Data and the Web

Embedded phpBB Search Terms within Apache Web Logs

This afternoon I was doing some analysis on our web logs and thought it may make for a good screencast and blog post. We currently use a combination of AWstats and Google Analytics for our web stats but are increasingly using Kirix Strata™ to dig deeper into the raw web logs for the more customized things that aren’t readily available otherwise.

Also, honestly, it is kind of fun to plow through almost a million records on your own. Hmmm, maybe I should get out more.

The topic of the screencast below are the search terms people enter to find things in our phpBB3 support forums. These terms are embedded in the “request” field of the apache logs and I couldn’t find a way to get them without digging into the logs themselves (NOTE: I wouldn’t doubt that there is some way to do this via a mod to phpBB or a filter in Google Analytics… but since I couldn’t find anything via a quick Google search, using Strata just ended up being a lot faster).

An example of a search string we’re dealing with is:

GET /forums/search.php?keywords=proxy HTTP/1.1

So the trick was to parse the search keywords out of the field and then group them together to see what people were searching for… and in turn give us the chance to improve our support area by targeting some of these search terms and expanding our documentation accordingly.

Hope this video proves helpful:

Play Video

(And here’s an embeddable YouTube version…)


I downloaded the Apache logs from the server and, due to the file size, decided to import them into Strata rather than open the file and work with it directly. To import your logs, go to Import, select text-delimited files, and then import as space delimited with quotation marks as the text qualifier.  Update:  You can now use a handy little log parsing extension to pull in your web log files without having to mess around with a straight text import.


For posterity, here are the functions that were used in this screencast:

STRPART(string, section [, delimiter])
SUBSTR(string, start [, length])
CONTAINS(string, search string)
IIF(boolean test, true value, false value)

One Response to “Embedded phpBB Search Terms within Apache Web Logs”

  1. Setting Table Structure Prior to Import | Strata Blog says:

    […] Strata can work directly with fixed-length or delimited text files.  Let’s say we need to change the structure of a text-delimited file — say, making a field with smaller to truncate unnecessary values and reduce our files size.  We can do this using two methods, either by manually changing our values or by changing the values programmatically prior to import.  (As an example, we may have wanted to reduce our web log field width size in this example). […]