Is Using Google Analytics a Search Ranking Factor?

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool that helps website owners understand how users interact with their web pages.

The amount of information we can get from Google Analytics is so profound that a theory has circulated for over a decade that GA data is a ranking factor.

Is Google Analytics really powerful enough to affect Google search results?

Let’s take a closer look.

[Recommended Read:] Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction

The claim: Google Analytics as a ranking factor

In Google’s How Search Works documentation, we can see that a webpage’s relevancy is one of the many factors used to rank webpages.

How Search Works - Relevance screenshotScreenshot of How Search Works by Google, June 2022

The most basic relevance signal is that the content contains the same words as the search query.

Additional information is provided about how Google determines the relevance of a page.

Beyond simple keyword matching, Google says, “We also use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to search queries. We turn this data into signals that help our machine-learned systems better assess relevance.”

How Search Works – Screenshot of interaction dataScreenshot of How Search Works by Google, June 2022

What is “interaction data” and where does Google get it from?

Some marketers assume that these factors include metrics like time on page, organic click-through rate, bounce rate, total direct traffic, percentage of returning visitors, etc.

That makes sense because these are the metrics that marketers are familiar with and understand to represent the interactive data that Google might be looking for.

Marketers can also see a correlation between the metrics improving as their position in the SERPs improves.

Is it possible that we somehow improve Google’s understanding of the user experience of our website using Google Analytics?

Kind of like an SEO bat signal?

Can we directly impact rankings by providing Google with more “interaction data”?

[Ebook:] Download the Complete Guide to Google Ranking Factors

The proof against Google Analytics as a ranking factor

While we don’t have direct access to Google’s algorithm, evidence shows that Google Analytics as a ranking factor is not a plausible theory.

First, Google officials have clearly and consistently stated that they do not use Google Analytics data as a ranking factor.

Still on March 16, 2022, John Mu responded to tweets about the impact of Google Analytics on rank.

John Mu GA4 tweet_this won't happen_screenshotScreenshot from Twitter, June 2022

One marketer jokingly suggested that if Google wanted people to use GA4, they could just say it would improve rankings.

John Mu replied, “That won’t happen.”

Google seems to constantly balk at the idea of ​​its analytics services influencing rankings in any way.

When we tweeted in 2010 to momentarily secure our #1 spot in the results, Matt Cutts said, “Google Analytics is not used in any way for our search quality rankings.”

Matt Cutt's YouTube says Google Analytics isn't used in search“Is Google Analytics data a factor in ranking a page?” Google Search Central, June 2022

And you don’t have to take Google’s word for it.

Here are three websites that rank in the top 10 for highly competitive keywords that don’t have the Google Analytics tag on their site.

1. Ahrefs, an SEO tool, is known not to use Google Analytics.

No Google Analytics on Ahrefs site Google tag legacy exampleAuthor’s screenshot, June 2022

Tim Soulo, CMO at Ahrefs, tweeted in December 2019, “Every time I tell other marketers that we don’t have Google Analytics on ahrefs.com, they respond with ‘NO WAY!’.”

Tim Soulo Ahrefs tweets about not using GAScreenshot from Twitter, June 2022

And the Ahrefs domain ranks in the top 10 for over 12,000 unbranded keywords.

Ahrefs ranks in the top ten for 12,000 unbranded keywordsScreenshot from Ahrefs.com, June 2022

2. Another famous example is Wikipedia.

Wikipedia articles dominate Google search results and rank very well in definition searches like computer, dog, and even the search query “Google”.

And it ranks for all of this without any Google Analytics code on the site.

For example, Wikipedia does not use Google AnalyticsAuthor’s screenshot, June 2022

3. Another example is Ethereum.

Ethereum ranks in the top 10 for [nft]. NFT is an enterprise-level keyword with over a million monthly searches in the United States alone.

Google Analytics is not installed on the Ethereum website.

For example, Ethereum does not use Google AnalyticsAuthor’s screenshot, June 2022

[Discover:] More Google Ranking Factor Insights

Our verdict: Google Analytics is not a ranking factor

Is Using Google Analytics a Search Ranking Factor?

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that helps us understand how people find our website and what they do there.

And when we make adjustments to our site, by simplifying navigation or improving content, we can see that GA metrics improve.

However, the GA code on your website does not send an SEO bat signal.

The GA code is not a signal to Google and does not make it easier for Google to assess relevancy (whether your webpage meets the user’s search query).

The “bat signal” is for you.

Google Analytics isn’t a ranking factor, but it can help you understand if you’re going in the right or wrong direction.


Featured image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction?  Let's dispel some myths! [Ebook]

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