Google Analytics accounts and profiles – why the difference matters

by Sally Kavanagh

Having taken on a couple of new clients in the last couple of weeks, I have again hit the problem of confusion between accounts and profiles when setting up Google Analytics.

It is vitally important that every domain has its own Google Analytics account – not just its own profile within an agency’s account.

The reason is that it is not possible to give anyone – the client for example – full administrator access to the data from their site if it is just a profile.  Administrators have access to all profiles within an account. So if  an agency has 50 clients on one account that means if anyone of those clients were given full admin access to their data they would have full access to the other 49 clients’ data!

The importance of admin access

So why would a client want admin access to their data? For one thing I would say they have a right to it if they want it. The data is ultimately held by Google but it is the client’s site so if they want it then they should have access to everything there is to know about it. But there are two common problems that arise if full admin access is not available.

The first is that the client or their service provider wants to do some analysis on the site and will need to see how the account is set up, configure goals and filters etc. This is the problem I hit most frequently when I want to provide a stats report for a new client, or ongoing monthly reports for existing clients. In one recent example, I have been looking at an ecommerce site that I know is not performing well and the client wants to know why. Google Analytics has not been configured to track ecommerce but it has not even been set up to track transactions, for example by tracking the thank you page as a goal. This means I have no information at all – such as traffic source, landing page etc – on the few transactions that have been made.

The second problem is very serious. If a client changes their web agency – the one holding the Google Analytics acciybt – then there is no way of migrating the profile. The old agency can simply stop access to the data and there is nothing the client can do about it – either legally or practically. Even is the old agency wants to hand the data over to the client or the new agency, there is no way of doing it.

So how does this confusion between accounts and profiles arise. The big problem is that so few web agencies, especially small ones, understand Google Analytics. I have come across this profile problem many many times and never has it been intentional. It is simply that web agencies do not understand that setting up a new profile for a new site is not the right way to do it.

Every site should have its own account. The only time when this may not be true is if one organisation has more than one site. So one of my clients has what they refer to as their brochure site and they have – for historical reasons – their ecommerce site on a separate domain. Essentially it is the same site but split over two domains so from an analytics point of view, it makes sense to handle it on one account.

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