Google Analytics - A Friend or Traitor?

51 replies
Hi everybody,

We all know how useful Google Analytics is in helping you understand your user onsite behaviour. On the other hand, user onsite behaviour strongly affects site rankings, and if you have high bounce rate, short time spent on site/pages of your site, low return rate - you're unlikely to ever rank high.

My understanding that without GA installed Google can't monitor your user onsite behaviour, and if that's the case - it shouldn't affect your site rankings. Or do you think Google has other means to detect the user behaviour on your site?

I also read that some experienced SEO providers do not recommend installing GA to help sites rank quicker/easier.

What's your opinion and expereince on that?
thanks
#analytics #friend #google #traitor
  • Profile picture of the author Czorny
    Before sayin' anything I'd like to know if there's any really strong alternative to the combination of GA+GWT. What about me - I do not know. And the thing is that Linkassistant.com's SEO Powersuit uses GA as default, and these guys know their business.
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    • Profile picture of the author mosthost
      Originally Posted by Czorny View Post

      Before sayin' anything I'd like to know if there's any really strong alternative to the combination of GA+GWT. What about me - I do not know. And the thing is that Linkassistant.com's SEO Powersuit uses GA as default, and these guys know their business.
      There's really no alternative to GWT, but Piwik is not a bad choice for tracking. That or GetClicky.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mike Ogbin
    I use the three powerful tools that Google provide to us for free; Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics, and Google Website Optimizer when you combined all of them called "Google Trifecta"


    This webinar introduce to you what these tools can do for you plus answering common questions. Individually, each tool offers valuable and actionable information about specific aspects of your site; combined, you get a comprehensive understanding of both your visitors and your pages.
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  • Profile picture of the author James.N
    I have been using Piwik to replace GA and I like it - its just what I'm used to now.
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    • I removed Google Analytics from all my sites when Google stopped showing us keywords. I've deleted them all from Google Webmaster Tools as well. No effect on rankings. Well, that's not true; a couple of them have moved up.

      fLufF
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      • Profile picture of the author SaSeoPete
        Originally Posted by fluffythewondercat View Post

        I removed Google Analytics from all my sites when Google stopped showing us keywords. I've deleted them all from Google Webmaster Tools as well. No effect on rankings. Well, that's not true; a couple of them have moved up.

        fLufF
        --
        Yep me too. I was getting very annoyed with the percentage of keywords that Google Analytics wasn't showing me. I'm using StatCounter - Free Invisible Web Tracker, Hit Counter and Web Stats now. It's free. Not as pretty as GA - but shows all the keywords that are finding my sites.
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      • Profile picture of the author iknowhow
        Originally Posted by fluffythewondercat View Post

        Well, that's not true; a couple of them have moved up.

        fLufF
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        Great, that's what I wanted to hear.
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        • Originally Posted by iknowhow View Post

          Great, that's what I wanted to hear.
          Could be purely coincidental though, the usual increase in ranking as you add more content. So don't read too much into that.

          But your question ("do you think without GA installed Google is unable to trace your onsite user behaviour?") is a good one. I've been searching for an answer to it. No one seems to know.

          Or if they do know, they're not telling.

          fLufF
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          P.S. I use GetClicky for analytics. Love it.
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  • Profile picture of the author iknowhow
    Thanks guys for your contributions.

    Mike Ogbin, I know how useful GA can be - I strated my thread with this. The question was - do you think without GA installed Google is unable to trace your onsite user behaviour? So I would appreciate opinions on that, not on how to join your "wondeful" webinar and buyt your products.
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  • Profile picture of the author zaco
    Check out this video, according to Google, Google analytics info is not used to rank your website, I am not sure if I should believe them or no.. lol its a great tool.. but if Google wants to know your users behavior then they will

    Your visitors have visited other sites with adsense on it, so basically they already have a cookie on their system from Google, did u notice that if u look for something and then go to other sites that has adsense, u will see ads for the stuff u were looking for even if the site is irrelevant? well Google knows where u r going and how u r acting...

    Also if the users go to u r website and click back then go back to Google, or even if they type Google to go back.. Google will see them coming back...


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    • Profile picture of the author iknowhow
      Originally Posted by zaco View Post

      Your visitors have visited other sites with adsense on it, so basically they already have a cookie on their system from Google, did u notice that if u look for something and then go to other sites that has adsense, u will see ads for the stuff u were looking for even if the site is irrelevant? well Google knows where u r going and how u r acting...
      Are you saying Google can read cookies from my browser even if it's not Chrome but say IE or Firefox??
      Wouldn't that be privacy invasion and illegal?

      And yes, I've seen that video before - I think that maybe a bluff. After all, if they were really taking note of GA stats for rankings - would they ever told us???

      But your question ("do you think without GA installed Google is unable to trace your onsite user behaviour?") is a good one. I've been searching for an answer to it. No one seems to know.
      It's been torturing me for months now especially after I saw some SEO's recommedning removing GA from all sites you want to rank.
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      • Profile picture of the author zaco
        Originally Posted by iknowhow View Post

        Are you saying Google can read cookies from my browser even if it's not Chrome but say IE or Firefox??
        Wouldn't that be privacy invasion and illegal?

        And yes, I've seen that video before - I think that maybe a bluff. After all, if they were really taking note of GA stats for rankings - would they ever told us???.

        The moment you use Google, the moment you agree to their privacy agreement.. I believe they have access to track the information of your visitors without the need of GA as long as u r user has a cookie from Google which they will get if they visit a site with adsense or based on their search behavior
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  • Profile picture of the author adammck
    For the amount of information I get from Analytics and web site optimizer, then I guess it's part of the game. They allow you to focus on CRO with their FREE services, so I guess if some of my sites rank a little lower then that's ok, I'll just focus on gaining visitors from other channels
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Lockwood
    It never made sense to me to give G even more data considering Google Analytics doesn't provide anything I can't get from software that comes with Cpanel.
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  • Profile picture of the author wolfmmiii
    The way I see it is if you have a great site, low bounce rate, and decent user experience, GA is your friend. Otherwise, it can maybe cause you problems.
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    • Profile picture of the author dennis09
      Originally Posted by wolfmmiii View Post

      The way I see it is if you have a great site, low bounce rate, and decent user experience, GA is your friend. Otherwise, it can maybe cause you problems.

      This is pretty much my train of thought on this as well.

      This topic is pretty much one of those "voodoo" ideas that no one really knows for sure whether it's true or not.

      But just to be safe, I do not use GA or GWT on ANY of my sites. Especially GWT!
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim3
      Originally Posted by wolfmmiii View Post

      The way I see it is if you have a great site, low bounce rate, and decent user experience, GA is your friend. Otherwise, it can maybe cause you problems.

      Seconded, they might even have to start charging for it soon to pay off all their lawsuits
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  • Profile picture of the author David Keith
    Google ranks sites using an algorithm. I am about 100% sure that data from their GA service does help them tweak their algorithm. But that data is not used to tweak the rankings of each individual site, but rather to build a better algorithm to rank all sites by.

    Google does not use your analytic's data to rank your site better or worse. If that was the case, don't you think the really big money advertisers would know that either way. If google did really use GA data to rank 1 site over another, the guys with really deep pockets would know that and they would be showing us that with their actions. But they are not. When you really want to find out what's going on with something, follow the money. In this case the money says google doesn't care if you use GA or not.

    Ranking sites is done purely by the google algorithm. There is no positive or negative effect just for using GA or GWT.

    However, if you are using black hat tactics then of course you are essentially giving them an easy way to "search" your site for contraband. Imagine being pulled over by a cop and knowing you have drugs in the car. If that's the case, don't offer to let the cop search your car. Make him earn that. Same with google.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    Use Stat Counter, its just recently been improved with new interface and other features. I've used it for years and it does the job, without having Google in your business.
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    • Profile picture of the author wolfmmiii
      Originally Posted by Bruce NewMedia View Post

      Use Stat Counter, its just recently been improved with new interface and other features. I've used it for years and it does the job, without having Google in your business.
      _____
      Bruce
      I love this tool. Have used it for years on all of my sites.
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  • Profile picture of the author joshmstanton
    My understanding is that G is able to track data from anyone who is signed into their G account and running a search.

    I personally like getclicky as they show real time data.
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    • Profile picture of the author Joe118
      Originally Posted by joshmstanton View Post

      My understanding is that G is able to track data from anyone who is signed into their G account and running a search.

      I personally like getclicky as they show real time data.
      This is slightly wrong:

      If you aren't logged in, Google can still track you by any of the (AT LEAST) 10 ways I listed above.

      If you ARE logged in, they can associate the tracking information with an account. This is extremely useful for them, since it gives behavior data that they can cross-corelate with other info they already have about the account -- e.g. what your email is about (you're using gmail?), what your G+ profile's interests are, etc.

      Just like with Facebook, Google would like you to NEVER log out.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joe118
    Definitive answer - (AT LEAST) 10 ways that Google can track user behavior:

    1. The user has google toolbar installed. This is rumored to send information about which sites the user visits back to google.

    2. If the site has adsense on it, then google can track the visitor behavior on the site.

    3. If the site uses google analytics, then google can track visitor behavior.

    4. If the site has embedded videos from youtube, then google can track visitor behavior.

    5. If the site has G+ buttons, google knows about the visitor behavior on the site.

    6. If the site has a specialized search engine hosted by google (e.g. the "search this site" widget on many blogs, if it uses Google) then google knows the behavior of the visitors.

    7. If the site has embedded picasa images or albums, google can track the user behavior on the site.

    8. If the site uses google URL shortener (http://goo.gl) then google can track.

    9. If the user uses google DNS, then all their moves across the entire web are an open book for google.

    10. If the site uses some of the convenient Javascript packages hosted by google, e.g. jQuery (which is now the defacto standard, all WP sites include it) then the behavior of users on the site is known in intimate detail to google.

    I really should make this a WSO, lol
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    • Profile picture of the author Cindy Battye
      Originally Posted by Joe118 View Post

      Definitive answer - (AT LEAST) 10 ways that Google can track user behavior:

      1. The user has google toolbar installed. This is rumored to send information about which sites the user visits back to google.

      2. If the site has adsense on it, then google can track the visitor behavior on the site.

      3. If the site uses google analytics, then google can track visitor behavior.

      4. If the site has embedded videos from youtube, then google can track visitor behavior.

      5. If the site has G+ buttons, google knows about the visitor behavior on the site.

      6. If the site has a specialized search engine hosted by google (e.g. the "search this site" widget on many blogs, if it uses Google) then google knows the behavior of the visitors.

      7. If the site has embedded picasa images or albums, google can track the user behavior on the site.

      8. If the site uses google URL shortener (http://goo.gl) then google can track.

      9. If the user uses google DNS, then all their moves across the entire web are an open book for google.

      10. If the site uses some of the convenient Javascript packages hosted by google, e.g. jQuery (which is now the defacto standard, all WP sites include it) then the behavior of users on the site is known in intimate detail to google.

      I really should make this a WSO, lol
      You really SHOULD do a WSO Joe on this! So many people, especially using autoblog combination together with adsense and all sorts of other google spy tools wonder why they get their accounts blocked... lol. Have you used Piwik Joe?

      - Cindy
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  • Profile picture of the author the goat
    I have zero proof of it, but I am a firm believer that having GA on a site that doesn't get much traffic hurts its rankings.

    This is just from me building hundreds of sites and adding GA to some but not others and checking their rankings. I did not do anything scientific or use controls in this study, so take that into consideration.

    I use Statcounter until I get to at least 4,000 uniques a month and then add GA.
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  • Profile picture of the author KBrown
    Damm Google cant live with it ..... cant live without it ... wait .. maybe we could.

    KBrown
    Rock Google~
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  • Before I read anything else: Traitor.

    I use statcounter which is less detailed, but very insightful, err. insiteful?
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    • Profile picture of the author jerry310
      Google just seems to suck more and more lately :p
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  • Profile picture of the author James B
    Well, we kind of dont have a choice do we..
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  • Profile picture of the author misterlmno
    i just started using piwik @Cindy, great stuff!!
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  • Profile picture of the author spriya
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    • Profile picture of the author Joe118
      The Trojan Horse was also a free gift

      Originally Posted by spriya View Post

      Most website owners have heard about Google analytics or at least understand that they need it but there is still a percentage of website owners that really do not take the time to look at the data on a consistent basis. The data in Google analytics is extremely important to look at for many reasons and if you don't you could be missing out on very valuable website tweaks that you could be making to increase the efficiency of your website. The best part about Google Analytics is that it is a free tool you can use all you have to do is apply the code that Google gives you when you set up an account on your website and after about 24-48 hours it starts to pull in a variety of useful data you can use to your advantage.

      You get to know what to improve with the help of Google analyses tool
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  • Profile picture of the author kamlesh23
    What I've learned that you cannot rely and trust the data from one tool. Daqta from google analytics is as misleading like the data shown in google adwords keywords suggestion tool. I use other tools like web-stats and wordtracker, keywordspy etc so as to come to any conclusion. I recommend the same to all of you.
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  • Profile picture of the author howto
    Isn't the real issue that you have a high bounce rate, poor click through rate and bad level of user satisfaction? If your website was enjoyed by people you wouldn't care if Analytics was a spy as it would help Google see how much people love your website. Maybe spend the time making your users want to stay on the website and enjoy it instead of trying to find conspiracy theories.
    If your website has poor user satisfaction you will be caught out my Google in the long run and loose places in the SERPS and to be honest that's how it should be. Google are always looking for ways to improve their searches to pages people will enjoy and find relevant.


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  • Profile picture of the author radivoj
    Well having Google Analytic and Google webmaster account it will not have any impact on your site ranking at all,but I do believe that Google is able to track down your site way much quicker when you giving all your site info...
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    • Profile picture of the author zerofill
      Google analytics is giving them data they in turn can and will use for profit. Why should you give them that data? Why should you make it easy for them to get that data? Do you feel you owe them something?

      Google analytics also makes it easy for Google to deindex every site you own if reported by a competitor. Because you always have the same stupid number before the dash. (Adsense pub id's same thing)

      Ask some blog network owners that had their entire networks de-indexed for selling access in the form of back links/text links. Not going to mention any names... but if they want to chime in they can.

      Then some people will say...

      Well they deserved it for breaking Google's TOS.

      Who the hell is Google to say you can't sell links on your website?

      Google's TOS means jack **** when it comes to things like that. They are a search engine. The big problem is to many people are starting to think of Google as the internet governing body or authority or something. They deserve to be treated as exactly what they are... a search engine and advertising platform. They do the same exact thing a lot of us do... scrape and harvest data.

      You can break Google's TOS on your websites all you want. The website isn't their website it is your website. Well until they start paying the hosting bills, domain fees, and pay you to keep it up to date.

      But there are no Google Laws out there. Last I knew they couldn't create laws. Maybe someday they will have that power... but not at present.

      I'm not saying go out and do everything stupid you can to try and get de-indexed. Obviously Google is a great source for traffic. But just sick of how they seem to be thought of these days.

      Your statistical data for your sites is your business and only yours. That data is a business asset. Why should you turn over business assets to Google?

      Use Piwik and keep the data yourself. Piwik does an excellent job of tracking statistical data for your site. Google webmaster tools no one needs.

      If your worried about 404 errors... not sure why your pages disappeared in the first place, but create an htaccess file to handle them. Or if you are using wordpress use a plugin.

      As far as how your site is seen by web crawlers. The site is seen the same way the text browser lynx sees it. Go download it and view your site.

      Blah done babbling... but I ain't giving Google anymore data then I have to. Bad enough I still use Adsense on a lot of sites. But they pay more and the ads are more targeted for my cannon fodder sites.
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      • Profile picture of the author wolfmmiii
        Originally Posted by zerofill View Post


        Who the hell is Google to say you can't sell links on your website?

        ......

        You can break Google's TOS on your websites all you want. The website isn't their website it is your website.

        They aren't saying you can't sell links. They are saying that you can do it but they will not include you in THEIR index.

        Folks...Stop trying to fight "the man", whether it be Google or Amazon or Clickbank or whoever because you don't like their rules.

        These entities are for-profit businesses and they have sets of rules to follow. Nobody is forcing you to use any of them.

        Do you really think Google needs your analytics data to track down all of your sites? LOL. A simple whois will give them all they need to know. And if I'm not mistaken, they are a registrar and can see private whois anyway (I think).
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        • Profile picture of the author zerofill
          Originally Posted by wolfmmiii View Post

          They aren't saying you can't sell links. They are saying that you can do it but they will not include you in THEIR index.
          Don't quote me if your going to chop it up to work it into something that it wasn't.

          The whole meaning of my post had to do with making it as easy for them to track you as possible and making money off your data. Data that they can make available to your competitors in many ways. It had nothing to do with "Screw them I will sell links if I want to.

          My points were that they aren't a law maker. Which many people make them out to be.

          Plus... yeah private whois... Anyone can find that info with enough digging or money. They aren't going through that much effort to find you.

          Originally Posted by wolfmmiii View Post

          If you have a high-quality site, you should want Google to know about it, no?
          If you have a high quality site... Google already knows about it. They don't need GA to find out about it. Like I said they harvest and scrape data to, just like many of us.

          My post was not anti-Google...

          Everyone wants traffic from wherever they can get it. Google provides traffic. Organic rankings in Google/Bing convert more then paid traffic for most types of products. I am not arguing with that.

          What I am saying is...

          1) Having GA on your site is not going to make you rank better

          2) Having GA just makes it easier for them to profit off your data.

          3) That data is a business asset and if they want it they should have to earn it. How do you get ranked on Google? Typically you have to work and earn those rankings. Two way street here...

          4) Google doesn't own, control, etc... what you do with your site. If you want to be ranked by them you have to play their game. If you don't care about being ranked by them... Then you also don't have to give a damn about their guidelines.

          Do you have any idea how many emails I have received from people actually scared of Google? There are people that really believe that if they sell links on their site, advertising space, or do anything else not permitted by Google, they are actually breaking "REAL" laws.

          I'm not kidding...

          So that is what I am trying to clear up. There are no "Google Laws."

          Google is a search engine and an advertising platform... There isn't actually a lot of difference in what they do versus what a lot of us do to get traffic at the end of the day.
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  • Profile picture of the author beyanet
    We need an alternative than google, now google is the one who decides everything !
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  • Profile picture of the author Bosco
    Yep, I agree with those saying extrication is the way to go.

    Recently bought a WSO that made the case quite well.

    Have I done it yet?

    Hey, I was going to join the local procrastinator's anonymous group, but I keep putting it off.
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  • Profile picture of the author josephvijay
    google analytics is a bad one but not a best one though.
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  • Profile picture of the author dame016
    Can anybody tell me why installing GA reduce the site's ranks? I have GA installed in all of my sites. And, GA has teamed up with other companies for ad impressions and I have enrolled in those programs as well.

    Thanks in advance.
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  • Profile picture of the author howdab2
    And if I'm not mistaken, they are a registrar and can see private whois anyway (I think).
    Actually, they do have to jump through some hoops/red tape to see private info, but they indeed can get the info.
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  • Profile picture of the author jeessy
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    • Profile picture of the author wolfmmiii
      Originally Posted by jeessy View Post

      It never made sense to me to give G even more data considering Google Analytics doesn't provide anything I can't get from software that comes with Cpanel.
      If you have a high-quality site, you should want Google to know about it, no?
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      • Profile picture of the author Cataclysm1987
        Originally Posted by wolfmmiii View Post

        If you have a high-quality site, you should want Google to know about it, no?
        Maybe. What if it's a sales page that gets good conversions but has a high bounce rate? Google might penalize that in the search engines even though it's useful and converts well.

        Google doesn't always know best.
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  • Profile picture of the author rooze
    You need to think about the new form of 'ranking' which is coming into play.

    The word 'ranking' is soon going to be replaced by the word 'profiling'. Your site won't 'rank' for a series of given searches it will be 'displayed' based on the profile information of the person conducting the search.

    For person A, using search term X, your site might appear in position 3. For person B, using the same search term X, your site might not appear at all.

    So when Matt Cutts says the data isn't being used for 'ranking', then technically he is correct. It is being used for profiling, which can hurt just as bad as if it were used for ranking in the traditional sense.

    And no, you don't need to have GA installed for Google to profile you. Any search originating from Google.com or a search box on a partner site is tracked, with data recorded much as it is with analytics.
    The main difference between recording general browser-search stats and those recorded by analytics, is that with analytics installed, you are now having data collected from searches and traffic originating outside of Google.com In other words, with GA, everything about your traffic is recorded, not just Google search.

    It's changing, and it's changing fast.
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    • Profile picture of the author zerofill
      Originally Posted by rooze View Post

      The main difference between recording general browser-search stats and those recorded by analytics, is that with analytics installed, you are now having data collected from searches and traffic originating outside of Google.com In other words, with GA, everything about your traffic is recorded, not just Google search.
      Exactly... You said that in a much better way then I did earlier.

      Why anyone wants to make it easy for them to profit from and utilize this data is beyond me. They get enough data without it being handed to them.
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      • I've never been a fan of Google having extra insights into my domains for all the reasons stated above. The only problem is that the really cool keyword discovery tools I use, like Raven Tools and Keyword Strategy, are dependent upon Google Analytics for pulling in the keyword data. I'm starting to see more services integrate GetClicky as an analytics option, so hopefully more service providers will follow suit. But in terms of API integration, Google Analytics is still king.
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        • Profile picture of the author zaco
          Originally Posted by ThousandDollarDays View Post

          I've never been a fan of Google having extra insights into my domains for all the reasons stated above. The only problem is that the really cool keyword discovery tools I use, like Raven Tools and Keyword Strategy, are dependent upon Google Analytics for pulling in the keyword data. I'm starting to see more services integrate GetClicky as an analytics option, so hopefully more service providers will follow suit. But in terms of API integration, Google Analytics is still king.
          I am using getclicky on 2 sites, one of them has google analytics..I really like getclicky and the ease of use, I use it on Joomla sites... very nice and easy to use.. I see google analytics too complicated....
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  • Profile picture of the author SEOExpert999
    If you check and make changes to your websites in GA according to your stats. I think you are rewarded when you find the right combination that increases your visitors time on your site. I use my Cpanel along with GA because it helps me see a real average.
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  • Profile picture of the author cashtree
    Would never use GA myself, is completely pointless and potentially dangerous, as I don't trust google.
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