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Understanding Log File Analysis and Its Benefits for SEO

Last updated: Jan 24, 2023

Understanding Log File Analysis and Its Benefits for SEO
Cover image: Illustration of a log file, which is a file recording the activity of website access requests by the server. Learn more about it in this guide.

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Having a log file on your website is very useful for finding out information that can't be found anywhere else. Not only that, the log file can also be used to view Google's behavior on your website.

Then, what is meant by log file analysis? You will find complete answers about what information is provided and how to access it through this guide.

What is a Log File?

Figure 1: Screenshot of the display of a log file. Within this file, you'll find records regarding access request activity made by users or search robots.

A log file is a file containing the recorded activity of website access requests that are made and always updated by the server. It should be understood that the log file discussed in this article is different from the term "log file" in web development.

In this article, the log file in question is the access log file, which stores the history of HTTP access requests to the server. While the log file in the web developer records activities that take place on a system and is used to find bugs.

Access log files contain information about which clients make access requests to the website and what pages are accessed. The client here can be of various kinds, be it a user or a web crawler like Googlebot.

The web server creates and updates the access log file on a website, then stores it for a certain period of time. You can use the log file to understand in detail how users or search engines interact with your website.

You may find it a little difficult to find and access the log file for the first time, but you will get very valuable information when you use this file. Therefore, let's take a closer look at this log file analysis guide.

Information Contained in Log Files

The function of the log file is to provide various information about access request activities that occur on the website. You will not find this information in any tools. The following is some of the information contained in the log file:

  • The IP address of the client making the access request.
  • The date and time the access request was made.
  • The method used to request website access. The method can be either 'GET' or 'POST'.
  • The URL requested access by the client on the website.
  • The HTTP status code of the page requested access. This status code indicates whether the access request was successful or failed.
  • The user agent that performs the access request.
  • Some host servers also provide additional information in the log file, such as the host name, server IP, number of bytes downloaded, and the time it takes to make the access request.

How to Access Log File

Figure 2: Illustration of a website developer. To be able to access the log file, you must first coordinate with the website developer or server admin.

As mentioned earlier, log files are stored on the web server. You need access to the server in order to get the files. If you don't have this access, you can ask the IT team or website developer for help to share a copy of the log file.

The problem is that the process of accessing the log file is not easy. There are several issues and challenges that you may face, such as:

  1. Disabled log files: Server admins may disable log files so that data is unavailable.
  2. Log file size: Log files on high-traffic websites will certainly have a very large size, so the process of sending files will take a lot of time and resources.
  3. Insufficient data: The log file may only record access request data for a few days due to the large file size, so the data is incomplete and difficult to use to observe trends or issues.
  4. Scattered data: Websites that use multiple servers may create scattered log file data, so you need to aggregate that data from each server before using log files.
  5. CDN issues: Constraints can also occur if the log file data is on the CDN and there are problems with the CDN that the website is using.
  6. Privacy: Log files contain information regarding the IP addresses of website users, so that data may need to be deleted before it is given to you.
  7. Access not granted: The IT team or website developer is not willing to provide log file access for various reasons, such as privacy concerns.

The issues described above need to be communicated with the developer. Make sure to explain the urgency of the log file analysis and coordinate with the developer to resolve the issue.

The Role of Log Files in SEO

Log files record every access request to the website, including from web crawlers. The data in the log files can tell you the activity and behavior of web crawlers like Googlebot on your website. Of course, you can't get this information from anywhere except the log file.

With log files, you can take advantage of web crawler activity information to maximize the crawling and indexing process. Therefore, log file analysis is very important in SEO.

The following are some of the uses of log files that you can use to maximize website SEO:

Crawl activity analysis

You can use log files to analyze how often web crawlers visit your website. Also find out if the crawled pages are important pages and need to be indexed.

If there are a lot of unimportant pages visited by web crawlers, then you can reduce their number by using robots.txt. So, you can streamline your crawl budget.

Tracking 404 error issues

The log file stores information about the HTTP status code for each access request the server receives. You can find this information in other tools as well. However, log files can tell you how often a URL gets a 404 error code when it is accessed.

By knowing the URLs that get 404 errors the most, you can determine which URLs to prioritize for fixes.

Monitoring Trend

You can monitor historical access request data from web crawlers in log files. By monitoring the historical data, you will find out what the patterns and behavior of web crawlers on the website are. Examples include how many times the web crawler visits a page in a month, which pages are most frequently visited, and so on.

When there is a change in the pattern and behavior of the web crawler, you will already know it and be able to find out what caused it. With this data, business website owners can carry out the feature-enhancing process by creating campaigns and developing product pages more easily.

Performing Log File Analysis

Log files are files that are very useful in SEO if you can use them well. One thing you can do with it is do a log file analysis.

As a part of a technical SEO strategy, log file analysis will help you to get information about web crawler activity on your website.

By doing a log file analysis, you can find opportunities to optimize the crawling and indexing process so that more of your website pages will be indexed by Google.

Here are some steps for log file analysis that you can follow:

Make Sure the Log File Has the Correct Format

Before performing a log file analysis, make sure that the log file that you are going to use has the correct format. You can take a look at the following sample log file to understand the correct format:

28.301.15.1 – – [28/Oct/2022:11:20:01 -0400] “GET/product/type1/ HTTP/1.1” 200 21466 “https://example.com/product” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)”

Explanation on each component of the log file:

  • IP Address28.301.15.1
  • Client ID : – (usually not displayed and replaced with a hyphen)
  • User name : – (usually not displayed and replaced with a hyphen)
  • Waktu dan zona waktu : [28/Oct/2022:11:20:01 -0400]
  • Metode permintaan akses : GET or POST
  • URL slug dari halaman yang ingin diakses : /product/type1/
  • Versi HTTP : HTTP/1.1
  • Kode status HTTP : 200
  • Ukuran objek yang dimintai akses (dalam satuan byte) : 21466
  • URL sumber permintaan akses berasal : https://example.com/product (if it doesn't exist, a hyphen appears)
  • User agent : Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

Filter Non-Search Engine Crawlers

If you want to do a log file analysis, especially related to crawling activities on the website, you need to create a filter to separate data from user agents other than search engine crawlers.

If you use tools to perform log file analysis, you can use the features provided by the tools to filter data.

Perform Analysis with Questions

After confirming the format and filtering out non-web crawlers in the log file, you can start performing log file analysis. Use analysis questions to find behavioral patterns, issues, errors, and optimization opportunities. Here's a list of questions you can use:

  1. How many pages are visited by web crawlers?
  2. What pages have been visited or not visited by the web crawler?
  3. How deep is the web crawler browsing process on your website?
  4. How often is a section or category of a website crawled?
  5. How often is an updated page crawled on a regular basis?
  6. How long does it take for web crawlers to find new content?
  7. Do changes to the structure or architecture of the website affect the crawling process?
  8. How fast is the crawling process on your website?

Thus, a complete explanation of the role of log files in SEO and how to use them with log file analysis. Hopefully, with this explanation, you can get new knowledge that is useful for your technical SEO optimization process.

If you need help doing a log file analysis, don't hesitate to use a professional SEO service that will optimize your website.

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