iterative approach to design – but to keep track of your site's day-to-day performance, you are going to need a different set of tools.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of free website tools that can help you, especially from one of the industry leaders, Google.
In this article, we're sharing a list of Google’s available tools you should at least be aware of and how you can make the most of them to improve your site.
You’re probably already familiar withGoogle Analytics. It’s the reigning king of Google’s free site tools, and for good reason: it’s full of features, it can help you easily measure and track your site goals, it will give you a lot of information about your site visitors, and it’s 100% free.
Because it’s packed full of features, it can take some experimentation to figure out how to make the most of Google Analytics for your site, but here are some of the areas where Analytics can offer insight:
- Your conversions, including how many people go through your product purchasing process, as well as how many people abandon it at particular stages
- Your visitors’ social engagement with site content and social plug-ins
- Your key traffic sources, including search engines and (some) keywords
- Your best performing content
- Your visitors’ demographics and the technology they use to view your site, and their pages per visit
- Real-time data of how many users are on your site and what pages they’re viewing
Analytics also allows for a lot of customization: you can set up custom alerts to receive reports at specific times, hand-pick the metrics in those reports, and track the progress of particular campaigns.
If you don’t have Google Analytics already, it’s a simple process to sign up and implement on your site. Visit analytics.google.com to get started.
If there’s a problem with Google Analytics, it’s that the sheer amount of data it offers can be overwhelming. But Google also has an answer for that.
The new Data Studio – which is still in the beta stage – allows users to turn all that data into beautiful, easy to digest reports. You can easily share the reports with your colleagues and clients – or just use them for yourself to make your life a whole lot easier.
You can try Data Studio here for free.
Google Webmaster Tools
Like Analytics, Webmaster Tools is all about the data. In this case, the data focuses less on your users, and more on the overall health and performance of your site.
Webmaster Tools will help you with:
- Finding malware infections
- Making HTML improvements that will boost your site’s performance and user experience (based on any issues with your title and description tags)
- Understanding search queries and the top traffic-driving keywords for your site
- Finding the site errors that Google has detected when crawling your site
- A breakdown of crawl stats (i.e. how fast crawlers read your site pages)
- Viewing your site as Google sees it, or identifying any potential Google penalties against your site
There’s much more to Webmaster Tools than we can cover here, so we recommend thisgreat blog post
for more tips, and you can get started with your own Webmaster Tools at google.com/webmasters
Google Consumer Surveys
Getting to know your audience is one of the best things you can do for your site’s performance and usability. If it’s not the time for a full-blown UX evaluation, Google’s Consumer Surveys can be a good stand-in.
Consumer surveys allow you to measure your site visitors’ satisfaction by asking four default questions that will offer you a good idea of how your users feel about your site and their experience with it.
The major drawback is that the free option doesn’t allow you to customize the survey – but as a short term option, consumer surveys give you some valuable basic information about your users.
Click here to get started with Consumer Surveys for Website owners.
Page Speed Insights
By now, it’s well known that site speed impacts your search ranking, so it’s a good idea to keep regular tabs on your speed performance.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights will give your site a speed rating on a scale of 1 to 100. It measures both above-the-fold and full page load times to give you a robust picture of your site’s speed issues.
If your score is low, PageSpeed also offers suggestions for improvement, such as prioritising visual content or optimising caching.
Click here to measure your page speed.
Mobile-Friendly Test Tool
If you want Google’s opinion on whether your site is mobile-friendly (especially in light of its mobile-friendly algorithm update), you can use this quick test to get a simple yes or no answer.
It’s super simple: you type in your website’s URL, and the tool gives your site a pass or fail measured against various design factors.
The tool also you show you how your page looks on a mobile screen, which can help you identify any mobile red flags.
We know that Google’s algorithm gives a big boost to mobile-friendly sites, so getting a quick evaluation straight from the source is valuable.
It’s also worth mentioning that Google Webmaster Tools and PageSpeed Insights both include a Mobile Usability report that flags any mobile issues with your site.
You can also customize your Google Analytics dashboard to include some key mobile metrics (you can find out more about that at this post from Creative Bloq).
There you have it – a round-up of our favourite free Google tools and how you can get the most out of them to improve your site’s performance.
If you want to build the habits you need to make sure your site is always performing, using some these tools regularly will almost certainly be part of you routine.