How to strucutre your Google Analytics Account

How to structure your Google Analytics Account

I’ve been using Google Analytics for years now, and keep learning new things about it all the time. In addition, I’ve learned that there isn’t only one way to set it up, but there are many best practices that you should follow to ensure that your setup shows you correct, reliable data.

When you first set up Google Analytics, you will notice that there is a hierarchy of “Account” > “Property” > “View”. While “Account” and “Property” might be more obvious, “Views” can be a bit confusing. In this post, I want to try and cover the most frequent setups and show you how to structure your Google Analytics account.

Google Analytics Account Strucure
My Google Analytics Account

There are many reasons why you might set different account, property, and view structures, but I want to start with a few basic setups.

Understanding how data flows

Before we dive in, I want to explain a bit how data flows in Google Analytics and what the difference between a “Property” and a “View” is.

When you start sending data to Google Analytics, you are sending it to a Google Analytics Property. Every property has its own tracking code, which is what you set up on your website (hopefully through Google Tag Manager!). After the data is sent to a property, you can now have different views of the data with different customizations on top of the “raw” data. An example would be “Filters”. You can filter out certain data from a view. You’re not filtering it out from the property, only the view, but if you don’t have a view that shows the raw data, you will not be able to see the filtered data anywhere.

How do I know which setup I need

Most of the time, the reason why you might have to set up a more complex Google Analytics structure is if your website has multiple domains, subdomains, languages, or versions. Most “simple” websites that don’t have any subdomains, only have one language and one domain will not require any complex structure. They will benefit from the basic “starter” setup which only helps with data cleanliness, having a backup, and a place to test stuff.

Simple/Basic setup

We’ll start with a basic setup, which I believe is applicable for most websites that don’t have a complex structure.

  • Accounts
    • Main account
  • Properties
    • Main property for your domain
  • Views
    • 00. Backup View
      This view will have no customizations and will serve as your backup. One of the risks of customizing things in Google Analytics is the fact that any customizations affect your data from the moment you apply the customizations and the data cannot be retroactively affected. This means that if you mistakenly filter out certain traffic you will never be able to see the missed traffic. This is why it’s important to have a backup, so you can always go back and check the raw traffic.
    • 01. Default View
      This view will have the most optimized setup with various customizations according to your needs.
    • 99. Test View
      This view can be used to test any customizations before you move them to the Default view. You can make changes without worrying that you’ll mess up your Default view or your Backup view.

You might have noticed the numbers before the view name. That’s just an easy way to organize your views, where your backup view will always be the first one, your default view will be the second one, and your test view will be your last one because it has the number 99. You’re highly unlikely to create that many views, so 99 is a good number to have for the test view. Any other views you create in the future will come after the default view.

image 1 - Emir Al Kafadji
My Google Analytics Setup

Complex Setups

When your website is in any way more complex, there are many ways to approach this in Google Analytics. There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on your setup:

  1. Would you want to see a combined view of your data accross all versions of your website?
    1. If yes, the easiest way to accomplish this is by sending data to one property and then using filtered views for each version, while keeping a view with the combined data. You can combine the data in other ways accross properties, but this get’s complicated and more difficult to manage
    2. If you want the data to be separate, you can have separate properties for each version and then follow the basic setup for the views,
  2. Do you want link other Google Products (Search Console, AdWords, AdSense, Optimize, etc.) separately to each version? This is usually done for multiple domains, but it’s not necessary
    1. If it’s important for you to link separate Google Product accounts to each version of your website, it’s best that you do this by creating a property for each version, since the linking is done on the property level.
    2. If your Google Products have one account for more or all of your website versions, you can stick with one property for each group of versions or one property for all versions.
  3. Do you want to provide separate access to your team members, employees or partners?
    1. Go through all of the options for access control, and figure out which setup fits your needs best. You can assign access on all levels, but it may be easier to manage many users or many accounts/properties/views if you group things the right way. I will not cover this topic because it’s highly varied based on each company

The answers to these questions will determine the best setup for you. I will cover a few of the most common website structures that would be considered more complex.

Multiple Languages – Same Domain and Subdomain

Example scenario: Your website has multiple language versions on the same domain (example.com/en for English, example.com/de for German, etc.).

My recommended structure:

  • Accounts
    • Main account
  • Properties
    • Main property for your domain
  • Views
    • 00. Backup View
      This view will have no customizations and will serve as your backup. One of the risks of customizing things in Google Analytics is the fact that any customizations affect your data from the moment you apply the customizations and the data cannot be retroactively affected. This means that if you mistakenly filter out certain traffic you will never be able to see the missed traffic. This is why it’s important to have a backup, so you can always go back and check the raw traffic.
    • 01. Default View – Combined
      This view will have combined data from all versions of your website, and will have the most optimized setup with various customizations according to your needs.
    • 02. Default View – English
      Just like the combined default view, this will be the most optimized setup with all customizations, but will only cover the English version of website.
    • 03. Default View – German
      Like the previous view, only for the German website.
    • 97. Test View – English Optional
      If you’d like to specifically test things for your English view, you might want to set up a test view for that version only. Generally, the main test view should be able to enough.
    • 98. Test View – GermanOptional
      The same as the English one, only for the German version. Again, this is optional.
    • 99. Test View
      This view can be used to test any customizations before you move them to the Default view. You can make changes without worrying that you’ll mess up your Default view or your Backup view.

Multiple Languages – Multiple Domains Option 1

When it comes to having multiple domains or subdomains, you need to make sure you cover those questions I mentioned in the beginning. In this example, I will consider that you have a separate account for Google Search Console and Google Ads account which you want to link separately for each domain. Additionally, using this setup, you don’t need to worry about setting up cross-domain tracking, which requires a few more steps and a bit of maintenance for the future.
Example scenario: Your website has multiple language versions on different domains (example.co.uk for English, example.es for Spanish, etc.).

My recommended structure:

  • Accounts
    • Main account
  • Properties
    • 01. English – example.co.uk
    • 02. Spanish – example.es
  • Views for each property
    • 00. Backup View
      This view will have no customizations and will serve as your backup
    • 01. Default View
      This view will have the most optimized setup with various customizations according to your needs.
    • 99. Test View
      This view can be used to test any customizations before you move them to the Default view. You can make changes without worrying that you’ll mess up your Default view or your Backup view.

With this structure, you will not be able to combine the data easily, but you will be able to have the most accurate and most rich data for each of the domains. To combine the data across domains, you will need to use Google Data Studio or other similar tools.

Multiple Languages – Multiple Domains Option 2

In this example, I will consider that you have one account for Google Ads account which you want to link to all domains and you want to easily analyze data across the domains. In this structure, you will need to understand how to set up cross-domain tracking and ensure that it’s working properly. You can learn more about cross-domain tracking on the official Google Analytics documentation. This might be a bit more complicated for some people, so if you don’t want to bother, and combined data is not that important to you, go with option 1.
Example scenario: Your website has multiple language versions on different domains (example.co.uk for English, example.es for Spanish, etc.).

My recommended structure:

  • Accounts
    • Main account
  • Properties
    • Main property
  • Views for each property
    • 00. Backup View
      This view will have no customizations and will serve as your backup.
    • 01. Default View – without domains
      This view will have the most optimized setup with various customizations according to your needs. This view will only show the slugs, without the domains, and will allow you to analyze data accross domains. This is especially useful if your slugs are the same accross domains and you want to analyze the combined page data. Google Analytics normally shows you “/” for the home page and “/contact/” for the contact page. By creating a filter, you can see “example.co.uk/” and “example.es/contact/” respectively.
    • 02. Default View – with domains
      This view will have the most optimized setup with various customizations according to your needs with the addition of seing the domains in the pageviews. I recommend creating a filter that will show the full domain inside of Google Analytics under the “page” data instead of the default setup which only shows everything after the top-level domain. This will make it easier to ensure that you can see which domain people were visiting.
    • 03. Default View – English
      Just like the combined default view, this will be the most optimized setup with all customizations, but will only cover the English version of website. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 04. Default View – Spanish
      Like the previous view, only for the Spanish website. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 97. Test View – English Optional
      If you’d like to specifically test things for your English view, you might want to set up a test view for that version only. Generally, the main test view should be able to enough. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 98. Test View – SpanishOptional
      The same as the English one, only for the Spanish version. Again, this is optional. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 99. Test View
      This view can be used to test any customizations before you move them to the Default view. You can make changes without worrying that you’ll mess up your Default view or your Backup view. Recommended to include the domain filter here.

With this structure, you will be able to combine the data easily, but you will not be able to connect a separate Google Search Console account. This may limit certain features, but if your website has the same structure and content across domains, this might be the best option for you, even with that capability being missing.

Multiple Languages – Different Subdomain

This option is the same as “Multiple Languages – Multiple Domains Option 2”. The filter that shows the domain name also shows the subdomain (if any) in the page data. The only thing that would change is the naming system of the views.
Example scenario: Your website has multiple language versions on different subdomains (en.example.com for English, it.example.com for Italian, etc.).

  • Accounts
    • Main account
  • Properties
    • Main property
  • Views for each property
    • 00. Backup View
      This view will have no customizations and will serve as your backup.
    • 01. Default View (without subdomains)
      This view will have the most optimized setup with various customizations according to your needs.
    • 02. Default View (with subdomains)
      This view will have the most optimized setup with various customizations according to your needs with the addition of seing the subdomains in the pageviews.
    • 03. Default View – English (en.example.com)
      Just like the combined default view, this will be the most optimized setup with all customizations, but will only cover the English version of website. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 04. Default View – Italian (it.example.com)
      Like the previous view, only for the Italian website. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 97. Test View – English (en.example.com) Optional
      If you’d like to specifically test things for your English view, you might want to set up a test view for that version only. Generally, the main test view should be able to enough. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 98. Test View – Italian (it.example.com)Optional
      The same as the English one, only for the Italian version. Again, this is optional. Recommended to include the domain filter here.
    • 99. Test View
      This view can be used to test any customizations before you move them to the Default view. You can make changes without worrying that you’ll mess up your Default view or your Backup view. Recommended to include the domain filter here.

Various Combinations

If your organization requires it, you can mix and match all of the Google Analytics structured mentioned here. This is by far not the most exhaustive list of ways to structure your account, but I’ve found that it pretty much covers most websites out there. If nothing else, it’s a good start for you if you’re just setting up your account and you’re unsure of how to structure them, or you’re just learning why and how to use the different structures.

I want to point out that I was using language as a logical way to separate websites, but there may be many different reasons why your website uses subfolders (example.com/en), subdomains (en.example.com), and domains (example.de) to separate the content, but the recommended examples above are applicable, no matter the reason.

Have a structure that I’ve not covered or have a better way of organizing Google Analytics? Let me know!

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