Google Analytics—Understanding Accounts vs. Properties vs. Profiles

Google Chrome

Google Chrome

I have to admit, that every time I go into Google Analytics in the last few years, I find the organization of data into categories, and sub-categories—and sub-sub-categories—demonically complicated. That is why I finally sat down to make sense of it. Here is what is important, if you are tracking websites:

Google’s documentation about “Accounts and Profiles” states:

Google Analytics account management is a highly flexible system that you can use to track multiple web properties and to set up reporting access for a variety of users.

Translation: “We are geeks that wanted to account for every possible eventuality, so we made our system insanely confusing to do normal things.”

When you are setting up tracking for one or more websites, here is how to make sense of all of this.

Account: A way of grouping websites, and who can see them.

An Analytics account is way to name and organize how you track one or more web properties using Google Analytics.

An account is the level at which you would give one or more people access. So, group “properties”—i.e., websites—into logical organizational groups.

Points:

  • Accounts are really just an organizational layer
  • Once you have set up a website’s data in one Account, you cannot move it to another account
  • You grant people access to website data at the account level

Therefore:

  • If you wanted ultimate granular control over who had access to which data, you would always create one Property (website) per  Account. The downside of this would be that you’d have to grant/revoke access to people to see/manage the data, one site at a time.
  • It makes sense to group websites by who you would want to logically have access to and/or be able to manage the data.
  • If you are an independent web developer (or company), a logical ordering for many small clients, would be: Create a single Account for every Client you work for. Place the “Property” (website) you are doing for them in that Account. Then, you are able to give that client access to their website data. Also, if you do other websites for the same client, put them in that same Account.

Property: A website you want to track.

A Property just means a website (or app), you want to track.

Profile: A way of grouping data (You normally need: One)

All Properties (websites) by default get one Profile, “All Website Data”. The only reason they have the Profile layer, is if you wanted to filter the data into reports that highlight certain portions of it.

Summary (What to do)

If you are a web developer developing a site for a company:

  1. See if the company already has Google Analytics attached to their site. If so, request to be granted access at the account level (if you need it). If they have an Account for their sites, but need to create a new one for the new site, have them create it to be grouped with their other accounts.
  2. If they don’t have an Account, create one for their company, and grant them access to it. Create the first “Property” (website) under that Account. Grant them access, if they want it. Then, if you do more sites for them, create them under this same Account.

For your own company:

  • Create one Account for your company. You might grant access to, for example, SEO specialists.

For an individual:

  • Keep your personal websites tracked under a personal account. In some circumstances, you might want to create one Account per website—in case, for example, you wanted to eventually collaborate on some projects, but not others.

How Google could make Analytics easier to understand

All Google would have to do to make this much simpler—and reduce the need for an article like this one—would be to have the interface morph depending on your needs.

  • Start out with a basic interface, that uses the labels people would normally need:
    • Instead of Account, perhaps use “Access Group”.
    • Instead of Property, use “Website”.
    • And flatten the Profile layer entirely.
  • Have a button that says “show me the advanced interface,” or something like that, that could expose the more abstract labels, or be tuned more for developing apps.
  • And for the Profile layer—that would be hidden by default—have a button that says, “Create other reports,” or “Create other filters”.

Hope this helps.

Chris