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.)
I just took on a client with 50+ profiles over several different GA accounts. Took me a few days but finally with the help of what you wrote, I’m more confident moving forward. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. I really appreciate it.
Sigh.. Where were you Ross years ago when I made the epic mistake of setting up all of my client accounts under my personal google account!. Brilliant and simple. Thank you so much for posting this very clearly – its taken me quite a few pages of people trying to explain this so I get it – but you have done just that 🙂 perfect.
Now im off to set them all up individually.. and see if theres some code that will allow me to track using the old tracking number and the new tracking number..
Looks like im going to have to leave all of my clients old google A accounts where they are for the time being seeing as we cant transfer any of the past collected data to new accounts. Kicking myself .. but better to pull up ones socks and accept the mistake and move forward and do it right now..
Thanks! It’s pretty much impossible to find a clear explanation of all this in Google’s documentation. In fact, it’s hard enough just figuring out the Account / Property / Profile structure alone, and even if you do, they never address separate Google accounts or portability issues related to that. Sigh.
I’ve been reading stuff all night to figure out best practices with regard to managing different sites in GA. I was wondering if I shouldn’t be putting more sites under my main account and setting up separate GA accounts for each client, but now after reading this I’m guessing that’s just as dumb since you can’t hand it off to them if you ever sever ties (guess it depends on how “locked in” you try and make your clients 🙂
It would be a no-brainer if the best plan was to just set up a separate GA account within your master (Mother G) account for each client, if they were portable (ie you could define another admin then have them un-admin you to gain full control of the account).
Or, if they just made the data portable so you could import to a newly created account from another older one. Seems silly there’s no way to do this.
There’s a better way to manage multiple Analytics accounts. It can be done easily with only 2 Google accounts. The 25 Analytics account per Google account is only a limit to creating the Analytics account, however, there is no limit to the number of Analytics accounts to which your Google account can be granted administrator privileges.
The trick is this simple: maintain #1 Google account for primary administration and #2 Google account to create new Analytics accounts.
Basically, once you’ve hit the 25 Analytics account limit on your #1 Google account, you start creating new Analytics accounts under your #2 Google account, then grant #1 administrator privileges. Sign in to #1 and remove #2 as an administrator. #2 now has no Analytics accounts, thus resetting the 25 count, and #1 now has 26. Rinse, wash, repeat.
For me, this has resulted in my #1 Google account having 161 Analytics accounts. I only ever need to access #2 when I need to create a new Analytics account.
Now if only someone could figure out a way add a new user to multiple Analytics accounts simultaneously, it would save me from having to do it 161 times!!
Ross, thanks for sharing this. It answered the question of how best to manage the few sites and relevant GA accounts that I have.
Ozzie, that sounds like a neat solution but it would still be tricky when parting ways with a client that wants their GA.
Or do you have a solution for that too ?
Otherwise Ross seems to have hit on the best overall plan.
Thanks Ross, spent days trying to figure out best multiple site management options.
However – I use Infinite WordPress as a multiple site maintenance manager – from one consol, and it has a google analytics addon function that allows you to view all your clients’ sites from one control panel. Unfortunately it only works with all sites being listed under your one Google Account.
You’re welcome Angie. I’m not familiar with Infinite WordPress. It probably just gives you a generalized dashboard of your KPIs on your accounts, right?
Thanks for your information. I’ve set up a client so they can access to their website analytics accounts under my main account but I don’t know what/how to tell them in order for them to go/link through from somewhere and view their data/stats. Do they go to google analytics and sign in? Do I send them a link to my account?
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Jo, when you say you’ve “set up a client,” how exactly did you set them up?
Thanks for the nice graphic that outlines the structure Ross! It makes the process really easy to understand. Having the opportunity to add more than 25 accounts AND set up a system in case there is ever a parting of ways is something that’s not really outlined clearly in Google docs. Thanks for taking the time to write this in depth post. You’ve saved me a huge headache!
Les, You’re very welcome. Glad it was useful to you.
Is this still applicable (2014) with all the changes Google makes on their terms?
Good question. It is easier to manage accounts now than when I wrote this article. With Universal Analytics I can’t find any specific limitations delineated in Google’s documentation, and I have not endeavored to actually test current limitations. Within Analytics now you have the option to delete a user even if that user were the one who created the account (which wasn’t the case originally). This makes it easier for an agency to create an account and then exit the account at some point in the future (they just need to make sure to create an admin user for their client at the account level before they try and remove themselves from the account).
I like your step by step ! Because all the website monitored don’t have the same UA identifier in the source code ! Thanks for this simple tip
I like your approach but when you are using a lot of advanced segments this will not be a scalable solution.
You will end up with 10 segments per account, which is not a lot.
Next to that, it is not cool to log in and show by accident data from a competitor to your current client.
I think one useraccount with admin for all google accounts, plus one useraccount per client (whicht might contain more google accounts) is a better solution.
Drawback is the passwordmanagement, but that is not a blocking issue, is it?
Ross: Just to clarify, are you saying with a brand new Google Universal Analytics account, the steps you describe in your write-up are no longer necessary to manage/administer, and pass on ownership of multiple client accounts?
@Dave, as I mentioned, I haven’t tested all the angles of it, but I do think that my procedure is no longer necessary. When you now go Admin you can create a new account, add a client to the account with full privileges, and then later delete yourself, thus transferring “ownership” to the client. I’m not sure if Google no longer has a limitation on number of accounts that can be created by one logged in Google user, but I seem to be able to add new Analytics accounts at will. If anyone else has some reason this would not work, feel free to post and enlighten me.
Thanks Ross, I knew eventually I’d find someone who could do what Google absolutely cannot do, speak simple English (or any other language for that matter). Google information, terminology and made-up words obviously makes sense to the authors but for users, it is extremely poorly written. Thanks for interpreting.