Google Analytics data is wonderful; Google Analytics account management is maddening.
(If reading is not your thing, I’ll be covering these topics in an upcoming webinar (unless you’re reading this after August 22, 2012, in which case a recording of the Webinar should be posted on the site or on the SEO how-to pages at the Rocky Mountain Search Engine Academy website.)
If you’re a professional SEO or someone in charge of a lot of different website domains for a large company, you’ve probably become addicted to the vast amounts of free tracking data that Google Analytics provides. But you may also have found it hard to keep track of multiple accounts in GA.
Why Does Google Analytics Account Management Have to be so Dang Confusing?
First there’s the terminology. You have a Google account, one or more Google Analytics accounts, properties, profiles, users, user roles, and all sorts of other stuff. Many of these can exist in a many-to-one or a many-to-many relationship. For example you can have up to 25 Google Analytics accounts tied to one Google account (many to one). You can also be an admin on many different Google Analytics accounts, and any given Analytics account can have multiple admins (many to many)
Then there’s the problem of separation. If you’re not paying attention you might set up a Google Analytics account for a client tied to your own Google account. Then if the client ever wants to take their GA account and part company with you, you find that you can’t give access to them and you can’t give them the data either. Talk about a bitter split. It becomes a “who gets custody of the Google Analytics Data” battle.
But there is a better way that can give you two solid advantages:
- Centralized management for me (I don’t want to have different logins for different clients)
- Independence (if my client ever leaves the relationship I want to be able to give them their data and their account without compromising the privacy of any of my other clients)
Google’s Organizational Structure
If you look at the documentation for getting started with Google Analytics, they say that the Analytics “Account” is “the topmost level of organization.” That’s accurate if you are looking at this solely from “within the framework of Analytics.” But from a business perspective, that’s not really the “topmost level.” The topmost level really is the Google Account. This is the account that you originally create when you sell your soul to Google, which of course we all have done. This is not the same as a Gmail account, because you don’t need a Gmail address to have a Google Account.
With this added super account included (I call it the “Mother of all Google Accounts” or simply the “Mother G Account” for short), the Analytics structure looks like this:
When I was starting out with Analytics, I did the natural thing when setting up new GA accounts for my SEO clients, namely, I created their GA account while logged in to my own Mother G account. That’s fine, up until you hit 25 accounts, whereupon Google tells you that you’ve maxed out. When it happened to me, I didn’t see a clear path forward. So I created another Mother G account and started the process all over. Very tedious.
Now that we understand better these limitations, instead of creating multiple Analytics accounts within one Mother G Account, I take the trouble to create a separate Mother G Account for each Analytics account I want to set up. The way I set it up is like this:
The Step by Step
Let’s say I have a client named Big Sleep Rental Houses (you’ll only understand the name if you’re a Humphrey Bogart fan, heck, maybe you won’t understand it even then), who has the domain name bigsleeprentals.com. Here’s my step by step on getting them set up in GA:
- I create an email address called firstname.lastname@example.org. It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you can take the next step, which is…
- I put a forwarder in place on this email address so any notifications come to my usual email in-box
- I create a Google account (that’s a Mother G Account, not an Analytics account) using this email address. I don’t bother to create a Gmail address for this. It’s not necessary.
- Next I log in to that Google account and create the Google Analytics account. I set up the Analytics account with the client domain, install the UA code, etc.
- Now I go to Admin > Users (tab) > New User and add my usual email address (not the one I just created for the client) with this account as an Administrator.
I can do this any number of times without coming up against a limitation on number of administrators. As far as I can tell there is no limit on the number of Analytics accounts that a person can be an administrator of.
Once I log into Google Analytics with my usual email address I will see in one location all the accounts where I’m an administrator. One login, one management interface.
What Happens When the Love Dies?
Let’s say a client wants to fire me or I want to fire a client. Here’s what I do:
- I remove myself as a user on the Analytics account
- I send the login information for the Google Mother G Account I created for this client to the client
- I’m done.
I hope this helps you to regain your Analytics sanity. Now if we can only figure out what Google did with all our souls, maybe order in the universe will be restored.
(Google Analytics is just one of the tools that we cover in depth at our Search Engine Academy workshops. Check out our schedule for dates and times that are of interest to you.)