Hopefully your website is an important part of your business, serving customers, generating orders and making a great impression 24 hours a day. But how can you be sure? Especially at those peak industry periods when more people than ever are visiting your site and you are at your busiest?
Some florists try and make a habit of simply visiting their websites on a regular basis but this isn’t enough. Most florists, even those that visit their sites every day, won’t be aware of any problems until they hear from a disappointed customer.
Monitoring services offer the solution. They let you set up different “checks” that test your website for different problems, as often as every minute, and alert you via email, text message or app. They work around the clock to make sure that your website is online and providing a great experience to everyone that visits.
The most basic check confirms that your website is online and available. If the site goes down you’ll be notified immediately – usually with an email or SMS text message.
The big fear is always a prolonged outage of several minutes or hours but brief intermittent outages, as short as a few seconds, are another serious concern. These are almost impossible to detect by checking manually because they are so brief (and you are very unlikely to just stumble across one), but they’re hard to ignore when you’re the shopper. Without a monitoring service you probably won’t ever know they are happening.
Is it really a big deal if your website briefly goes offline on a regular basis? Yes! The site will be available to most visitors when they arrive, but the longer they stay the more likely they are to encounter an outage that will end their session and make them start over.
When a site experiences an outage, 9% of online customers permanently abandon the site, and 48% of site users establish a relationship with a competitor.
And when do people spend the most time on your website? When you least want to interrupt them… when they are placing an order.
One of the most respected SEO experts in the floral industry (and monitoring enthusiast) Ryan Freeman of Florist 2.0 explains that:
Ryan Freeman, Florist 2.0
“A twerking website (one that goes up and down) frustrates your customers and it can also hurt your standing with search engines. They see a website that is less reliable and are reluctant to endorse it with a high ranking”.
People choose a search engine because it gives them good results when they perform a search. Just like you strive to provide your customers with beautiful flowers search engines strive to provide their visitors with good search results – and they are understandably reluctant to send their visitors to a website that frequently goes offline.
Once you are confident that your website is online the next consideration is user experience. Is your website fast enough to keep your visitors happy? Or is it frustrating enough to send them looking for alternatives?
Research shows that 52% of online shoppers consider quick page loading important to their site loyalty and 79% are less likely to buy from the same site again when dissatisfied with site performance. Again monitoring can help by providing detailed reports on performance.
It’s tempting to think “my site feels pretty fast when I visit it” but that isn’t enough. In our industry user experience is most likely to suffer when you are least likely to notice: the major floral holidays. Increased traffic can slow your site down when you are least likely to be checking it.
You should also remember that you will almost always see your website perform better than the average visitor because you likely visit it frequently and have much of the content cached on your machine. A monitoring service gives you a better sense of the real experience.
If your monitoring service informs you that your site is getting slower you can act to protect your business – you may be able to put a message on the website asking people to call you if they have any problems.
A slowing website can also indicate a coming outage as the server enters a death spiral, getting slower and slower before it finally goes down. Again a monitoring service helps by providing advance warning.
Checking for availability and quality of user experience are the most obvious uses of a monitoring service but there is another possibility as well – monitoring for content (specifically products and links) that you do not want on your website.
Some website vendors will make changes to your website in an effort to keep it current – often adding seasonal products, some of which are shipped overnight directly from the website provider. Many florists don’t want to feature these products on their websites and will remove them as soon as they appear. The problem is that they are often unaware that changes have been made until they visit the website themselves or, worse, see an order for a product they don’t sell.
Another problem is outbound links. Some website vendors will add links back to other websites that the florist does not want. For example many website vendors will include links back to their own websites in an effort to promote themselves and you may not want that.
An even bigger concern are links that could ultimately take your visitor to a competitor. Is there any was a link on your website takes a visitor to a site where they can purchase flowers directly? Again links like this are sometimes added without the florist even being aware of it.
A monitoring service can help. Just as you can be alerted when a certain page on your website is not available, you can also be alerted when certain text or links appear. You can then remove the products from the website, or ask the vendor to remove the link.
My current favorite is Pingdom. It offers a great combination of value, quality reporting, variety/frequency of checks and alert options. Other options are listed below. Like Pingdom most offer a free option with a limited number of checks. Switching to a paid account generally gets you more checks more often.
The number of checks is important because you should be checking for a few different things - the availability and speed of several pages that are essential to a good customer experience, products, links, etc. The frequency matters because infrequent checks will almost always miss the brief outages that are so frustrating to your online visitors.
Ten different checks running every minute is probably adequate for most florists. With Pingdom this would cost $10. In return you get detailed minute-by-minute reports on a vital aspect of your business.
One approach is to try the free options from different services. This lets you evaluate all aspects of the service before committing.