Before you actually implement the Google Analytics tracking code, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself first. You will need to decide which version of Google Analytics to use – standard or Universal Analytics – and you will need to identify how many different sites you need to track.
Standard vs. Universal Analytics
Google recently released Universal Analytics as the new official version of Google Analytics, and generally speaking, if you are adding Google Analytics tracking code to your site for the first time, I recommend that you implement Universal Analytics. That said, the standard version is still available.
Universal Analytics offers a number of exciting new features that are not available on standard, and as the official platform, will continue to benefit from new and updated features. (Stay tuned for a review of new features in Universal Analytics.) Although, as I said, in most cases I would recommend Universal Analytics, there are two main reasons why you might consider implementing standard if not instead of, than at least in addition to Universal. The first reason would be to take advantage of integration with AdSense, content experiments, DFA and remarketing, which exist in Classic and are not yet available in Universal. The other main situation in which you might want to use Classic would be if you had an existing older web site already using Classic, and wanted to implement Google Analytics on a newer web site you own and be able to have consistent implementation and reporting between the two properties. In either case, using Classic would not preclude you from using Universal as well.
What is a property and how many do you need?
At the very highest level in Google Analytics, you have Accounts. There is one account – i.e., person, company or organization – that owns the one or more sites being tracked. When you use Google Analytics, you place a unique cookie on each of the individual sites that your account (you or your organization) wants to track. One cookie pertains to one “property” in Google Analytics.
The most basic setup of a Google Analytics account would have one cookie on one website. However, there are cases in which your organization might want to have multiple websites tracked and even more than one cookie on a particular website. Most websites have a staging server. It’s a good idea to implement a separate cookie on staging so that you can test changes to your tracking implementation without risking interfering with the data for your production site. You would also create a separate property for any separate websites you own. Let’s say you own www.apples.com, and you also own www.bananas.com. Each site would get its own Google Analytics property.
To create a new property, login to Google Analytics or create an account, and then click Admin.
You should see a screen that’s divided into three columns, one column each for “account”, “property” and “profile”. To make sure you’re in the right place, look at the gray word or words above your account name (in the image below, “AnyaLamb”). If that gray word is simply “Administration”, you’re in the right place. If there are words following “Administration”, just click on the word “Administration” in the sequence to get back to the top level.
To create a new property, click on the pull-down menu immediately below the word “property” and select “Create new property”.
On the following page, select whether you would like to track a website or an app, select Universal or Classic.
Then enter your website name, URL, time zone, and industry. Click “Get Tracking ID”. Follow the instructions to place the tracking code on your website – usually in the header file.
What is a profile and how many do you need?
A property represents a body of data collected about a site. A profile is a filter of that data that can then be reported upon. By default, Google Analytics will create an “All Web Site Data” profile for you when you create a property. You can, however, edit this profile and add other profiles.
The important thing to note about a profile, is that it does not affect data collection. Each particular profile is simply a lense with which to look at the body of data that is being collected on the property level. The profile settings don’t affect what data is or is not collected, they simply affect what that profile does or does not show you about that data. Furthermore, not only do different profiles within a property all refer to the same master dataset, they certain custom filters, such as advanced segments, that can be shared across profiles.
There are several really useful things you can do with filters that I’ve covered in previous blog posts, such as how to use filters to exclude internal traffic and use separate profiles to look at subdomains and subdirectories separately. Keep reading to learn more about filters!