A warning about performance testing

A few days ago, I was deep into testing my website and wrote up a quick article about some tools that I use when I’m testing sites. After a few days of reflection, I realize that I should have included a warning in that article.

Be very careful before you start performance testing your website. The key thing to remember is that a very typical run of ab looks a lot like a denial of service attack. Good hosts will ban any endpoint that sends that much traffic that quickly.

Before you do any performance testing, read what kinds of terms your host imposes upon you. And if you self host your website, be sure to turn off any security software that automatically bans users who flood the website with too many requests per second. This will save you from some serious headaches.

Welcome back Google Analytics

Yeah we tease him a lot, welcome back, welcome back
Cause we got him on the spot, welcome back, welcome back

Not even three full weeks have gone by since I removed Google Analytics from my website and I can’t handle it. I just reinstalled the tracking code and updated my privacy policy. This website has rejoined the land of ad technology.

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Return on investment and on-brand search ads

Before you start any kind of online advertising, you need to do some preliminary work. You need to figure out how you will define a conversion, how much revenue (or profit) you will assign to that conversion and use those numbers to build a return on investment equation. When you start tracking return on investment, it’s important to point sales back to the medium that actually brought them in. This can get a little tricky.

If your company invests in Google Ads, there’s a good chance that you run campaigns on your brand. Consider this example where the Google query “google ads” shows an ad for Google Ads’ official site:

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Free tools for website performance testing

Web application/site speed is a major factor in whether it will achieve its marketing goals. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how good your content, service or product is, if your web property is slow, most people won’t come back.

Luckily, we have tools to give us a sense of how much traffic our sites can handle and lots of them are free or open source. Here are some of my favourite tools for monitoring how a site or application performs:

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Interesting performance benchmarks with a new theme

Note – I’m doing a lot of performance testing on this production site so some things might be sketchy for the next couple of days.

I launched this new theme about ten days ago and have been running performance tests against it ever since. Making the home page much more static has yielded some remarkable performance boosts on its own. But over the weekend, I experimented with generating static menus into header.php and footer.php. The results of that were absolutely crazy so I pushed a new change into the theme last week and plan to have a fully static menu system by the end of 2019.

In very complex performance testing with Locust.io, with caching turned off, making my header and footer menus static increased my requests per second by over 30%. With aggressive caching turned on, making those menus static still increased my requests per second by over 4%.

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Struggling with log files

Barely a weekend has gone by since I completely removed Google Analytics from my website and I’m already having regrets. Log files are fine, but I miss being able to go deep into visits as easily as I could with Google Analytics.

Thus far, with log files I can still go deep, but I have to write code anytime I want to go deeper than basic traffic counts and simple click flows. I use Python and their re module so it’s fun code to write, but it seems like such a strange waste to write code to go deep into my log files in late 2019 when those analytics problems have already been solved for years.

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Two questions for all content marketers

If your website (or client’s website) went seriously viral, could it stay up? Would it still be fast?

If the answer is ‘yes’, that is great news. You and your brand are in a good position to capitalize on going viral. Your site will likely stay up and you’ll give first time visitors a great first impression.

If your answer is ‘no’, you have some work to do. At minimum, I suggest that you find a good web developer with a background in ops and performance testing to take a look at your site and figure out how/why it goes down or gets incredibly slow. Beyond this, I can’t give you any specific advice because it depends on how/why your website goes down. In some cases, the culprit is clear but in other cases, the culprit is a number of small issues that all cascade into an outage.

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