Log file analysis for SEO: A simple guide

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While many companies know about SEO basics and try to work on them without assistance, technical SEO requires an expert approach. Log file analysis is one of the main aspects of your technical SEO effort. Knowing what you can learn from it can help tweak SEO tactics and improve your website’s visibility tremendously.

In this guide, you learn what log file analysis is all about, why it’s important, and which tools to use for it. Once you master this technical aspect of SEO, you can contribute to the success of your campaign tremendously.

What is log analysis?

Log file analysis helps you understand the way Google and other search engines crawl your website to index it later. Once you gather this information, you can analyze the crawling program’s behavior and gain valuable insight into how to adjust your SEO campaign.

You can find out when and how often crawlers work on your website. You can also learn which pages seem appealing to the crawling programs. By studying the crawler’s actions, you can figure out if your SEO tactics are working properly, which accessibility issues crawlers face, and which parts of your website need special attention.

Log file analysis also helps you determine if your website’s architecture is in good shape and whether there are any performance issues.

Log file analysis: Metrics to look out for

When you perform log file analysis for SEO, you need to pay attention to the following metrics. Learning as much information from them as possible can help you make quick adjustments to your website.

Number of organic visits

Log file analysis can help you figure out how many organic visits your website receives. By checking this metric, you can identify the pages that generate the majority of traffic.

The results may surprise you. Pages you thought were highly valuable may not generate traffic at all while low-value pages can show impressive results.

Frequency of crawls

Log analysis can help you find out the volume of crawls, which is the number of requests sent by search engines over a certain period. Crawl volume shows how frequently the website is visited.

This metric can help you evaluate such adjustments as adding new content, using new keywords, or changing web design lead to more frequent bot visits. It’s an excellent metric for a/b testing your SEO tactics.

The time between the first crawl and influx of organic traffic

By monitoring logs on a regular basis, you can figure out how long it takes from the time you make adjustments to the website to the time it gets crawled and to the time you see first organic results.

This metric can help you create a content publishing plan to get results for a certain date, like seasonal sales or holidays.

Log analysis and page popularity

By studying the logs, you can find out which pages are the most popular according to the search engines while determining which get the least attention. It can help you understand which pages work the best and what you need to adjust on less popular pages.

By working on pages with low popularity, you can make sure the crawler visits all of them regularly. Rarely visited pages carry little value for your SEO efforts.

Crawl budget in log file analysis

A crawl budget is the number of pages the search engine crawls each time it views your website. The search engine doesn’t want to spend time on pages with low relevancy. So if it discovers a poorly designed and low-value page, it will stop crawling it eventually in order not to waste the budget.

If by the time you add something valuable to your page, the budget is spent, the search engine simply won’t index it. That’s why it’s imperative to watch where the crawl budget goes. By monitoring this metric, you can optimize the website for regular crawls.

Status Code Errors

By doing SEO log analysis properly, you can discover status code errors like 4xx and 5xx. They can affect your SEO efforts in a negative manner.

Crawl Priority

In order not to waste the crawling budget on irrelevant pages, you can set up the crawl priority by adjusting your XML sitemap or enhancing your interlinking efforts. This can help search engines crawl the right sections of the website.

Getting started with a free Log File Analysis: What does a log file contain?

To perform a log file analysis, you need to know what the file should contain. In short, a log file contains the address of a client, which is trying to access your hosting server. It also contains the asset it is attempting to access.

The log file should have the following elements:

  • Client IP – IP of the client trying to access data from our server
  • Date and time (timestamp) – time and data an access request was made to the server
  • Access method (GET or POST) – the method a client is using for access. Crawlers use GETs.
  • Http status code – refers to the success or failure of the access request.
  • User-agent – additional information about the client (browser, search engine)

Each HTTP request can also carry additional information. The variety of this data depends on the privacy settings and network restrictions related to the hosting solution. You could also get the Hostname, bytes downloaded, time taken, and local server IP.

The system usually stores log files automatically. They are available for a certain period of time, depending on the server client or hosting options.

You can download or export these files, which usually come in the .log format. To find out how to access log files for SEO analysis, check with the web host.

How to perform log analysis?

The simplest way to perform a free log file analysis is to export the information into Excel and go through the data manually. Although free, this method is tough and time-consuming.

Thankfully, a big variety of server log file analysis software exists to do the analysis for you. All you have to do is export the file into the program and learn how to read the results.

Log file analysis tools

Whether you are just starting your technical SEO journey or have experience with log file analysis, these tools can help your get as much information from the log as possible to enhance SEO efforts.

The majority of these log analysis tools comes with a free trial. By testing several of them, you can get a good idea about log analysis software and how it can help you make sense of the data in the log file.

Open source log file analysis tools

Here are a few open source log file analysis tools to consider for your SEO efforts:

Depending on the amount of data you have to deal with and your SEO goals, each one of them can come in handy for complex analysis.

Log file analysis for SEO: Limitations

While you can gain significant insights with log file analysis, it comes with several limitations. In the following situations, you may receive incorrect data:

1.Posing as Google bots

Crawlers from SEO tools can pose as Google bots. In such a case, the log file analysis can provide incorrect information. By doing a DNS lookup, you can find out if your site is being looked up by a Google bot or other bots.

2.Large amount of data

If you have a large website with numerous pages, log files contain a huge amount of data. In just 20 days, you can generate more than 20,000 data entries. You can solve this issue by taking advantage of log file analysis tools specifically designed to handle large websites.

3.Data limitations

Log data files can be incomplete unless you set up log file storage properly. You could be failing to catch the necessary information for your SEO efforts. That’s why it’s important to evaluate log files regularly to make sure they are complete.

You can use log files to analysis search engine behavior and find out how your website holds up in search engine’s eyes. However, they don’t provide sufficient information for detailed user analysis. That’s why you should take advantage of other SEO analytics tools as well.

SEO log file analysis: The takeaway

Log files contain an impressive variety of information that you can use to enhance your SEO efforts. While the information you discover in the files may appear too technical, it’s mostly straightforward. The toughest part is figuring out how it factors into your SEO campaign.

Log file analysis can help you understand how search engines crawl your website, when they do, and what can be adjusted to improve the crawling pattern. When done correctly, such an analysis can help you streamline SEO efforts and achieve higher rankings for your website.

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