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Google Analytics - is it safe for organic results?

 1:51 am on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Is it safe to put Google Analytics on a site that we are planning to optimize? I've read some stories and rumours that Google uses the data (bounce rate especially) as one of the variables in the ranking algo.

Also, will Google link sites together by GA id? If I get multiple IPs, but use one GA account, it kind of defeats the purpose of having multiple IPs :)

What do you think?

Thank you!



 3:41 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I too have this concern and therefore using other web tracker. It is highly likely that Google might use this data but don't have any proofs.


 5:13 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I three on that! Am using google analytics one one site (60 bounce rate) and I think it is affecting its ranking. Am considering on removing it but am not sure if that will make things worse.

I have an older site that has no analytics on it and always ranks in top 3?

Anyone else have nay advise on this...


 5:31 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here's how I look at it.

First, bounce rate, as defined in any analytics package, is a very fuzzy number when you use it to compare one site to a different site. There's just too much noise for it to mean much as a comparison, too many factors are specific to the way sites are built, and it can also be gamed iin various ways.

Second, since Google Analytics is no where near universal on websites, what would Google plu in for this variable for the other 75% of pages in a SERP?

I'm not saying that Google doesn't use this data at all, but I don't think they could realistically use it in a way that hurts a site's rankings.

Analytics bounce rates are most useful when compared for different periods of time within the site itself - if you can get the number to trend downwards, then you are probably improving the user experience on your site.

There is another kind of "bounce rate" that Google surely looks at as a metric of their own SERPs quality, and that's when a user clicks on a result and quickly bounces back to click on a different result. Rven then, I think this kind of "bounce rate" factor is used as a measure of user satisfaction toward the particular algo that generated those SERPs, rather than as some kind of universally applied ranking factor for an individual site. Bounce rate is query term specific, at best - and even then, it's a very fuzzy number to use.

I work with sites that use GA and others that don't. I've never seen anything that even hints that analytics bounce rates are a ranking factor.


 6:26 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

What about interlinking? Google will be able to tell that all of the sites belong to one person. Does Google use data for this purpose?


 7:23 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Analytics bounce rates are most useful when compared for different periods of time within the site itself - if you can get the number to trend downwards, then you are probably improving the user experience on your site.

There is another kind of "bounce rate" that Google surely looks at as a metric of their own SERPs quality, and that's when a user clicks on a result and quickly bounces back to click on a different result.

I've actually thought about this quite a bit and always laugh a bit when people say their site is better because they have a low bounce rate or bounce rate should be taken into account... I have a page on one site with a +85% bounce rate which would seem bad until you know the page also has an average visit time of 4+ minutes.

The point is, personally, I think of what you are referring to as different kinds of bounce rate as two different things... Bounce rate (to me) is where someone only views one page on the site but is there long enough to make it 'count as a visit' (they probably found what they were looking for on the page they landed on: good for the visitor), where click-back rate (to me) would be your second paragraph where the visitor clicks and immediately clicks back to the results (they probably did not find what they were looking for and didn't like the site: bad for the visitor).


 7:30 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

OK, but what you are all ignoring is the fact that google has access to raw data. What Google shows us in the little Analytics interface is one thing, but what they are able to calculate for their own use is a completely different set of numbers. They can measure the time time spent on the page, and if all visitors leave within 2 seconds, then obviously they are not ranking the page properly for the given term. But if user clicks deeper, then possibly it's a good match.


 7:54 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

How can you apply data to the whole of pages (sites) when you only receive the data from a limited number of pages (sites)? If you have an answer to that one then maybe they could use the data they have, but AFAIK it doesn't matter how much raw data you have access to when it's only from a limited number of sites, which makes it right next to impossible to write into an algo and apply to a whole. Doesn't it?

If you have 1000 sites and only 10 provide you with visitor data how do you apply anything learned from that data to an algo affecting all 1000 sites?


 8:09 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

But I don't care if they can apply it to the other 990 site. I only care if they can apply it to my site. Here is an easy application, which I already described:

1) User opens the page.
2) User leaves within 2 seconds without seeing anything else.

If 80% of the users fall under this behaviour, then clearly the page isn't a good match for the keyword.


 8:23 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sure they can apply it to your site, but part of what we do to determine if something is being applied is use logic and reason to determine if it will be or is being applied, and for the reasons tedster stated and the reasons I've stated the best answer I can come up with is NO.

What you seem to be ignoring is just because someone 'clicked' on two pages doesn't mean they like the site. It could be because they couldn't find the answer on the page they were initially viewing and saw a link to a page they thought might contain the answer, which I have done personally and could be one of the reasons why tedster stated it's a fuzzy number to use... Besides, all you have to do is include an iFrame with analytics on it and it looks like the visitor opened two pages and your bounce rate has now decreased... How about pop-ups on the way in and out or re-opening the window viewed as a pop-under when the visitor leaves to change the visit count and viewed time? I think tedster said something about this stat being easy to game, but you don't seem to be 'getting it' for some reason... Access to raw logs doesn't help too much in some of these situations since it looks like the browser requested the page, because it did, even if the person using the browser didn't...


 11:43 pm on Jan 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think we are also forgetting about the fact there are also a few sites on the first(or not) page of SERP that are 3 on top and a few on the right - AdWords? By placing GA Script on your site pages owner gives GOOG ability/view/ideas to have a certain data into how GOOG could sell more Ads=$$. I think it's that simple.

Picture this: You go buy milk from a wholesaler for your Brick store and wholesaler knows that you bought your milk before from other wholesaler(script tracks your referrers too) and people that came to your store did not like/buy the milk. If I was that wholesaler, I'd charge you more money for the milk due to just that fact, since no one really knows what other Brick stores are getting their milk from me for sure anyway. Just a thought.

But that just me. All kinds of Data. Money/Data = Math. There are NO MAYBEs in Math when it comes to money, specially at GOOG.

There are predictions and they named ALGOs, but no one really knows what they are.


 12:05 am on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

What about interlinking?

As long as you keep a light hand about it, interlinking between your own sites won't cause problems. On the other hand don't count on interlinking to boost your rankings. The search engines are a lot less impressed with self-generated link popularity than they used to be; they want to see links that come from quality external sources.

Link between your sites in a way that will make good sense to users, then keep your main focus on link development from outside sources.


 12:59 am on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Why give Google your data for free?

Use an open source analytics package like Piwik.

Don't think for a minute Google doesn't use that data and especially if your running affiliate sites.


 1:03 am on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I use it, our bounce rate is high, our traffic just keeps growing.

As Ted mentions, I really think there is more to bounce rate than a number.


 3:30 am on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ok, seems there won't be a clear answer.

To give it some direction: What other free service is best comparable to Google Analytics? This way we can get the best possible solution I guess.


 8:18 am on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

If you have an informative page ranking for keywords that people use to research a topic and have high bounce rate it may mean the page simply provides all info a user needs. Example: explanation of a word.

If Bounce Rate is high for a page which is supposed to make user click forward to some other page within a site - it may mean the page has some problems. Example: landing page in an e-commerce store.

Finally, it is quite hard to figure out what Bounce Rate is high and what is low as page rank on multiple keywords, so you should be actually checking it on keyword:bounce rate basis.


 2:00 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

The features provided by analytics is exceptional. Custom segments and Filters can give you indepth analysis. This data should be used +vely for understanding and traffic building rather than worrying about bounce rates.

The pros outweighs the cons many times over


 2:03 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I just posted a thread about something related. I hope moderators let it through because it is 100% related to this topic.

My opinion is a definitive YES : Analytics is being used as a Googlebot helper in issues Googlebot can't "see".

Google widgets in general: Maps, Analytics and AdSense, anything loaded through their javascript engine seems to be used as a Googlebot "helper".

Their widgets load in your page like Firebug does, so they can "see" all the javascript stuff and measure, benchmark, etc.


 8:00 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google will be able to tell that all of the sites belong to one person

I often wonder about this. But then, there are agencies that use their one ga account to monitor lots of different customers.


 8:18 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Trying to rank high on Google is a game between you and Google. By using their analytics software you are seriously disadvantaged in this game.


 9:56 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

In the abstract I understand the worries expressed here. But has anyone actually tested this and seen a ranking disadvantage from installing GA? or an advantage, for that matter. IF your site is excellent and IF Google does use GA data for ranking, then GA should prove an advantage, no?

I've never seen a hint of this in either direction.


 9:59 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I run affiliate sites as part of my portfolio and yes, I tested it with some of those sites and can confirm at least for me, they used the data from analytics on those sites to link me to those sites and wack me. Not a single affiiliate site that was not in analytics got wacked, and every single affililate site that was in analytics did.

These were not thin affiliate sites either, lots of rich unique content, good quality links, blah, blah.............

I switched to Piwik after that.

Sure it could of been a coincedence, but come on, if it smells like a rat and looks like a rat, it's usually a rat.

That's all I'm saying.


 10:46 pm on Jan 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thank you arizonadude!


 12:47 am on Jan 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have sites hosted in the same hosting account, sharing the same IP address, using the same Analytics account and have not experienced the same issue in any way, so we seem to have conflicting results here... Unlike the preceding sites though, they are not affiliate sites and do not use AdSense in any way, but offer unique, original content and products...

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