Second in a 3 part series on Google Analytics setup Best Practices.
This is the second post in a 3 part series on Google Analytics setup Best Practices. Google Analytics is something we sometimes take for granted, but in reality sometimes accounts with years of data have to be abandoned simply because they were not set up properly. Hopefully this series will help people understand some of the best practices for setting up Google Analytics.
As we saw last time, it's important that each site you manage or oversee is set up in its own Google Analytics account, and not just set up in a profile. But this then begs the question: what the heck are Profiles for?
Profiles are a way of creating different "views" of the data. So for example, you can create one profile that measures all the traffic on your website, and another profile that measures all the traffic, but excludes your employees. Or you might want to know specifically how your employees are using your website, and track that alone in a profile.
Profiles are also a good way to measure different parts of your website. For example, one profile can track your main website traffic, one can track your blog traffic, and others can track traffic for content in different languages.
User and Account Data Security
Another useful way profiles are used is to limit user access. Users who are set up as Administrators can access and administrate every single report and profile in the account, and sometimes this access isn't appropriate.
For example, Jane who leads the US division may need to see and administrate the accounts for the US geographic area. But John who is a franchise owner in Florida may also need to see his results on the website to see how his marketing efforts are going. Head office probably doesn't want a franchisee seeing the company-wide information so Johns pages are set up in a new profile which he has "View Reports Only" access to.
This means that while Jane can see all the data for every outlet and franchise in the US, John can see only the results driven to his particular franchise pages.
Before you set up your users or profiles, it's a good idea to make a list of who needs access and to what data. This information – your Analytics Profile Architecture – will guide how you need to set up accounts and profiles in a way that everyone has access to what they need, and nothing else.
Protecting Data Integrity
Profiles are also a good way to limit damage from new filters you are applying to your account. Whenever you are applying a new filter that you haven't personally tested to your account, it's a good idea to run it in a new profile to make sure it does what you think it does.
Let's say you find a great new filter somewhere on the wilds of the Internet that tells you how many of your visitors are thinking about calling you. But when you install it, you find that suddenly you're tracking no traffic at all! Maybe that filter wasn't so great after all, since now you're missing a week of data.
Unless you are very technical, some filters are just beyond the understanding of most people, with complex Regular Expressions that can make even programmers heads hurt. If you're not absolutely, positively 100% certain that you know what your new filter is going to do to your data, it's always a good idea to test it out in a new profile to make sure it really does what you think it does before launching it on a profile that's important.
Another idea you may want to consider which I'm personally a big fan of, is keeping one profile in each account which has no filters at all. This way, if your data appears "off", you can always go back to your filterless benchmark profile to see if it's a filter issue, or if no-one really did visit your site last week.
Caveats and Watch-Outs
The only drawback to creating new profiles is that it's not always a 2 minute process.
If you have any standard filters (like excluding your staff) users or goals, you'll need to set them up for each account seperately. The same goes for your on-site search engine tracking, and also adding your default page, if you use it.
Sometimes it can make life easier to open the account in another browser window and copy what's in an existing profile.
Even though it might take a few minutes extra to set up a new profile for your account, it can usually be worth it as it can help with access security and data integrity, making sure that your account is always giving you accurate and helpful information.
Next Time: GA Filters Set Up Best Practices
Vice President at Search Engine People, helping clients with Conversion Optimization, Analytics, and On-Page SEO.
Online Marketer since June 2000, Internet geek since 1994. Follow me on twitter at @semlady to see what I'm reading now.