The vast majority of Google Analytics accounts are set up on a single profile. All the data, testing, and filters impact a single source of data. This can cause searious problems as your business grows. Before we dive into the profiles that your account should have, we need to cover how Google Analytics produces profiles.
Google Analytics does not store raw data about your traffic. By the time you see data in your Google Analytics account, it has gone through several steps:
- Your Google Analytics Tracking Code sends visitor data to Google Analytics’ Servers.
- Google Analytics’ servers compile data on your site.
- About every 3 hours, Google Analytics processes your data using your settings. Filters are applied, conversions counted, and site search is processed.
- Each day, Google Analytics dumps the data from the previous day.
- Once all the data is processed, it’s stored in a database where you can access it through your Google Analytics account.
The key part of this process is that the data you have access to is not raw data, it’s data that’s been processed using settings you’ve applied to your profile. Once the data has been processed, there’s no going back.
This is why a new goal cannot be applied to historical traffic. Google Analytics processes goals only one day at a time.
In other words, the settings we apply to our Google Analytics profiles will change the data permanently for each day that they’re applied. If you have a typo in an exclude filter, you could irreversibly corrupt a portion of your data.
To avoid such pitfalls, there’s several profiles that you’ll need when using Google Analytics.
Raw Data Profile
This profile does exactly what you think it would, it houses raw data. There’s no goals, no site search, no filters, no custom reports, nothing. The purpose of this profile is to provide a fail safe in case all your other profiles become corrupted. If you lose all your other data, you’ll still be able to pull reports from this profile. The data won’t be polished but you’ll be thankful it’s there if you ever need it.
Simply set up a profile, name it Raw Data, and then never touch it. The sooner you do this, the more data you’ll have backed up if something goes terribly wrong.
This is where you’ll test all your settings to avoid any accidental data corruptions.
Before applying goals, filters, or anything else to your other profiles, test them here first. You can watch the data for several days and see how your reports are impacted. Once you’re sure that everything is working precisely as it should, you can apply the same setting to the profile the setting was designed for.
When I’m combing through reports looking for useful insights and evaluating the success of my campaigns, I’m looking at my Master Profile. It’s the default profile on all my accounts. It’s also the most critical. This is where all my filters are applied, my goals and custom reports are set up, and site search is enabled.
Since I’m using it to do all my analysis, I want to make sure that any new settings aren’t going to skew my data and lead me to the wrong business decisions.
Once you have your Master Profile set up with whatever settings you prefer, you’ll generally want to leave it alone. If you’re going to apply new settings or tweak existing ones, run them on the Test Profile first.
Create other profiles to do whatever your heart desires. Here’s some common custom profiles to give you some ideas:
- Access-Based Profiles that limit people in your organization to only certain pieces of your Google Analytics data. Just filter out everything you don’t want them to see.
- Source-Based Profiles include traffic from a single source. This will allow you to have direct access to how that traffic behaves. This is especially useful if you’re spending a lot of time and energy on a single source for traffic (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc) and want to evaluate the success of those efforts.
- Location-Based Profiles let you focus on a single location. If you’re expanding into an overseas market or focusing on a single location, you’ll want to easily see how that traffic behaves.
Aside from Accessed-Based Profiles, all of this data will be available in your Master Profile. You’ll just have to drill down to the right report or create custom reports. Segmenting everything into a new profile simply makes it faster to access what you want. If you’re going to be spending months (or years) evaluating a specific portion of your data, it’ll be worth it to set up a profile. Otherwise, just grab it from your Master Profile.
What other profiles do you use?