Google Uses Analytics Data Against You

ga-is-a-scam

I have reason to believe Google just started using your traffic stats against you! I’ve come across two cases this month where the exact low performing keywords were abruptly removed from Googles search results resulting in a 20%+ loss in organic traffic. If this happened once, I could see this being just pure coincidence but lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice and its happened on two different sites in different niches.

Further evidence that the penalty only removed high bounce rate keyword is that the day after the penalty took place, the overall bounce rate decreased significantly. This is exactly what you would expect to see if Google used Analytics data against you.

Even more reason to stop using GA is on September 23rd of 2013, Google removed keyword data entirely as reported by SearchEngineWatch.com making it almost useless.

This is a tough decision for me as I have been using the platform since it first came out and I am Google Analytics Certified.

Proof Positive

Starting today I am conducting experiments to see if removing the Analytics code from one of my sites will have any effect on the rankings of my lower performing keywords. I’ll be replacing GA with Piwik a more private, server based system. Continue to check back for the full details and reports.

I hope I’m wrong but if my findings are conclusive, I’ll never use GA again and mark this as the night they drove old Google down.

Results Day 3 After Removing

Its been 3 days since I removed Google Analytics from one of my sites and as Modelcircle speculated in the comments below, I think I may be seeing the lash-back that he warned me about. So far my index dropped from just over 10,000 pages indexed to 6,220 which means Google has removed 40% of my site from their index. This is very disappointing as the index for this site usually increases rather steadily from user generated content adding new pages daily.

The 2nd thing I noticed is a sharp drop in traffic from an average of 1,100 visits per day to around 800 visits per day which are roughly 26% loss in traffic. This could just be that Piwik is not recording all the visits correctly but I don’t think they would be 26% off because that’s a pretty big discrepancy. Maybe after 1 full week of no GA, I run GA and Piwik together to really analyze the discrepancy.

So far things aren’t looking good, it’s too soon to say but I still think Google could be using your data against you but they might punish you for removing GA altogether. GA might be like women, can’t live with em, cant live without em. 🙁

Matt Cutts on How to Identify Panda Penalty

Matt Cutts on how to identify Panda penalties

Matt still didn’t answer Nandita’s question in the video, How will a webmaster know if they are being affected by the Panda and I think that’s because the answer is, you will not know and you are not meant to know. Google doesn’t want to tell you the exact mechanisms of the algorithm. If your site is being affected by the Panda updates, you start by looking on-page at your site’s structure and content. The Penguin targeted off-page while the Panda focused only on your site’s on-page attributes.

To identify what Panda violations could be harming your site, you have to look at all aspects of the site to make sure it complies with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If your site isn’t ranking well, then the chances are you may have attributes or violations that are triggering the algorithms to affect your site negatively.

When trying to understand the Panda, I find its best to try to read between the lines of all Google documentation and Matt Cutts politically correct answers. It would take a small book to explain how to tell if your site is being affected by the Panda but I have given post panda tips and SEO trouble shooting instructions and here are a few Panda between-the-lines translations to get you started:

  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

Get Google Authorship or other high exposure bloggers and journalist to write your work.

  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?

Avoid keyword cannibalization.

  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

Display all logos and associations along with phone numbers and addresses that correlate with your local business listings.

  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

Use correct grammar, spelling and a vocabulary above a 6th-grade level.

  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Avoid doorway pages that target similar longtail keywords of the same group.

  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

Don’t copy or regurgitate other peoples content. Copyscape.com will get you and spinners don’t work either, the Panda is for too advanced for that.

  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

You must go above and beyond what else is posted out there. If you see a 500-word article on the same topic then you have to do a 750-word article and add more bells and whistles like I mentioned here on my post about Panda friendly articles.

  • How much quality control is done on content?

Keep a clean and organized site, instead of just having random content all over the place. It’s best to have 100 awesome pages than 1000 crappy pages.

  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?

Do in-depth research to cover all angles and even mention and link to other sources.

  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?

Google gives more rankings to brands and established online businesses. You can also do high authority citations and even get your own Wikipedia page.

  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

Put the black-hat software away. Xrumer, SEnuke, and Scrapebox are all busted. Those days are long gone, Google started cracking down on that type of stuff two years before the Panda even came out but now its really over.

  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

Get all the share buttons and APIs installed. Social media are more important now than ever before and the trend will continue. Google even integrated new social signal metrics in Analytics. Good content gets shared, liked, tweeted etc. I spend just as much time on social media as I do on link building and citations.

  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

Watch out for the page layout penalty.