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Log analysis, everything you need to know to examine your log files

Log analysis is both a challenge and a fundamental practice in SEO. All companies that want to improve their SEO and appear in natural results need to regularly analyze data. But why?

This site audit is important for SEO. It helps you detect errors, discrepancies, correlations, web trends and make predictions based on logs. This facilitates decision-making and helps improve search engine positioning.

How do you carry out this type of audit, and what are the best analysis tools to use? Do you have a website and would like to carry out an SEO log analysis to optimize its ranking? Find out in this article everything you need to know to correctly examine your log files.

What is a log analysis and how does it work?

This is the task of studying and understanding log files. This technical analysis, well known to SEOs, evaluates all the information stored from one or more events generated by a web server.

Logs are, in fact, log files that collect useful and relevant data. These files contain thousands of lines per day. As soon as a user or robot arrives on your website, several entries are stored for each page requested. This includes images, CSS and any other elements required for page rendering.

Log analysis can therefore be complex, due to the sheer volume of data, the diversity of files and many other factors. Hence, the importance of using high-performance tools.

A good log analysis tool uses Machine Learning algorithms to carry out studies quickly and efficiently. With the help of Machine Learning algorithms, it is more dynamic than a human being. As a result, the analysis software is better able to monitor, aggregate, index and analyze all application and infrastructure log information. How exactly does it work?

The anatomy of the log file varies according to the type of server and the configurations applied. However, when analyzing logs, you will almost always find similar information organized into fields. For each request, the log file records the following data:

  • IP addresses
  • Timestamps
  • HTTP Status Codes, etc.

Steps involved in passing the log test, and tools used

Analyzing your site from logs is a great help for SEO. It gives you the information you need to optimize your ranking. We’ll see a little later why this is necessary. For now, let’s concentrate on the steps and tools involved in data analysis.

The procedure for making a good log file is simple.

Before starting the log analysis, you need to access the log files. These can be found on the following three servers and locations:

  • Apache : (/var/log/access_log)
  •  Nginx : (logs/access.log)
  •  IIS : (%SystemDrive%\inetpub\logs\LogFiles)

To begin with, group and convert log files into the same format using a collector. This first step helps to establish effective correlation, and makes learning queries simple and automatic for analysis tools.

Next, it’s essential to gather logs from the IT environment onto a single platform, so that the information is organized in a rational way. Then look for and evaluate the following elements:

  • Correlation
  • Pattern identification
  • Simple queries
  • Enrichment
  • Classification of log file data.

The next phase of log analysis is to set up automated real-time monitoring to discover what events are occurring. Alerts are generated according to pre-defined settings.

Finally, reports and dashboards need to be streamlined to ensure proper data visualization. This phase is important for a successful log review.

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What are the best tools for effective log analysis?

There are a number of different solutions for analyzing log files. Indeed, there are many, but if you want to use high-performance analysis tools, here’s a list of tools to consider:

  • Loggly: facilitates log management and analysis. This cloud-based solution enables developers and engineers to analyze data with ease.
  • Logentries: an excellent log management tool. This SAAS solution offers users both a paid and a free version.
  • this simple yet effective solution offers real-time visualization of usable logs.
  • GoAccess: if you want to use free terminal-based tools for log analysis, this is the one for you. With this solution, you can create real-time reports in HTML, JSON or CSV.
  • Splunk: available in both paid and free versions, this software harnesses the power of machine learning to facilitate log management.
  • Screaming Frog Analysis: a tool for analyzing log files on the desktop. It is easy to install and comes in a freemium and a premium version.
  • Papertrail: this log management service offers users enhanced features for fast, efficient log analysis.
  • Fluentd: this free log analysis tool helps centralize logs from multiple sources and simplifies their analysis.

What are the benefits of log file analysis?

Logs contain a wealth of relevant data that can be used to improve your SEO. They help you spy on everything that happens on your website. They give you a precise visualization of interactions between users, robots and your website.

With data and analysis, you can discover how Googlebot crawls your website in real time. Log analysis also enables you to detect user behavior and spot patterns in customer behavior.

You can use data mining to improve the quality of your products and services and optimize the customer experience. This predictive analysis helps you develop strategies to find new customers and increase your revenues.

Examining log files is also a decision-making tool to help you comply with the regulations in place. These may include the RGPD.

What are the disadvantages of analyzing log files?

Although logs are an important source of information for anticipating, correcting problems and organizing an IT environment, they do have a few drawbacks. Logfiles are recorded automatically, so log analysis requires extra memory when the amount of data to be processed is high.

What’s more, data processing can be complex when large volumes are involved. This means extra work. Incorrect assignment of visits could occur.

It’s also worth pointing out that log file analysis presents less qualifying data when compared to web analytics tools. Log file analysis therefore does not rule out site auditing with Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

But why analyze logs for SEO purposes?

Analyze log files to detect web page indexing problems.

Clearly, with a good log analysis, you can :

  • Implement optimizations to increase your organic traffic. By discovering how the Googlebot crawls your website, you’ll master the strengths of your SEO strategy. You’ll explore what’s not working and adopt best practices to improve your SEO to attract more visitors.
  • Make it easy for search engines to navigate your site. Logs give you access to a list of the most visited web pages on your site. This is an opportunity to prioritize your URLs in your XML sitemap. Your sitemap file can facilitate the exploration and indexing of your pages, and log analysis can help you improve your site’s performance.

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