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The work doesn’t end on your website once it’s built. You’ll still need to tweak, adjust, and monitor traffic and patterns in order to deliver the best user experience possible while avoiding the volatility of your industry. However, doing all of that manually can be incredibly draining.
Anytime anything happens on your site, it’s known as an event. One of the best ways to keep your site running as optimally as possible is to monitor these events in order to understand problems, patterns, or recurring issues that you may need to resolve over time. This doesn’t mean that you sit there and stare at your web traffic and events all day long. What it does mean is that you should start getting comfortable with log analysis protocols in order to create more efficient systems for your site. Efficiency can also help you maintain your own peace of mind as the administrator and owner.
What is Log Analysis?
If you don’t already know, log analytics is an assessment of recorded sets of information captured by a variety of computer and network systems. This means you can use log analysis to discover patterns, find problems, and better understand your users. All of these things can contribute to a greater overall site efficiency.
For every event that occurs on your site, a log will record certain pieces of information, like the date and time of the event, the computer where the event occurred, who was responsible for it, and what type of event it was. Understanding the different types of events is also important to site efficiency. For example, if you’re having a high number of security events, it could mean that your site isn’t safe for users.
In some cases, you can incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into your log analysis. AI can automatically look at a log and discard events of no significance while looking closer at the ones that stand out. This can free you up to apply a human touch to problem-solving and analysis in other matters.
Best Practices for Log Analysis
Since you’re dealing with seemingly endless information when looking at your log analysis, you should first ensure that everything stays as organized as possible. This means keeping logs structured in such a way that whoever looks at them — man or machine — can easily read and understand them. Additionally, whatever format you choose for these logs, ensure consistency over time.
A few best practices can ensure your log analysis stays useful for however long you choose to backup and store it, while also making it as easy as possible to use. For example, you may want to practice normalization with your logs, in which you ensure all formatting processes for all entries are uniform. Tagging and naming each log can also help you to filter at a later date when looking for patterns and use-cases.
Finally, you should also be practicing correlation analysis in all your log analysis. This means looking at all logs, whether recent or from months prior, to best understand if any outstanding events could be related. When paired with AI, this is an especially powerful form of log analysis.
Useful Log Analysis Platforms and Systems
Of course it’s not expected that you’ll build analysis platforms on your own—that would be incredibly demanding and honestly a little overwhelming for a single person to take on. As such, there are platforms and systems available to aid you in your log analysis. Depending on how you prefer to work and what your site’s needs are, you can find the best platform for you.
One example is The Elastic Stack, also sometimes called the ELK Stack. It combines a number of systems and engines like Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana. Having resources consolidated like this and easily searchable can help to make your site more efficient, and — in a rather meta way — make your actual work to improve that efficiency more efficient as well.
There are many competitors to the ELK stack, but an open-source alternative to the ELK stack is Graylog. Graylog works in tandem with other systems to provide similar services as ELK; however, since its open-source, it is considerably more affordable for smaller companies or individual site proprietors. Additionally, it can also be used for drill-down metrics and measurements.
The Benefits of a More Efficient Site
Once you’ve done all the work to keep your site functioning as efficiently as possible, you’ll start to see the benefits of all your hard work. For one thing, you’ll most likely be able to catch any issues, breaches, or funnel-clogs before they become a deterrent to users. This can help keep your site running smoothly and keep your users as happy as possible.
If your site is loading slowly, looking at logs of how long users stay and/or leave can help you isolate this issue and address it. Once you’ve solved that problem, if your bounce-rate is still high, you can try other potential solutions. There’s no end to the ways dutiful log analysis can help improve your site experience.
As your site runs more efficiently, you can use the improved user experience to bolster conversions. At the end of the day, it’s gaining — and retaining — customers that keeps the business running.
What matters most is that you are a present and active site administrator. In some cases this means monitoring the logs, in others it means listening to the human feedback you’re given. By incorporating all sides together with careful thought and attention to detail, you can be sure that users will return to your site for years to come.