Make sure website visitor data belongs to the site owner

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Google Analytics is a great free tool for businesses, charities and anyone with a website.  You can see how many people are visiting your website,  work out which pages they are looking at (and which pages they ignore completely, or bounce off within a few seconds), and get an idea of what technologies they are using.  You can see where they are in the world, and which other websites or search engines they came from.  This is all really useful stuff.

But, if your Google Analytics account was set up incorrectly, this could limit the amount of useful information you can get out of it, and your ability to link it to other really useful Google tools such as Adwords and Webmaster Tools.

The problem is that it’s possible to group more than one website onto a Google Analytics account.  This is very convenient when all the websites belong to one organisation – you can log in once, and see all your website data conveniently in one place.

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Unfortunately, many web designers, asked to set up Google Analytics for a client, will add the extra website to their own account rather than setting up a new account.  This is fine as long as the client just wants to see a basic report.  But once the client wants to start doing nifty stuff like linking their Google Analytics account to Adwords and Webmaster tools, or to produce custom profiles, they find that this just can’t be done.  The only option is to abandon the old Analytics account and all the collected data, and start over, creating a brand new account.

If you are having Google Analytics set up for a new website, please save yourself this hassle.  Make sure that whoever sets up Analytics for your website sets up a new account for you, and links it to Google Webmaster Tools right from day 1. And if you are a web designer, please, please, don’t lump unrelated websites that belong to different businesses onto one Google Analytics account.

I honestly cannot say that this mistake, common though it is, is down to incompetence by the web designer.    There is surprisingly little documentation for Google Analytics beyond the basics, and a designer whose primary focus is on gorgeous site designs can easily be forgiven for not realising the implications of how they set up Analytics.   Google could make life a lot easier for everyone just by providing a little more help information during the setup process – but until they do, if it’s your website, make sure you ask for your own account.  If it’s a client site you are working on, make the responsible decision, and set up an account for each of your client businesses.