Zen & The Art of Your Raw Access Logs

I am constantly discovering new things about my network of Web properties just by simply looking at the raw access logs on my different servers. Sure, I use Google Analytics for getting the daily ‘big picture’ of all my sites, but I get the most valuable data (and definitive action items) from actually looking at my weekly raw logs line-by-line.

For one thing, in the raw logs, I can see user activity on my sites on an extremely granular level…I can see every broken link, every query typed into an engine, every 304, every 404, every 500, and every path a user takes…absolutely everything!

With a service like Google Analytics, you sort of need to know what you are looking for, and if you want specific information, you have to know how to ask for it. By looking at your raw access logs, you are really putting yourself in the shoes of your visitors…you are actually taking the exact same path and basically having the same experience that they did (in your minds eye, at least). Sure, it takes a little while to get used to “seeing” user behavior by looking at time stamps and cryptic server codes, paths, etc., but if you do it often enough, it becomes second nature and simple to do.

You really should practice this once a week as I do…I actually find it very relaxing and quite Zen (as well as financially rewarding).

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