What are Log Files and How do They Impact SEO?

One of the key factors in SEO is understanding your own customers or website visitors. This is the sort of information that a website server log file tracks and maintains for you.

For most Web developers, the term “log file” means keeping track of traffic and other vital statistics on their web pages. Log files record what pages your visitors go to, how they navigate your site, and how long they spend on a given page. This information is key to improving your website, which is a major component of on-page SEO.

Unsightly, awkward website designs can cost a business customers and ranking on most of the major search engines, but log files can pinpoint where your site is lacking and what areas you should leave alone. Perhaps you’re more familiar with Google Analytics, which produces data and reports gathered, in part, from log files.

error log

Useful Data to Improve Your Website

Log files can also keep you informed of how visitors use your website. For example, if you have a number of articles, but only certain topics seem to be getting visitor interest, you could tie that subject in to other areas or products you want to promote to increase your traffic on those items.

You could also find that some search engines lead visitors directly to pages on your site, bypassing your homepage. Chances are, the pages visitors see without ever visiting your homepage are ranking high on search engines and may have a structure or keywords you should consider utilizing elsewhere on your site.

What is a Log File and How Do I Access Them?

Wikipedia defines a log file as a file (or several files) automatically created and maintained by a server of activity performed by it. Your ability to access log files would depend on your Website host and what type of hosting you have.

If you have shared Web hosting, you may not have access to all your log files as the host does not want to segment out the server logs for all the different users and domains on the shared hosting. They may only provide data on error logs, which can still be useful but shows one of the drawbacks of shared Web hosting. Consider this factor when making a decision on your Web host and type of server.

For neat examples of log file case studies, see this interesting and useful article by Eric Lander.


Find Out What People Are Searching For

In SEO, this is one of the most important aspects in creating content for a Website and targeting traffic. You can use your log file to find out how people are getting to your site, as well as what words or searches they are using to get there. You may discover that visitors are stumbling across your page by searching for words or phrases you had never even considered using as keywords.

The log file may also indicate when visitors are coming to your site from a link elsewhere on the Web, which is not only good marketing for your company or blog, but helps to boost your place in search engine results.

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One Response to What are Log Files and How do They Impact SEO?

  1. Cheryl says:

    Hi Jason,
    So you said that shared hosting usually doesn’t have all of the options for tracking all of your log files. Do you prefer one certain company to do the web hosting for you?

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