You need to own your Google Analytics account

Installing Google Analytics has become almost mandatory for anyone setting up a website nowadays. Why wouldn’t you want to record what your visitors are doing and where they’re coming from, especially when the best means of doing so is free? About 95% of our clients have it installed on their sites. Interestingly, nearly all of the few exceptions are companies whose websites were set up (and are run by) a parent company in Germany. I think that there’s an institutional wariness there of free external services, but even so, many German companies seem happy to use this particular one. And almost every UK and US company does.

Although you probably already have Google Analytics set up, it’s worth knowing the best practices in starting a new installation, as you may well be involved with new sites in the future. So I thought I’d take a quick look at the subject.

Today’s recommendation is that you ensure you have a unique Google Analytics account for your company. I see quite a few instances where a web design agency has set up all of their clients under a single Google Analytics account. This is a terrible idea. It’s critical that you are the account owner, with full management rights to it. Otherwise, you will be completely dependent on the web design agency – for ever – to make fundamental changes such as creating filters. The only way they can give you access to modify elements of your own Google Analytics setup is to give you access to all of their other clients’ data, which clearly they couldn’t do.

Maybe you honestly think that you’ll be working with that agency as long as your company is in business. But I doubt it. Agencies come and go, as do your relationships with them.

How do you know if you’re the owner of your Google Analytics account? Simply click on “Admin” at the top, and make sure that under “User Management” in the first column, you’re listed with “Manage Users” permissions.

Oh dear, not your Google Analytics?

If you’re not the owner of the account, you might find that under “User Management” in the first column it says “You do not have sufficient permissions to modify the users on this account” (above). That means someone else is the account owner; that’s fine if it’s likely to be your head office, but not good if it’s some external organisation or consultant. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to find out who the account owner is.

If you are the owner, but you’re the only one, it could be worth adding someone else at the company, or perhaps a general Google Account set up for the marketing department. Any of us can get run over by a bus tomorrow, and I’ve seen examples of Google Analytics accounts where nobody knows how to access them any more.

In a typical agency-run account, you’ll will only appear under “User Management” in the middle (“Property”) column. This means you do have a fair degree of control over your own “property”, but not everything (I don’t think you can create filters, for example, which is important). At some stage, you’re going to want to own the whole setup properly, and when that happens, you’ll just have to start again with a completely new Google Account, consigning all of your historical data to, well, history. Perhaps it might be a good idea to consider that now, as it’s going to have to happen some day.

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