What is website monitoring?
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Published: 20 March 2024
Contributors: Keith O'Brien

What is website monitoring?

Website monitoring is the practice of tracking website and web service performance to ensure maximum availability and an optimal user experience. 

Organizations use website monitoring to help reduce or avoid issues like downtime, latency, and security breaches. A fast, accessible website contributes to a more seamless end-user experience, while slow or unresponsive sites and services can yield a poor customer experience. Poor website experiences weaken an organization’s brand reputation and can significantly impact its bottom line.

Website monitoring, also known as website performance monitoring, is increasingly vital as organizations service more customers through their websites. Ideally, these practices extend beyond monitoring to observability, or the ability to gauge the internal state of a system based on its outputs.

Website functions have become more complex with the emergence of new technologies. For example, many organizations now use machine learning and other AI tools to serve customers, and APIs to interact with and incorporate content from external sources. This increased complexity means that there are more areas where things can go wrong, and the impact of issues can be greater.

In addition, cybersecurity attacks are on the rise, creating more potential pitfalls for organizations. McKinsey predicts that cybersecurity attacks will cost businesses more than USD 10 trillion a year by 2025.1

Modern organizations need real-time visibility into their website’s performance to ensure that they can serve customers with a fast, secure experience. Deep visibility also enables the proper troubleshooting of incidents and problems before they grow to have a more substantial impact.

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Website monitoring tools and technologies

Organizations can use several types of website monitoring solutions and technologies to optimize their websites and ensure that they provide the appropriate services at the appropriate endpoints. These website monitoring features help identify issues that the organization addresses during maintenance windows, where they can avoid unnecessary disruptions to website users.

Most website monitoring tools use automation and instant alerts that enable IT and DevOps teams to address issues immediately. Also, many monitoring providers use cloud-based technologies that make it easier to scale tools up or down as needed and monitor websites globally.

Application performance monitoring (APM)

APM tools help an organization ensure that its applications are performing optimally and providing a valuable user experience. Such tools are especially important in organizations that use interdependent technologies like containers and independent microservices. In these environments, a failure in one application or service can have a cascading effect on many other applications, creating more significant problems. APM tools can help improve website response times, optimize application performance, and accelerate CI/CD pipelines.

Infrastructure monitoring

Infrastructure monitoring involves tracking, analyzing, and managing the performance, availability, and health of an organization’s back-end components.

Real user monitoring (RUM)

Real user monitorning tools inject code into applications to track how they are performing when actual users interact with them. RUM tools help teams better understand the digital user experience and identify issues in real-time environments.

Synthetic monitoring (SM):

Synthetic monitoring is like RUM, but instead of monitoring a real user interacting with an application, it uses a script that mimics potential user behavior to determine how an application is working. Synthetic monitoring, also called synthetic testing, creates a simulation of customer behaviors to determine how an application reacts to various situations. It can simulate user interactions based on factors such as location, network type, device type and more.

Ping monitoring

Ping tools send repeated pings, or short messages, to a domain or IP address to measure response times and website availability.


A webhook is a callback function that allows for event-driven communication between two APIs.2  Webhooks are used to automatically trigger a specified IT action when a certain event occurs.

Web application firewall

This security tool monitors HTTP traffic and can help thwart malicious activities such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, SQL injections, and phishing attempts.

Key areas to monitor

Organizations can configure website monitoring services and tools to take a broad or narrow scope, tracking performance across the entire website, focusing on specific areas, or focusing on external factors like servers and protocols.

Servers and Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)

TCP/IP is a suite of communication protocols that enables communication between servers, and servers and clients, on the internet. Server monitoring can help identify whether server configuration is causing an issue, or if a communication issue exists between servers and other devices.

Individual web pages

Not all website performance issues are system-wide. Organizations must be able to track performance at the page level to identify issues such as incorrect code, too many plug-ins and add-ons that slow performance, or a page-specific script issue that conflicts with global scripts.

Shopping cart

Organizations that sell directly to consumers online likely have a shopping cart on their website where users enter their payment information and complete an order for a product or service. It is important for organizations to monitor shopping cart pages because check-out issues can negatively impact sales and revenues.

In addition, check-out security issues can create major problems for organizations and consumers alike. Malicious actors often target a website’s financial processing services to steal credit card numbers and other information.

SSL certificates

An SSL certificate authenticates a website’s identity by using a security protocol called Secure Sockets Layer (often called TLS, or Transport Layer Security), which connects a web server and web browser through an encrypted link. SSL certificates confirm that a client is communicating with an authenticated server for the domain, which helps prevent spoofing attacks. SSL certificates also enable businesses to use HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), a more secure form of HTTP.

All SSL certificates have an expiration date, and organizations must reauthorize to extend that date. If the SSL certificate expires, visitors might not be able to access a website or might encounter a notification that tells them that the connection is not secure. Both outcomes have a negative effect on website traffic.

Domain Name System (DNS)

The DNS enables users to access websites by using human-readable domain names rather than complex numerical IP addresses. A properly configured, and secure, DNS plays an important role in website performance and ensuring that users can quickly reach the website that they are searching for.

Transaction monitoring

Transaction monitoring tools help an organization understand how its website’s advanced features perform from the user’s perspective. Examples of transactions include form submissions, e-commerce transactions, and user authentication. Transaction monitoring involves both response time monitoring—tracking how long it takes for an action to take place—and transaction tracking, which makes sure the transaction occurs as expected.

Website monitoring metrics

Web performance monitoring yields several metrics that organizations use to gauge the performance of their websites and optimize their online presence. Disruptions to normal website service can be related to an incident, which is a stand-alone issue that usually has a simple solution, or a problem, which is often associated with recurring incidents.

In both instances, an organization needs the right information and the right tools to identify the root cause. With this information, DevOps teams can find solutions for issues and ways to prevent them in the future.


Website uptime reflects the percentage of time a website is available to users. Uptime monitoring is a crucial component of any website monitoring approach; if a website is down, organizations can let visitors know with a status page that describes the outage, estimates how long it takes to fix and provides other ways the user can learn more about the organization and its products or services. However, maintaining maximum uptime is preferable to even the clearest communication strategies.

Page speed

This is a metric for tracking how fast a page loads. Poor page speed can affect placement  in search results3, making it harder for users to find the organization’s website. Organizations can set up threshold alerts that indicate when a page speed has slowed to a point that it affects the user experience. Page speed is an umbrella term for several key determining factors that contribute to web page performance:

  • Time to first byte (TTFB): TTFB is the duration of time between a browser request and when it receives the first piece of information from the responding server.

  • Page load time: Load times track the response time of a web page, that is, how long it takes to become accessible to users. There are many different reasons why a user might experience slow load times. Some are user-side issues: a page might load slowly due to poor internet connectivity or user hardware issues. But server, configuration, or security issues can also cause pages to load slowly. An organization that struggles with load times might lose customers to competitors who are able to provide a fast (and consistent) web experience. 

  • Largest contentful paint (LCP): This metric identifies how long it takes to load the main content on a page, like the largest image or text file.
Error rate

Error rate is the number of errors that occur compared to the number of requests that are made to the website. This metric tracks several issues such as 404 errors (web page not found) and 500 errors (internal server error).

Bandwidth usage

This tracks how much data transfers between an organization’s server and user devices per second. Too little bandwidth causes noticeable performance slowdowns, while paying for too much bandwidth contributes to unnecessary costs. An accurate gauge of bandwidth usage helps organizations find an appropriate balance.

Website monitoring benefits

Organizations that prioritize website monitoring and enact a comprehensive plan to improve their website performance can benefit in several ways, including:

Decreased downtime

IT and web service teams that get automated, instant alerts when a website issue impacts overall service delivery are better positioned to minimize downtime. Minimizing downtime has a positive impact on customer satisfaction and helps ensure that the organization is adhering to its service level agreements (SLAs).

Enhanced security and data integrity

Cyberattacks are on the rise,4 and keeping websites secure requires constant vigilance. Enhanced threat prevention measures are especially important considering how many organizations take payment information from customers online, an exchange that creates several forms of data that can be lucrative for criminals. Security and data integrity issues can have massive financial and reputational repercussions; protecting customer data must be a top priority for organizations.

Improved search engine results

Maintaining optimal load times and website speeds, and minimizing latency and other performance issues helps websites rank high in search results,5 which increases traffic to websites.

Better conversion rates

Organizations that monitor their websites are more likely to address slow-loading pages, service issues and check-out issues that can decrease conversion rates. By proactively addressing issues (or anticipating and preventing them altogether) an organization can increase its conversion rates.

Performance optimization

Website monitoring provides an organization with the information that is needed to identify and remove bottlenecks and address performance issues and incidents before they become larger problems. This helps optimize performance and improve user interactions with the website.

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1 What is cybersecurity,” McKinsey & Company, 3 April 2023

2 What is a webhook,” Red Hat, 1 February 2024

3 What is page speed and how to improve it,” Ana Camarena, Sem Rush Blog, 7 March 2023

4 Cybersecurity,” US Government Accountability Office,

5 Page Speed As a Google Ranking Factor,” Matt G. Southern, Search Engine Journal, 8 October 2023