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Conducting a Redirect Audit on Your Web Site - Part 2

Mark Jackson
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Last week I talked about why conducting a redirect audit on your Web site is important for SEO purposes. Oftentimes, during the audit you'll discover redirects that are occurring on your Web site that need to be fixed. I also mentioned that it's imperative that you look at your site's log files to conduct this audit, as redirects won't show up if you're using JavaScript-based Web analytics.

Let's continue our discussion where I left off, discussing a popular log file analyzer, Analog.

Analog is a free program that analyzes your log files and shows you several different reports. Let's continue looking at the Analog reports you'll want to review, and why each one is important for SEO purposes.

The Redirected Referrer Report

This report shows you where traffic is coming from when they're being redirected. Perhaps someone linked to one of your old pages from another site and when someone comes from that other site they're being redirected somewhere. This will show you where that traffic is coming from.

Perhaps you can contact that site owner and ask them to fix the link to your Web site; or perhaps the visitor is being redirected with a 302 temporary redirect rather than a 301 permanent redirect. In any case, this allows you to investigate the redirects further. If some other Web site is linking to your site, but there are issues with the redirects, then again you're not taking advantage of the possible "link credit" that will ultimately help your search engine rankings.

The Failed Referrer Report

This shows you where traffic is coming from when they're being given a 404 error. A 404 error isn't a redirect, but this will tell you where to set up redirects to real pages on your site to take care of these errors. It will also tell you where another site is linking to a page that doesn't exist anymore.

Or, perhaps a site is linking to you with a bad URL (perhaps it's a typo). If that's the case, you can set up a 301 redirect to the correct location, or you could contact that site and ask them to fix the link. Fixing links will help your Web site's search engine rankings because your Web site most likely wasn't getting the full available "link credit" being passed from the Web site that is linking to you.

The Status Code Report

This is an overview of the various status codes that appeared in your site's log file. Here's an example of the Status Code Report:

Listing status codes, sorted numerically.

  • reqs: status code
  • 185,693: 200 OK
  • 111: 206 Partial content
  • 1,435: 301 Document moved permanently
  • 3,534: 302 Document found elsewhere
  • 26,442: 304 Not modified since last retrieval
  • 1: 400 Bad request
  • 7,982: 404 Document not found
  • 2: 406 Document not acceptable to client
  • 16: 502 Error at upstream server

The 200 OK is perfectly normal. That means a Web page or file on your site was served up to the visitor just fine.

However, there are 1,435 301s, 3,534 302s, and a whopping 7,982 404s on this site. Investigating those further will help you recover some lost traffic. Sometimes the 404s end up being bad "bots" that are trying to request files on your Web server, so if you look at the Failure Report you'll be able to tell which files that don't exist are being requested.

If you spot any that could be redirected, set up 301 redirects, or simply fix what needs to be fixed. In the case of this redirect audit on this particular Web site, I was able to find a file that was linked to on every page of the Web site that didn't exist anymore.

Fixing internal Web site issues will help your site's overall optimization, ensure that internal "PageRank" and other important "link credit" is being passed from one page to another, and help your Web site's search engine rankings.

The Redirection Report

This report lists the files on your Web server that caused requests to be redirected to another file. Again, looking at this report will give you an idea if there's anything you need to get fixed. If you already have 301 redirects in place, you'll be able to tell how many requests are being made and on which pages. This is helpful since there may be an opportunity for you to "put the URL back" by putting updated content back on the URL and turn off the redirect.

If it's possible to turn off a redirect by putting updated content back on that URL, that's always a good practice, especially if there are a lot of 301s being served up by the Web server. If you can put a URL "back" so to speak, then that ultimately would be better for the site's SEO than a redirect.

The Failure Report

This is a list of files that resulted in a 404 error on your site. By looking at this report, you'll be able to tell which pages are giving 404 errors. If you've recently updated your site's Web design or changed URLs, it's helpful to look at the 404 errors to see where the traffic is -- and redirect that traffic either to your home page or other page on you site to "recover" the traffic. If there are a lot of 404 errors, you can increase the "depth" of your site if those pages or the content can be put back onto your site. Increasing the depth of your site (by adding pages) will help with SEO.

Summary

Looking at the error codes and redirect codes in your Web site's log file data will allow you to conduct a redirect audit of your Web site. These error codes don't show up when you're looking at a JavaScript-based Web analytics service. So, there may be a lot of traffic you're missing on your site that could be redirected to "real" Web pages. By looking thoroughly at the error and redirect codes using something like Analog, you can conduct your "redirect audit" with ease and efficiency.


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