Google Analytics is the gold standard.

It’s the most commonly used freemium web analytics tools and if you ask me, the best.

Odds are you’re probably using it right now, maybe not as often as you should, but you have it.

Many other users, who have a basic understanding of GA, don’t have their accounts organized properly.

At best, they are working inefficiently. Most are missing valuable information their analytics program is trying to show them.

An improper Google Analytics setup can result in you making decisions based on incorrect or incomplete data.

You could be negatively impacting your business and your users by implementing a strategy that was created using these faulty statistics.

ASSUME (Assumptions) =  ASS = U + ME

Google has stepped up to the challenge of being one of the market leaders in the freemium world.

They acknowledge that in order to provide digital marketers with a tool that we can all use, it’s imperative any tool with high adoption rates should enable marketers to have expedient and judicious implementation.

Major campaign decisions are made leading to continued investment in specific digital channels. These decisions hinge on not only the success of your web analytics tool implementation but ultimately could affect the longevity of your business.

I’ve heard some of the following statements regards GA implementations:

  • It just “works” right out of the box and BAM.. you have bounce rates
  • Wow, look at all the unique visitors we have, our SEO is killing it
  • This is great, I get to see real time people that are on mysite

Those kinds of statements leave most analytics with the following face.. Nobody likes to have that face…

Yet, regardless of the platform a company chooses, standard reports and site wide averages never give you the complete picture.  

Much the opposite actually, they can destroy your company and even your credibility.

REALITY – There is a good chance your Google Analytics setup could be borderline FUBAR!

It’s common to hear that most analytics implementations are suspect and incorrectly report data to the entire company.  

That data is essentially useless and void of insights yet it’s used to make decisions where “tons of money” or “mega bucks” could be completely wasted.   

MAIN ISSUE

Many digital marketers, who have a basic understanding of GA but may not be the ones responsible for installing it, haven’t done the legwork to make sure that organization of your properties and views is the first step to clean data.

1.  Organize Your Admin Setup Area  

This is where organization is critically important.

You need to have a proper naming convention set up and certain properties established to protect your business.

In order to set these up and/or change the naming conventions you currently have, open up your Google Analytics and go to the admin section.  

Google Analytics admin

Once you click on Admin, you should see the following screen.

These are general guidelines around organizing your setup of your Google Analytics account. There are 3 areas you want to focus on.  They are as follows:

  • Account
  • Property
  • View

One naming convention that I always use is a numbering system when implementing properties and views in Google Analytics.  Example:

00 – Master Property Profile (Backup & Recover – Do Not Touch)
01 – Main Data Analysis Profile
02 – Enhanced Ecommerce Test Bed
03 – SEO Vendor
04 – PPC Vendor

And so on.  

The numerical system makes communication easier within your organization. You’ll be able to easily point to the property and view you want someone to look at.

Remember that each time you add an additional property and/or view, the potential for page load to slow down slightly increases.  

There are ways to set up triggers or lookup tables in Google Tag Manager for optimizing when tags are fired accordingly.

2. Organize Your Account

The account area is the first section on the left hand side.

In this exercise, the assumption is that you are going to just use one account. That said, consider naming the site to reflect the name of website or the organization itself.  

Here you can see I have our site named after the company itself.  If I have different accounts for different sites under the JeremySaid umbrella, I would consider a naming convention that reflected organization name then site name.  

Example:   JeremySaid – North America  or JeremySaid – EMEA , if I have different offices / sites around the world.  

In order to change the name, simply click on Account Settings and update the field accordingly.  

Note:  Many implementation put the www version of the website like so:   www.jeremysaid.com  While there is nothing wrong with this, once you start supporting multiple accounts, it becomes a bit more difficult to read and is essentially cleaner doing just the name of the organization.

Google Analytics Account

3. Organize Your Properties

If your Google Analytics is only tracking one web instance, a good organizational practice is to create a few different properties based on specific use cases. Here are a few examples:

  • Production vs Staging Vs Development
  • Enhanced Ecommerce Debug
  • Different Inbound Vendors – SEO Vendor, PPC Vendor

Google Analytics Setup

Backup & Recovery Property

I don’t see nearly as many people implementing this property as I should.

This is the first thing you should do when setting up your properties.

You never know what could happen.

You could make a mistake, your data could get corrupted and then you will lose everything.

But having a property with no filters ensures that you have all of your data and a clean starting point in case the worst should occur.

Master Analytics Property

This is where the magic happens.

As soon as you’re done experimenting, you can launch your master property. This will be where you have your best data.

This is where you will be able to investigate, interpret and make decisions.

You’ll be confident that you’re working with correct data.

Ecommerce Debug Property

Think of this as your place to experiment.

Make sure you have a debug property to use as your playground.

Do what you want to do, test what you want to test without worrying about whether it is perfect.

Once you have everything down pat, you can confidently apply a working filter to views in active properties.

4. Organize Your Views

The views area is by far the most guilty party of default installation without changing anything in terms of where the data is going.

There are four different views that are absolutely a necessity. All of your properties should have these views:

Unfiltered View (Do Not Modify): This report is meant to have no filters on it for the sake of posterity. If something goes wrong in another view, this will serve as your backup.

Sandbox View (Filter Validation): This is where you’re going to test filters for other views in this property.

Testing View (Analyst IP Only): This is another testing view. This will only show you how your computer is acting on your website. Use it when you want to test whether a specific action, like a goal completion, is going to be tracked by GA.

Master Data View (Production): This is where your good, validated data is going to live.

Google analytics setup

How View Setup Will Look In Drop Down

01 – Backup & Recovery
02 – Testing (filter verification)
03 – Internal IP Included (only my traffic for real time testing)
04 – Main Data Analysis View

An absolute bare minimum of 3 different views (I even like to have 4 as a standard).  

This includes a backup & recovery raw data view. A testing view for validating filters and a master analysis view.  

If you want to really get crazy and are gung ho about real time filter testing just to make sure everything is right, you can create a view that includes ONLY your IP address traffic.  

This way you can validate anything you might be changing without worrying about other users polluting your data sets when trying to test.

I recommend creating views for different departments within your company to give to department heads or people doing the day-to-day work.

For example, your social media team may need a view that shows them only social traffic.

5. Create A Generic Gmail Account For Marketing Dept.

According to Google, people evidently do not stay at the jobs anymore for 30 years.  I’ve heard this rumor and I just can not believe this

(said with my jaw so far open it hits the desk).  

Image source: Google Images

Unfortunately text has no tonality so it may be hard to tell that I am just kidding..

when people leave jobs

Yes, that’s right, 3.2 years depending on how old you are.  I am sure there are all sorts of studies that demonstrate an even lower number in terms of time stayed at a job.

I’ve consistently seen over the years email address created and/or tool logins created with email addresses of someone that is no longer at the company. To make matters worse, because of security protocols, sometimes it’s almost next to impossible to get access to that email just to reset passwords.

Recommendation:  When setting up your Google Analytics account, make sure to use a generic Gmail account where you can reset the password anytime (especially when someone is removed from the company).  This way  you aren’t dependant on a specific email and it can be passed along to the next person to fill your position.

You should also consider using this email for all the Google specific accounts you create or have created.  Those include YouTube, Adwords, Search Console, and any other Google properties that may need to be used long term inside of a company. Example: We use jeremysaidmarketing@gmail.com for all things Google. Visit Google for more information on setting up an account.

5. Continue To Document

You shouldn’t stop documenting once you finish organizing or reorganizing your account.

Especially if you have a lot of people with access, you want to make sure you’re documenting anything and everything that’s happening inside your analytics account.

Change History

This is a place in Google Analytics for you to keep track of the changes that have been made and who has made them.

Google Analytics Change History

It automatically keeps track of what changes have been made to your views, properties, filters, user access  and goals.

If something is broken, use it as a reference point to start figuring out what has been messed up.

Annotations

This is where you can keep track on anything and everything you’re doing inside and outside of Google Analytics.

Each view has a place where you can keep notes and specify a date those notes were made. You’ll find this tab under each view.

GA Annotations

Use annotations to make notes of any website changes you make and when you start any campaigns.

If you see a big jump or drop off in a certain area you’ll want to be able to figure out why it happened.

Keep an eye on what’s going on with your site and you’ll be able to show your boss why you’re so valuable.

Trash Can

The trash can is Google’s way of asking “Are you sure?”

Google Analytics Trash Can

When you delete something from your GA platform, whether this is a property or a view, it will stay in the trash can for 30 days before being deleted.

That way you can double and triple check that you’re deleting the right thing.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more to Google Analytics than just organization, but this is the foundation for everything you’re going to do after this.

No matter what you do, SEO, PPC, CRO or any other three-letter acronym, you’re going to want to know you’re working with the correct data.

With a proper Google Analytics organization, you can help ensure that everything you do has a purpose and is backed by good, strong data.