Site Health Measurement Tools You Can Use On Your Own (But Beware—They Have Limitations)

If you read our previous post on site health you understand the benefits of striving for a healthy website.

And hopefully what you learned made you eager to achieve site health. So much so that you now want to probe your online property’s innards with a bunch of futuristic software tools. Mabe you even want to lay your website down on a Star Trek-style sickbay exam table for that purpose.

Futuristic exam table from the starship Enterprise not needed for diagnosing to see if you have a healthy website.
You say you want a healthy website but you also want to diagnose it yourself? Then better get one of these starship-type exam rooms and a whole bunch of futuristic diagnostic tools. Or you could just hand off the task to Valet and not worry about it. Photo credit: TrekCore

Question: do you want Dr. McCoy to conduct those tests for you? Or do you prefer doing them yourself, even though you lack Bones’ long years of healing-arts experience?

If you opt for the latter, you might come to regret it. Odds are your lack of expertise in this area will lead you to the same diagnosis Dr. McCoy most famously makes: “He’s dead, Jim.”

Here at Valet, we think site health diagnoses prove vastly more reliable when you let highly trained and supremely skilled specialists do the assessing for you.

If you insist on doing it yourself then you’ll appreciate the resources we offer further down in this post. They’re for procuring the DIY tools necessary to see if you have a healthy website.

Healthy Website Checkups Require Many Tools

But first, a few words of caution about those healthy website checkup tools.

“No tool by itself gives you enough information to make a determination about site health,” says Mason James, who co-founded Valet and today serves as head of business development.

Healthy website proponent Mason James is not shown here. This is actor DeForest Kelley who played Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek TV series and movies.
Not Mason James. Photo credit: NBC Television

“For example, take Google Webmaster. Great tool. We use it ourselves. It gives valuable insights. However, while it may tell us about such things as the condition of your sitemaps and whether your 404 errors affect Google’s crawlers, we still need to assess much, much, much more—and in order to get the full picture of your site’s health status we need many other tools.”

Mason says that Valet’s approach to site health diagnosis is powerful because “we evaluate your site holistically and hierarchically.” By this, he means that Valet addresses the totality of your website’s health and does so by pigeonholing all of its elements into a five-category hierarchy.

On paper, these categories form a tiered pyramid. At the top is website visitor conversion. Below that is site traffic. Then usability, followed by speed, and, at the bottom, site security.

This naturally requires lots and lots of different tools.

Healthy Website Assessments Start at the Bottom

The starting point for determining if you have a healthy website is in fact that foundational tier—security. From the folks at the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) comes a list of 45 tools you can use just to detect site security vulnerabilities.

These tools look for cross-site scripting, SQL injection, command injection, path traversal, insecure server configurations, and a multitude of other exploitable security holes. Another OWASP list of nearly 40 commercial and open-source or free tools for Static Application Security Testing analyzes security flaws that might be lurking in your source code and/or compiled versions of code.

Assessing the speed at which your website loads gives you a sense of whether visitors like or dislike stopping by. If paint dries faster than your pages load, you’ve got a problem. These top 15 tools for measuring the speed of your website or applications will let you know if you do.

The list was compiled by DynoMapper, which also offers you this rundown of 16 usability testing tools for optimizing user experience. Usability testing tools help you understand how visitors respond to the various functional features they encounter at your website. If well-oiled site machinery greets your visitors, then users should be able to readily accomplish whatever they came to do. If the machinery sticks, it needs fixing—and you’ll know that’s so thanks to these scanners.

Look at Competitor Traffic

Over at the Earning Guys, you’ll find the 10 best website traffic estimators. These tools estimate not your traffic but that of your competitors.

Knowing about the website traffic of your competitors opens a window to give you a glimpse of what those rivals do that succeeds, fails, or falls somewhere in between.

Possessing those insights helps you better understand audience appetite for the type of content served up in your neck of the Internet woods. You can then adjust your keywords and content to better match audience interests and enthusiasms.

Finally, there are website conversion tools. These help you measure your conversion success (or lack of success, as the case may be). This will offer vital clues about how to coax visitors in a bigger way to take the actions you desire.

Many tools exist for conversion assessment. Some of these tools are free, while others come with the price of a monthly paid subscription. The team at Response IQ pulled together an impressive list of the top tools for assessing how well your site converts visitors.

Questions to Ask about Site Health Tools

Whatever tools you acquire for gauging whether you own a healthy website, remember that every tool brings to the exam its own plusses and minuses. So, before acquiring any tool, OWASP suggests you ask yourself a few questions.

The most basic question to ask: is this tool accurate? A related query: can this tool’s readings be trusted (in other words, does this tool have a problematic rate of showing False Positive/False Negative results)?

You’ll also want to inquire whether the tool can understand the infrastructure of the website it will be used to probe.

As well, you should seek enlightenment as to whether the tool is easy or difficult to install and use. Can it do its thing without need of human intervention? And, if course, how much will this tool cost to acquire and utilize?

Choose wisely.

NEXT: How Valet conducts site health assessments.