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Web server log analysis can offer important insights into your web servers. The process involves collecting, parsing, and analyzing the log files generated by your web servers. In this way, you can attain granular information about server requests from users or search engine bots—including problems associated with those requests. While some log monitoring can be done manually, if you want quick and comprehensive analysis, your best bet is an automated logging tool.
An organization might have thousands of logs generated every second, all of which need to be monitored as part of effective search engine optimization or SEO log analysis. But the first step to understanding web server log analysis is understanding web server logs, access logs, and error logs.
When a web server performs an action, a log entry is created. Generally, web server logs contain a history of webpage requests with substantial detail on each request. This information can be contained in a single file or broken down into distinct logs, including error and access logs. A web server log typically contains request date and time, client IP address, requested page, bytes served, HTTP code, referrer, and user agent.
If the collected data is separated into multiple logs, the access logs will contain information related to when and from where the server requests were made, along with response codes and which pages were requested. Error logs, on the other hand, contain information about any errors the server encountered while processing the requests, and other diagnostic data.
Analyzing your web server logs can provide you with insights on everything from security to customer service to SEO. The information collected in web server logs can help you with:
– Network troubleshooting efforts
– Development and quality assurance for new applications or programs to help ensure they function properly and there are no problematic bugs
– Identifying and understanding security issues, as you can use server logs to investigate hacking incidents and other security threats
– Your customer service—server logs can help you determine what happened when a customer has a problem with one of your products
– Maintaining compliance with both government and corporate policies
Of course, when it comes to performing any kind of web server log analysis, whether through an Apache log analyzer, an Nginx log analyzer, or an IIS log analyzer, some of the most important insights you can gain will relate to technical SEO and the performance of your webpages. Web server log analysis can help you boost your search engine rankings. Low-quality technical SEO will impact search engine crawling, parsing, and indexing, resulting in the engine not ranking your website or page as well as it otherwise would.
While there are a few sources from which you could gain insights into how search engines are crawling your pages, the best place to get accurate data is through your log files. By recognizing and correcting the issues found in your web server logs, you can take steps toward attaining higher search engine rankings, thus increasing traffic on your webpages.
The log monitoring process could be performed manually, but the increased size and distribution of server environments means effective log analysis depends on the use of a logging tool. By using a log viewer and log analyzer tool like SolarWinds® Loggly®, you can gain powerful insights, including:
1. Use logs to see what bots are accessing your site and block any scrapers or spambots that might create performance issues, scrape your content, or damage your analytics. Or use log insights to see the number of requests made by different search engine bots, such as GoogleBot, BingBot, Yahoo, and more, over a specific time. This is particularly important if you want your website to appear in another country, but that nation’s major search engine bots are not crawling your site.
2. Deploy log management to determine whether your targeted search engine bots are crawling the right pages once they reach your site. Just having search engine bots come to your page isn’t enough—you want to make sure they crawl the right pages on your site. With a log analyzer like Loggly, you can see data on what pages are being crawled, the HTTP status of those pages, and if the search bots are crawling different pages or the same pages.
3. See which pages aren’t serving correctly by searching for pages with 4xx and 5xx HTTP statuses. This will let you see the pages crawlers are finding with either error pages or are redirected. These include the 404 error pages you’re likely familiar with encountering as an internet user and other types of pages getting in the way of your successful SEO.
4. Web server logs include information about which URLs and directories are getting attention. You can use the log data to determine whether the top crawled pages on your website are the same as the pages you consider to be most important. If the most important pages aren’t being crawled sufficiently, or aren’t being crawled at all, you can then take steps to change this through your SEO recommendations. These steps might include rearranging your crawl-priority settings or your internal-linking structure to make sure your most important pages are getting attention.
Other insights you can gain from your web server logs by using a log analyzer tool include insights about when your pages were last crawled, your crawl budget and if it’s being wasted, the crawl rate over time, and if the search bots might be crawling pages they shouldn’t be.
SolarWinds Loggly is a cloud-based centralized logging tool designed to help you easily tap into the information contained in your web server logs. Loggly automatically aggregates, parses, and processes all your server logs and provides analysis and visualization tools, so you can maximize their value. Server logs can provide insight into problems, but proactive log monitoring with Loggly can help you prevent those problems in the first place.
Loggly helps you find spikes in your 4xx and 5xx status codes indicating something has gone wrong with one of your applications. It also has charts designed to help you better understand traffic patterns by letting you see how your users are interacting with your websites and applications. Loggly integration with Apache and Nginx access logs means you can also use the tool to engage in deep user analysis based on information like pages visited, client/browser information, geographic information, and page response times.
Finally, Loggly lets you gain all the log-based SEO insights discussed above. With data on which search engine bots are accessing your website, what pages those bots are crawling, any errors they encounter while crawling, and more, all displayed on the easy-to-use interface, you can ensure you maximize your SEO efforts.