Over the past week, I’ve had several clients ask me about the best way to configure their overall Google Analytics setup to cover multiple sites and domains. I wanted to take a few minutes today to outline the options, what factors determine their use and how to setup the right solution.
Within Google Analytics there are three tiers for grouping your data: Accounts, Domains and Profiles.
Accounts – analytics accounts are the top-level container for all other Google Analytics data. For the most part, unless you are an agency, like DigiKnow, you will only have access to one account. Account = Company.
Domains – a domain is generally an individual website and more specifically is a unique Google Analytics tracking code. For the most part every domain or sub-domain your company has, will be its own domain in Google Analytics. Domain = Website.
Profiles – a profile is an individual view on a domain’s data. This one is a little more tricky. For the most part, if you don’t have someone on staff or your agency that is intimately knowledgeable about Google Analytics, you will just have one profile that has all your data. There are nearly infinite ways to create views on your data and I’ll cover a few of them in a minute.
One of the big challenges when you have multiple websites is whether it is better to setup multiple domains or multiple profiles within a single domain. Generally, I recommend creating a unique GA domain for each website you have. The one exception (which I ran into this week) was where it was technically difficult to use a different tracking code on each sub-domain. My client didn’t have an easy way to put a unique code in each footer, so having a single domain split into profiles for each sub-domain was the better solution.
So how do you use profiles effectively? There are some best practices, but ultimately it comes down to business needs. For everyone, I recommend two profiles be created right from the start. The first is an unfiltered profile that has all the collected data and the second is a profile that has your own traffic removed via IP filtering. This lets you separate out what you are doing from what “real” customers are doing, but still gives you access to everything should you need it. From there, the possibilities are nearly endless, but let me give some examples of what we’ve done.
- For a local public institution, we setup profiles with and without visitors on the local wifi and publicly available computers. This let us see how visitors used the website differently in the building, the workplace or at home.
- For a national CPG company, we setup a profile to treat a section of the site as it’s own website. This let us see the interactions with the site in a narrow view. Data like page views, bounce rate and referring sites give a greater accuracy than with an advanced segment.
- For a state university, profiles were setup for each of the individual colleges to allow access only to data for their area of the site.
Profiles and filters can create a near infinite views on your site data. Hopefully this serves as a good primer for the setup of a set of domains and profiles within Google Analytics. I’ll continue to expand on this in the future.