This is part 3 of a 4-part series explaining the importance of maintaining ownership of your various web properties and how to keep them under your control. This section will focus on your Google Analytics account.

Want to read from the beginning? Read the intro here.

This very issue has changed drastically in recent months; in fact, I’ve had to completely rewrite this from my first draft as a result. Although the changes have not yet rolled out to every account, for the sake of brevity, I am going to focus on the remaining issues and new user management system for Google Analytics, rather than the old problems that have already been addressed by these changes.

If you have questions specifically regarding the old system, let me know in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free tool provided by Google (obviously) to track data regarding how visitors are using your site. This can include information such as what browsers your visitors are using, what pages they are visiting the most, how long they are spending on your site, and more. This data can help you make informed decisions regarding your website.

Some Terminology

Property – This is the lowest level of organization within Google Analytics. A property is associated with a single domain name.

Profile – A profile contains one or more properties. It should be associated with a single business.

Google Analytics Account – This is the top-level organization within Google Analytics. It can include one or multiple profiles. For example, a parent company that owns multiple businesses might create an account for the entire parent company a profile for each business. Alternatively, an account could be created for a single business, with multiple websites associated with that business (for example, a main website and a promotional landing page with a unique domain) as the profiles. An individual Google Account can have multiple Google Analytics Accounts.

Why you may not own your Google Analytics Account

The problem begins with the fact that Google limits the number of Google Analytics Account which may be associated with a single Google Account. Once you have 25 Google Analytics Account within your Google Account, you cannot create any more (although you can still be added to existing Analytics Accounts).

Now, this presents a problem for Internet marketing companies that have more than 25 clients. Not having access to an account is not an option – the data is too valuable. Now, there are ways to get around the limit by creating the Analytics Account on a different Google Account, adding the main Google Account, and then removing the secondary Account from there. However, judging from what I have seen, many Internet marketing companies either have not thought of this option or simply do not feel like putting in the extra 2 minutes to do this.

As a result, these other companies end up creating a single Google Analytics account with each client as a profile. This works splendidly for the company, but not so well for the individual client, who ends up essentially in a hostage situation with their Analytics data if they every try to leave their marketing company.

Not sure if evil or just lazy

You see, the problem with this is that individual profiles cannot be liberated from the Analytics Account they were created in. When set up as described above, all of the client’s Analytics data will be permanently linked with that company’s Analytics Account. If the client decides to stop working with that company, there is absolutely nothing they can do to prevent the company from removing their access to the data or deleting it all together, leaving the client to start from scratch with a new Analytics Account and absolutely no historical data to compare it to.

How can this be prevented?

The best way to prevent this is to set up your Google Analytics account yourself. Don’t worry – it’s actually very simple. You can find step-by-step instructions here.

If you are not able to add the web tracking code yourself, send the code to the person who manages your website and ask that person to add it. You can check back on Google Analytics later to make sure that the code was correctly installed.

Once you’ve set up your Google Analytics account, you can give your Internet marketing partners View or Edit permissions to either the entire account or just the profile they need access to. I do not advise giving them Manage Users permissions, as this would allow them to remove you! Wondering whatever happened to “Users” and “Administrators”? These were replaced with the new user permissions in the recent changes to user management in Google Analytics.

I would adamantly encourage the above approach, but if, for some reason, you do not feel comfortable setting up the Google Analytics account on your own, it is ok to have your web development or Internet marketing company do this for you. However, be sure to specify that it must be set up as an independent account, not as a profile or web property under an aggregate account, and that you will need to be granted full permissions (Edit and Manage Users) for the account. Once this is granted, I would advise removing Manage Users from the other company’s permissions, so that they cannot remove you later. That may sound paranoid, but they don’t really need that level of access in most cases, and it is better to be careful than have to start over from scratch in a year.

What if your analytics has already been set up as a profile instead of an account?

If your account was already set up as a profile under your marketing company’s multi-client Google Analytics Account, you need to take action immediately.

1. Request Edit and Manage Users permissions for your profile.

With the recent changes, high level permissions may now be set at a profile level without affecting the entire Analytics Account, so the other company should have no objection to this. I say should… they may object anyway. Be insistent.

2. Export existing data

You cannot move data from one Google Analytics Account to another, but you can at export your existing data to a spreadsheet so that you can at least have a copy of this data for comparison if the profile is deleted.

3. Create a new Analytics Account

Set this up yourself in your own Google Account just as I described above. It will need to be the same type of Analytics Account as the one your marketing company set up. In most cases, this will be Classic Analytics; however, you should ask the company to make sure that they did not set it up with the newer Universal Analytics method.

4. Track both

You’ll want to start tracking with your new account as soon as possible to start collecting data. However, you can still the profile your marketing company set up as long as it exists, since it already has all of your historical data. Google Analytics does not officially support this, but you can do it by combining the two tracking codes into one (more info here or here).

The sooner you take these steps, the more data you will have accumulated in the Analytics Account that you if your other Analytics profile is ever deleted by the company that set it up.

Be sure to check back next week for part 4, in which I discuss ownership of social media and business directory profiles.