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Finding Gold in Your Log Files

Aug 17, 2007
Your server logs reveal very important information about your site. If you learn to use them properly, they can help you to maximize your site's traffic and conversion rates.
They unveil what's really happening with your site, such as:

- the most popular pages
- how people are finding those pages
- the paths they follow when navigating your site
- the amount of time their spending at your site
- how many repeat visitors you're getting.
- And if you look closely, they will reveal untapped opportunities that you are missing out on.

Through careful analysis, this information can give you lots of traffic-building ideas and even help you improve your bottom line.

Here are some of the key areas to study in your log files:

Most requested pages

For many webmasters, their most requested page is often their homepage. However, this is not always the case. Any one of your pages can rank just as well or better than your homepage. It just depends on how you optimize the page and how much time you optimize your page using on-page and off-page factors.

If you know which pages receive an abundance of traffic, you can direct traffic to any page of your choice. This small tactic alone could very well be the answer to increased sales.

Search Phrases

Once you have optimized a page, the log files will tell you how people are finding that page and what keywords they are searching for to get there. If you find that people are using keywords that you hadn't thought of to get to a certain page, it would probably be in your best interest to further optimize that page for those keywords.

An even better solution would be to create a new page optimized for that particular term.

In addition, by looking at how your site is found organically, you can determine whether the same keyword phrases belong in your paid search campaigns. However, only choose the ones that are highly relevant. You will find that these keyword phrases have the best conversion rate.

You can also use your search phrases to look for possible product ideas. Hardly anyone is taking advantage of this opportunity, but it is one of the best ways to find potential products that would have the most demand. So, if you find that many people are searching for a particular keyword or phrase, why not make an ebook on that topic. You already know that there is a demand for it, so all you need to do is provide it.

Least Requested Pages:

These statistics can tell you which pages may need your attention more than others. If your main product or service listings are under this category, then you definitely need to work on optimizing your page for on-page and off-page factors. However, if you just see obscure pages like contact information, site map, and earnings disclaimer under this category, then there's probably not much to worry about.

Top Entry Pages

This will help in measuring the success of any optimization campaign. It is here that you can find out which engines have these URLs listed, who else links to your pages, and what levels of traffic they send.

Top Exit pages

This is another very important statistic that you will want to analyze. You certainly would not want your product or sales pages listed here. This would show that you need to work on your copywriting and usability. Look at each of your exit pages to make sure that their description matches what's on the page. If it is a page with an article, you may want to put related articles at the bottom to keep your visitor interested in your site.

Exit pages can also tell you if there is a technical problem. This could be broken links or forms that aren't working. You may also have links to external sites that are enticing your visitors to click to another site before buying your product or signing up for your newsletter. To avoid this, you'll want to make your navigation very focused. The less choices you give your visitors, the more likely that they will take the one you want.

Entry Paths

Before you even create your site, you should know how you would like your visitor to flow through your site. For a Business to Consumer site, the following path is often the most desired:

home page ~ product page ~ order page ~ order confirmation page

If your visitors are not following the path that you would like them to follow, then you need to rework the navigation of your pages. Are customers landing on your order page, but not on the order confirmation page? This is a sure sign that some further work needs to be done. Entry paths show how well your site is converting visitors into customers. As we all know,in the end, this is really what matters and your log files can help you to increase the number of visitors you convert to customers.

Document Not Found Errors

This can help you to fix any broken links that you may have. If you have recently gotten rid of an old page, be sure to put something in it's place to retain that traffic. You never want to waste traffic. That's why custom error pages can be a gold mine.

If you've had any drastic changes in your traffic levels lately, your log files can often lead you to the answer to your problems. Perhaps one of your main rankings have fallen in the search engines.

However, the goal of your website is not simply to rank well. The end goal is that your traffic be converted into sales. Are people clicking through to your order page? How are people navigating your site? What links are clicked on the most often? All of these questions can be answered by mining through the log files. This information is vitally important in finding new ways to improve your business.

I urge you to start digging for gold in your log files. Believe me, there are a wide variety of golden nuggets to be found.
About the Author
Kim Roach is the hip marketing gal at http://www.unleashthetraffic.com , where you can learn exactly how she increases her targeted web site traffic using techniques she acquired straight from the trenches.
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