First in a series of 3 posts 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.

Google Analytics is sometimes seen as a utility, in that it's always there, and everyone knows that they need it, or some kind of analytics, but few people know how it actually works.

It's generally OK not to know a lot about Google Analytics, since you don't necessarily need to know how to customize the code or set up complex filters to get helpful information. But if all you're doing is logging in, grabbing the code and throwing it on your site, you could be creating headaches for the future.

Here are some basic best practices for implementing Google Analytics on the account side that can help make sure your campaign is ready to collect data in the long run, and won't need to be abandoned and relaunched later to fix unintended problems.

Google Analytics Account Structure Setup

every website
should
have it's
own account
The first – and by far most important – account setup tip for Google Analytics is to use a "best practices" account structure.

Put simply, in general every website should have it's own account.

You should never be tracking your business and personal websites in the same account, or track your website in the same account as someone else's website. When setting up tracking for a new site, set up a new account, and not a new profile.

Maintaining Google Analytics account exclusivity is critical on the agency side, where many GA accounts may be accessed by one person or team. If one of those clients demands administrative access to their account so they can add or remove users and filters, then they will have access to every other site in the account, which could be a potential liability situation if they gain access to a competitors' data through you.

In addition, sometimes clients decide to move on or take their accounts in-house. When this happens, their Google Analytics account cannot go with them, since you own the account, and their profile cannot be "unhooked" from your account. This means they would have to abandon their profile and potentially lose years of data if they want to own their own account.

PPC ties cannot be ported easily from an account where each website is set up in a profile. If they decide to start a PPC campaign they will probably want to hook AdWords in with Google Analytics. This can be problematic on an account with multiple profiles for different websites.

Finally, some clients like to expand their knowledge over time, and may want to add different tracking tools that need new profiles. Maybe they need one profile to exclude staff, one profile for organic traffic only, one profile for PPC only, one profile for each key geographic area, and a few profiles for franchises. If you have a few clients like this, what are you going to tell them when your account reaches its profile limit and you can't add any more?

How To Set Up a Google Analytics Account

1. Always make sure that every website you set up on Google Analytics is set up as a new Account, and not a new Profile.

2. Create a Google Account (or use an existing one) to create the new Analytics account.

3. Set yourself, or whoever will be managing the account on your end, up as an Administrator on the account. This will allow you to access and administrate everything while maintaining account exclusivity for your clients. This will also allow the account to be "unhooked" later, allowing the client to leave without losing all their historical data.

So in the end, your account structure between yourself and your sites/clients should look something like this:

Google Analytics Client Account Setup

Read the whole series:
#1 How to Set Up Your Google Analytics Account Structure to Avoid Headaches Later
#2 Google Analytics Profile Architecture for Dummies
#3 Google Analytics Filter Best Practices