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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To exclude internal traffic from your Google Analytics data
You need administrator access to configure your account to exclude internal traffic. If you can’t find the screens referred to, it probably means you have only ‘user’ access. You will have to contact the person who set up the GA account and either ask them to exclude the internal traffic or to give you Administrator access.
Click on ‘Analytics settings’ (top left) to open up the following screen. Click on ‘Add new profile’ (top right)
Tick the box ‘Add new profile for an existing domain’. You need to give the profile a name, I suggest ‘exclude internal’
Your new profile will now appear in the Analytics Settings window. Click ‘Edit profile.
and scroll down to ‘Filters applied to profile’ and click ‘Add filter’
In the ‘Filter type’ drop down, select ‘Exclude’ ‘traffic from the IP addresses’ ‘that are equal to’
You need to know your IP address. There are lots of website out there that will tell you, one such is http://whatismyipaddress.com/. The site will automatically detect your IP, and will present it as ‘IP information’. It will take the form of a number with four groups of digits each separated by a full stop.
Simply copy these four sets of digits in the four boxes, give the filter a name (Me or web agency etc) and your are done.
Profiles and Best Practice
You could of course simply add the filter to your existing, default profile but it is far better – and safer – to leave one profile completely untouched. This means that if you either make a mistake or for some reason want the data excluded by the filter, all data is still available.
Profiles are ways of analysing a sub set of data, so once a filter is configured, it will mean that for that within that profile, some data is excluded. This may be because you have used an exclude filter as here, or it may be that you have a used an include filter, which will have the effect of excluding everything not included by the include filter.
The BBC website has published a very interesting article on forthcoming European legislation that will require a website to gain ‘explicit consent’ from visitors before collecting information using cookies. Cookies used in shopping baskets will be exempt – a message asking if your customer on an ecommerce site if you can collect information about what he wants to buy would be just plain silly.
Presumably every time you do a search on Google and then click through to a site, the site will seek your permission to use a GA tracking cookie. Now that might be OK once or twice – but every time you do a search on Google………..!
And of course if you visit a site and say no you do not want it to collect cookie information, then the site cannot use a cookie to remember your preference which means the next time you access it, you will be asked again. I can just imagine the laptop being thrown out of the window as your favourite holiday site asks for the 1000th time whether it can set a cookie, I’ve told you that a 1000 times already.
Oh dear, back to my bandwagon. All legislators should be required to take extensive courses in both history (so they stop making the same mistakes) and technology (so they understand what they are doing).
There is also the question of enforcement. Who will enforce it? Will the resources be available to enforce anything other information collection for fraud, scams and other blatantly criminal purposes. This type of regulation also comes into conflict with the international nature of the web. Will a US site being accessed in the Europe take any notice of this latest bit of Brussels beaurocracy.
In short, a good idea poorly thought out and poorly crafted.
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