In SEO terms, a log file is a data file automatically created and maintained by a server. It contains a list of activities and operations that the server has performed. Each time a user or search engine bot visits a website, the server generates a record of that interaction in its log file.
These records include essential data such as the user’s IP address, the date and time of the request, the specific pages or files accessed, the HTTP status code returned, the number of bytes transferred during the session, the referrer URL (i.e., the page the user came from), and the user agent (i.e., the browser or bot that made the request).
For SEO professionals, log files are a goldmine of information because they provide direct, accurate insights into how search engine crawlers are interacting with a website. By analyzing log files, SEOs can identify which page pages are being visited by search engine bots, how often these pages are visited, and how much time the bots spend on each page.
For example, certain important pages are not being crawled regularly. In that case, this may indicate that search engines are having trouble accessing them – which means they won’t be indexed and are unlikely to rank well in search results. On the other hand, if insignificant pages are being crawled excessively, this could be consuming valuable crawl budget that might be better spent on more important pages.
In addition, log file analysis can reveal security issues, such as repeated failed attempts to access a particular part of the site, which could indicate a potential hacking attempt.