What Can Log File Analysis Do For My Website SEO?
A log file analysis is a significant component of any SEO strategy, because it give you ground level data about traffic to your website. Your log file provides you with 100% accurate information about how Google understands your content and how search engines crawl your site.
Even though it is an advanced part of technical SEO, log file analysis is one of the SEO pieces that most marketers overlook. This valuable file records all requests made by human users and bots to display vital information like requests made, URLs searched, etc.
Even if you are scared off by the highly technical nature of a log file analysis, you will see that you can pull out useful information to help your site rank higher in Google, optimize your content to boost traffic and identify ways to drive more sales.
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While you could spend days evaluating your log file, you should spend your time reviewing the important information on the log file to understand the “hits” made on your web server at its core. Let’s take a look at how to access log files and then dive into some ways you can use information from the file to supercharge your SEO efforts!
How Do You Access Your Log Files?
The way you access your log files will depend on how your server is set up and if your website uses a CDN like CloudFlare. It’s best practice to get your web files from the closest point to your server and client resources.
In addition to CDN access, you will also need access your web servers. This step can be a bit more tricky for non-technical people, but you can ask your hosting provider to help you, and you can use official resources to access log files on the main types of servers:
You will need to interpret the data on the log file once you receive it, and this step can be more confusing than just gaining access.
Image Source: https://wpengine.com/blog/gotta-catch-em-logging-improvements/
There are several tools that you can use to visualize and simplify the log file data. The Screaming Frog Log File Analyzer is a popular tool used by SEOs to visualize and interpret their log file from an SEO perspective.
Now that we have a general understanding of how to access your log file let’s talk about how you can use it to improve your SEO today!
5 Types Of Information A Log File Analysis Provides (And How To Use It)
SEO is an advanced marketing channel because it takes into account numerous patterns, trends, and data points to understand how search engines and people consume content.
Even seasoned marketers find this aspect of marketing difficult because it can feel like you are trying to hit a moving target as search engines tweak their algorithms. Consumers change their buying habits, you should base your SEO strategy on how people and search engines interact with your website.
Image Source: https://noduslabs.com/cases/google-seo-strategies-text-mining/
The good news is that while many aspects of SEO do shift, you can use technical data to guide your SEO marketing efforts. A log file analysis offers your marketing team concrete and accurate data to understand underlying issues that impact SEO, like:
- Are you wasting crawl budget on low-quality pages?
- Are search engine bots able to access your site, or are there unseen obstacles preventing your site from getting crawled?
- What areas of your site are slowing crawl efficiency across your site?
- What are pages getting the most activity and user engagement?
- Are there pages hidden from Google and other search engines?
Even if you have the best content on the web, Google and other search engines won’t index your information correctly if underlying technical issues are crippling your website’s performance and exposure.
1. Crawl Frequency
You can learn how often Google, Bing, and Yahoo crawl your site by reviewing your log file. Your crawl frequency is basically how often bots from search engines look at your content, and crawl volume is a way to determine if new content increases the number of times bots crawl your site.
If you do not see more traffic or improved rankings from your SEO efforts, you could suffer from reduced crawl frequency. Take a look at this metric to understand if search engines can crawl your site or another technical issue preventing your site from getting content indexed.
2. Active Page Crawl Priority
Part of an SEO strategy is the balance between your business goals, customer needs, and optimizations based on search engine algorithms.
Google and other search engines want to offer the most relevant content to their users, and you can use the log file from your website to understand which pages on your site Google deems as the most important.
Most websites that have a large library of content suffer from content saturation that results from content overlap and keyword cannibalization. An advanced SEO strategy is to remove underperforming content to help the highest quality content rise to Google’s top, and you can use your log file to determine what content should be removed from your website.
3. Wasted Crawl Budget
As we looked at in the last points, a web log analysis can help you identify areas where search engines waste crawl budget on your site.
A crawl budget is the number of pages a search engine crawls your site, and it’s your goal to make sure Google crawls the highest number of valuable pages on your site each time bots come to your site.
If you are worried that search engines are not crawling the right pages on your site, then use a log file analysis to get your site’s essential areas indexed faster.
4. Response Code Errors
Log data analysis can also help you identify hidden errors across your site. Even seemingly simple 4XX and 5XX code errors can significantly impact your SEO if they are not identified and corrected. For example, Google will penalize you for having too many 404 errors on your site.
Not only do these errors impact your crawl budget, but they also impact your customer’s experience. For both of these reasons, you should review your log analysis if you do not see the desired SEO results across your site.
5. Duplicate URL Crawls
Since you don’t want to have Google waste crawl budget on irrelevant content, you can use a web log analysis to identify individual pages with duplicate content across your site. Sometimes tools or filters will be applied to page URLs, and this information can make search engines index and interpret this as duplicate content.
If specific keywords or individual pieces of content start to lose ranking, you should check the web log analysis to determine if search engines are crawling duplicate content. A few years ago, Search Engine Land wrote a great review on identifying and fixing this type of issue.
Taking Your SEO To The Next Level With Your Log File Analysis
SEO marketers have access to an endless number of tools and data sets to guide content production and optimization. However, one of the least-used and misunderstood elements of technical SEO is a web log analysis process.
You can get the upper hand on your competition by auditing your site’s technical performance with a thorough audit of your log file today!