Life is all about surprises. But in business, surprises are unwelcome, especially when your website is concerned.
For businesses that run online, keeping a handle on everything seems impossible.
You cannot control who visits your website, what kind of ways people are using to fool/break the system, and what customers are saying about it. What you can control (monitor), however, is the content included in the website, be it the code files themselves, the pages and posts, the images and other files stored on the server, and so on. Collectively, let’s call them “website changes.”
Now the question is, should you bother?
Why website changes matter
It’s a surprise that business owners don’t think of website changes more often. Even for content-driven websites, where content is make-or-break for the business.
Perhaps they’ve been conditioned into thinking that this is out of reach; that maybe it’s not possible, or is so complicated that the resources spent are not worth it?
I’d like to argue that all these conclusions are misguided.
When a website changes, it can mean a lot of very important things.
Almost all web applications store some configuration data in their environment or config files (WordPress users will recognize the
wp-config.php file). Changes to these files, if not intentional, can mean a security compromise, the result being stolen information, or worse, the information being fed from a corrupted source.
This is kind of what happens in a DNS-poisoning attack, except that this time the server will be compromised and the attack will likely go unnoticed.
This is crucial for WordPress websites, where the attacker relies on changing some files that are important and somehow made accessible. All in all, if you didn’t make any changes to your site’s content and files and yet something changed, it’s an alarm bell.
For sites that depend on user-generated content, the risk is even greater. It’s possible that some random user (or even a competitor!) has posted profane or copyrighted content on your website, landing you into potential trouble. Even if your website doesn’t rely on user-generated content, it’s possible for someone to make a change and add/remove content in a way that is troublesome for your business operations.
The applications of monitoring changes are unlimited, depending on what your areas of concern are. For instance, you can use content change monitoring in the following situations:
- Website defacement
- Missing or broken page elements
- Unplanned code changes (HTML or otherwise)
- Competition monitoring
- News monitoring (useful for your PR department)
Once you’re aware of what’s at stake, it’s time to take action — with the help of one of the tools we’re going to discuss next.
Versionista is a “simple, powerful SaaS solution” for all your change monitoring needs. It works exceptionally well for those who want to monitor at scale.
It can be used to crawl your website pages or simply as a discovery tool for new content. What impressed me most was their detailed reporting. Check out some screenshots:
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Check out Versionista now.
Monitoring of publicly visible content and files is fine, but what if your content is locked behind a login form? Well, Fluxguard addresses these concerns.
Thanks to its use of state-of-the-art tools like Headless Chrome and Puppeteer, Fluxguard can submit login forms and interact with any portion of a page easily. You can also run Google Lighthouse audits to your entire site.
Some awesome features of Fluxguard are:
- Tracking of full network activity
- Cookie tracking for UX and compliance
- Archives for demonstrating historical compliance
- Advanced filters and transformations
- Elaborate, on-page visual comparisons
I’m a fan of simplicity and minimalism, so I can’t ignore a solution that is laser-focused. Same goes for Visualping if you’re looking for simple page-level monitoring and want dead a simple pricing model.
Why would you use a service that ridiculously simple? Well, I looked around on their website and found some brilliant applications:
- Scanning government sites for job vacancies
- Monitoring university sites for exam results
- Checking for new reviews for your favorite restaurant on Yelp, etc.
- Keeping a check on vendors for sneaky price changes ??
All in all, it goes on to show that technology is limited in its capabilities but unlimited in its applications. 🙂
Sken.io is another nice offering when it comes to website monitoring.
What I found different about this service is that they have a focus on a mobile app and a Chrome extension for alerts. The idea is that we might not always be monitoring our mailbox, or may not want to get spammed!
Its features include:
- Monitor the whole page or just a section. Or even an element!
- Advanced time scheduler
- Remove annoying elements from monitoring (popups, etc.)
- Chart-style reporting for visually seeing changes in numbers (price, number of reviews, etc.)
The service also claims the “best” web-page rendering in the world, but I’m not sure I can back that up. All said and done; it’s a pretty neat service worth checking out.
Monitor single pages or entire portals, that’s the promise of Wachete. Combine this with a historical archive of 6 months, and you have a pretty solid offering for enterprises.
Wachete also goes the extra mile when it comes to features. Apart from the usual features offered by other website monitoring tools in the category, it offers:
- A REST API for accessing info programmatically
- Converts monitored pages to an RSS feed you can subscribe to! ?
- Integration with popular third-party tools like Zapier
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, Wachete can also crawl pages behind a login form.
ChangeTower has several features that help you not just monitor changes, but also discover incredible applications in your business.
Some of the features offered by ChangeTower are:
- Chain conditions together: Add as many conditions to a monitoring rule as you want.
- Sensitivity settings: You get to decide what the threshold for triggering alerts should be.
- Word processor-like change tracking: Extensive change reports that look like the changelog from a powerful word processor like Google Docs or Word.
- Visual snapshots: Visually see what’s happening with the content changes.
- Multi-user alerts: Alert your whole team or just yourself when the shit hits the fan. 🙂
ChangeTower is a smart, capable offering trusted by names like IBM, Huawei, PWC, Salesforce, and more, so you’re in good company!
For those looking for a comprehensive and neat-looking service, Distill.io is a good option.
First, the features that are not so common among the website trackers covered here: chrome extension, mobile app, and monitoring of private pages (including PDFs). And now, the cool stuff:
- Integrates with Slack and Discord
- Webhooks for custom integrations
- Import/export data in many formats
- Allows use of custom proxies
All in all, a power-packed offering!
Website change monitoring is like one of those things you never knew existed but now can’t live without. Once you see the potential of this simple idea, it’s impossible not to leverage it and make your business better!