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August 9, 2021

Best practices for Google Analytics account structure (and prepping for the new GA)

Summary: Google Analytics 4 is here and will totally change how you track your website data. We break down the difference and make recommendations on how to structure your account to get accurate data before, during, and after the switch.

Google Analytics helps us understand what visitors do on websites by tracking their behavior on website pages. If you’re launching a new website or restructuring your current one, reconsider how you’ve set up your Google Analytics. Check out how we’d do it to make sure you’re getting the most out of your data. 

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with Google Analytics Hierarchy.

Google Analytics Account Hierarchy

Top level: Account

An account is your access point for analytics. One or more accounts can belong to an organization. To have access and track properties, you need at least one account. How you manage the relationship between accounts and properties is up to you. 

Next level: Properties

Properties are the websites, mobile applications, or devices (kiosks, point-of-sale devices) from which you want to collect data. An account can contain more than one property. This happens when an organization has more than one website domain they are trying to track.

Bottom level: Views

A view is a look at the data from a property. A property can contain one or more views. Within a website, there are multiple views of the data (up to 25 views) that you can see. 

For example, within a property you might have:

  • One view of all the data for your main website
  • One view of AdWords traffic to your main website
  • One view of traffic to a subdomain on your website

When you add a property to an account, Google Analytics creates the first view for that property. That first view has no filters and includes all the data for that property. You should leave this original view unfiltered, so that you always have a view of all the data. This is what we later call the Raw Data view. 

Once you create a view, the reports for that view will show data from the creation date of the view forward, but it will not show any data collected prior to that view creation date.

Recommendations for Accounts and Properties

  • We recommend you have one account to keep data streamlined. This will help you see exactly where the data is coming from.
  • We recommend you have one main property per domain. Any subdomains within the website will be listed within the one property.
  • Any new domains outside of your main website will need their own property so they can be tracked.

Recommendations for Views

Master View

This is your main reporting view and where filters can be applied for reporting and tracking. This is the view used most. 

Test View 

This view is used for testing new filters and segments. It’s a place to try new ideas before applying them to the Master View. 

Raw Data View

This is a view of the untouched, no filters data. It serves solely as a data backup in case something goes wrong and you need to go back and see the raw data. 

Keep in mind, if there are any subdomains or subdirectories that you’d like to track and report on separately (memberships, events, programs, etc.) extra views will need to be created for those. In addition, any internal reporting needs for specific campaigns or stakeholders may also need their own views. 

Still following? Great. So, here’s what’s coming next . . .

Google Analytics 4 

Google Analytics 4 was released in October of 2020 and is a complete rebuild of Google Analytics. Eventually, it will replace the current Google Analytics, which is based on page views and sessions. This new model is based on event-driven data where page views are considered events. It uses page behavior to make predictions and gives a better view of the overall user journey, conversion funnels, and why people drop off a website.  

We recommend having one implementation of Google Analytics and one implementation of Google Analytics 4 running simultaneously—with one account for the main website domain, and then under that, one property for your current Google Analytics website and one property for your Google Analytics 4 website. 

Here’s what that will look like:

Current Version of Google Analytics

  • 3 standard views (Master, Test, Raw Data)
    • Subdirectory views if necessary
    • Special reports views if necessary
    • Subdomain views if necessary

Google Analytics 4

Since Google Analytics 4 does not use views, all data will sit within the main property.

Diagram illustrating GA4 profile. GA4 does not use the different tiered views that GA does.

Getting Started

  1. Confirm that everything will fall under the main website domain for the new website launch.
  2. Determine if any subdomains will be created within the new website.
  3. Access your organizations internal reporting needs to determine the subdirectory and reporting views that need to be created. This can happen after you get into data measurement planning for KPIs, metrics, dashboards, etc. to determine what you really need to capture.

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