Once your WordPress website has gone live, an important aspect of its maintenance is ensuring it is up and running so that everyone with an internet connection can view it. According to Google's Webmaster and Engineer Matt Cutts, a site being down for 24 hours or less shouldn't hurt its Google search ranking. However if a site is down for several days or even weeks, this would lead to your Google position being downgraded. You might even be removed from Google altogether!
As with any business, a good brand image is vital. With a worldwide audience, your brand identity lives or dies on the level of customer satisfaction. Website downtime can jeopardise your reputation. Monitoring your WordPress website is the best way to prevent these unwanted problems and protect the image of your business.
Is my WordPress website down right now?
A big obstacle to checking whether your site is down is browser caching. You could be viewing a cached version of your site, when your website is actually down to everyone else.
One way overcoming this issue is by performing a refresh that bypasses the cache. This is done by holding 'ctrl' and pressing 'F5' (or the refresh button in the tooldbar). This same shortcut is used in Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera. For Mac users the shortcut is 'cmd' + 'F5 or the refresh button in the toolbar', or 'shift' + refresh for those using Safari.
Forcing a fresh is not completely reliable, so another way to check your site's availabilty is to use this helpful tool: Down For Everyone Or Just Me? This site allows you to enter the address of your site, or any site, and like the name suggests, checks whether the site you are trying to view is down just for you, or whether it's down for everyone that could try to access it.
How can I find out if my WordPress website goes down?
Obviously it would be very time consuming and not very practical to have to constantly check yourself to see if your WordPress website is running correctly. Fortunately there are several free tools that can do this for you and alert you personally if your site does go down.
Uptime Robot is free software that checks your site every 5 minutes (or at whatever period you choose) to see if it's up and running. It will alert you via email, SMS text message or Twitter when your site experiences downtime.
It can even monitor for different types of downtime. We use it to add 2 types of alert for each WordPress website:
- An alert to tell us if the whole website is inaccessible
- An alert to tell us if a key word from the homepage is inaccessible (this captures any occasions where the website itself is working but something has broken your content)
Unlike the other monitoring tools featured in this post, Uptime Robot is 100% and you get all its features for free - they're not just providing a free version as a sneaky way of convincing you to upgrade!
I find Uptime Robot well designed and easy to use, so it's a great option.
You may not know this, but Pingdom still offers a free website uptime monitoring tool - you can sign up at https://www.pingdom.com/free/ (this page is well hidden on pingdom.com as they'd prefer to promote their paid plans, so it's best to access this link directly!).
If you only want to monitor one website then this is a good tool - easy to set up, and you can track specific incidents or website downtime. You can receive notifications of problems with your website via email, SMS, Twitter, iOS or Android.
The problem with Pingdom as a free tool is that it only allows one user to monitor one website. If you want to monitor multiple websites, or if you want to add multiple users to your account, then you need to upgrade to a paid plan. This is a shame since the other tools featured in this post don't have this limitation.
Personally, I found the Pingdom dashboard less intuitive to use than the other tools we tested. I found myself clicking round randomly to find what I was looking for, rather than it being obvious.
Anturis is a sophisticated website uptime monitoring tool that is rapidly gaining in popularity. You can track multiple types of incident on multiple websites. The free plan includes email alerts (which can be sent to multiple people) but you need a paid plan for SMS and voice alerts. The free plan includes up to 5 monitors, so you can't use it to monitor unlimited websites.
Personally, I find the dashboard quite confusing - it's divided into several sections and it's not obvious what is in each section. The language and terminology is quite technical too, so it's not ideal for a novice user.
I would recommend Uptime Robot for most WordPress website owners, especially if you want a free tool that is quick and easy to set up. Anturis is a good option for professionals who can understand the more technical options and can spend more time configuring it and analysing all the data it provides.