Will removing Google Analytics from a site hurt search engine rankings?
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been in touch with many different website owners who are considering our Google Analytics alternative product. I’ve been surprised by the number of people who have asked something along these lines:
“Will removing Google Analytics from my website hurt my search engine rankings?”
Similar concerns have been voiced to us on different platforms including Twitter, Reddit and Hacker News. So we wanted to have a look at this topic in more detail.
The majority of sites on the web run Google Analytics for their web stats so it’s likely that someone who’s considering using Plausible Analytics currently uses Google Analytics.
Let’s start with some of the concerns that the site owners have raised to us about Google Analytics and its potential impact on search rankings and traffic from Google’s search results.
Concerns from the website owners
There’s an on-going debate in the SEO (search engine optimization) world about the pros and cons of using Google Analytics on a website. This has been going on for years.
In one of my past companies, there was even a policy set by the SEO team that we couldn’t use Google Analytics as the SEO team was concerned about Google getting to know more details about the strategies they were using.
The fact that so many people asked us similar questions means that there still are some doubts and even conspiracy theories about Google Analytics and if or what Google uses all the data they collect for.
Here are some of the comments we got about this topic:
“I am afraid Google will punish my search engine results position. If they really see all I will expect them to punish me for pushing Google Analytics out”
“Google are likely to use their analytics to rank your website in searches. No Google, maybe lower ranking”
“Can you be penalized for not running Google Analytics? If you have a website with no analytics or non-Google analytics, will your Google ranking be worse?”
And another one:
“Have you seen any business SEO metrics shift after switching to Plausible Analytics. Is there a link between Google Analytics and search positioning?”
“I hate Google Analytics, but I also rely almost completely at this point on organic search traffic. I can’t really risk that traffic for a better solution since Google overwhelmingly dominates and, I imagine, uses my metrics from Google Analytics to help determine how it will rank me in search results. Maybe I’m just paranoid”
And as another website owner put it to us:
“The million-dollar question: will removing Google Analytics hurt my search ranking?”
So what is the answer?
What does Google say?
Google’s search algorithm and Google Analytics are proprietary products. They’re black boxes to us and we cannot see what’s going on inside of them.
We have to listen to and trust what Google says about this instead. And Google employees have answered similar questions and concerns in the past. Here’s a look at some of those answers.
Matt Cutts, who’s a former head of Google’s webspam team, answered the question in two different videos published on the official YouTube channel while he still worked at Google:
Is Google Analytics data a factor in a page’s ranking?
“At PubCon a few years ago which is a WebmasterWorld Conference somebody said,”Do you use Google Analytics and–in Web spam?” And I said, “Not only doing not used in Web spam, I promise you, my team will never go and ask the analytics team to use their data. And we’ve held true to that promise.” And I got asked this at the most recent PubCon and I was like, “Well, I know we don’t use it in Web spam. I don’t know about all of search quality. I don’t think that we do. But to my knowledge, no one uses it.” So when I saw this question, I went ahead and I emailed the most senior, most knowledgeable person who would know about this. And I said, “We don’t use Google Analytics in our ranking in any way, do we?” And the one word reply was, “No.” So, there you go. Taken a long time to say a relatively short answer, which is “Google Analytics is not used in search quality in any way for our rankings”.
Will using Google Analytics have a negative effect on my ranking?
“The answer is no. Webspam does not use Google Analytics, and a while ago I went and checked and search quality in general does not use Google Analytics in ranking. So, you can use Google Analytics, you can not use Google Analytics, it won’t affect your ranking within Google search results”
Gary Illyes, who’s a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, answered a question about this on Twitter saying:
We don't use \\\\\*anything\\\\\* from Google analytics in the "algo".— Socially distant Gary Illyes (@methode) June 26, 2017
Just to be clear: there's no penalty for using or not using GA with regards to search.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 28, 2018
GA can give you lots of insights about your site & how users enjoy it, but it's not required for search.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 28, 2018
Correct. We definintely don't use GA for indexing.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) April 30, 2020
So the answer to the question of “does Google use Google Analytics in order to figure out their search results?” is a firm “no” according to people working for Google. Google doesn’t use any of the Google Analytics data in its search results algorithm.
Several Google employees have answered this way multiple times over the last decade both on social media, in Google’s official content and at different SEO and digital marketing conferences.
It doesn’t matter if you do have Google Analytics installed or if you don’t have it installed either. It won’t make any difference to your search rankings and the traffic you get from Google’s search results.
Now it’s up to you to verify that or to trust that. I personally don’t use Google Analytics on my sites and haven’t experienced any negative side effects.
If you’re interested in trying out our way of thinking about website statistics, do register for a free 30-day trial. We’re different from Google Analytics in several ways:
- We’re fully open source with our code available for anyone to see at GitHub
- We’re a lightweight solution with our script being smaller than 1 KB
And it’s also simple to run Plausible Analytics on your site alongside Google Analytics and see how you like it before making a decision.