Protect Your Analytics Data


By Jay Adamsson

Imagine that you and your family build a new house. You buy the lot, and pay a contractor to build your home. The big day finally comes, and you meet to get your keys. You are handed a set of keys, and your contractor says “Oh, by the way. You only have a copy of the keys, and you aren’t allowed to make copies. I’ll keep the master key and you can come see me if you ever want to do anything with them.”

You wouldn’t be very happy, would you?

Unfortunately, that is what is happening way too often with Google Analytics data. Small businesses and organizations are paying development companies to build their web sites, and Google Analytics is dutifully being added to the site.

The problem is that these companies are adding Google Analytics under their own accounts, not their client’s accounts.

What’s the problem with this? Only that the data is now owned and at the mercy of the development company, not the small business or organization that rightfully owns that data.

Most of the time, this is not malicious. It is mostly because these development companies do not understand what they are doing. They create a property in Google Analytics in their own account because it is convenient and don’t realize the consequences. Or they think this is making life easier for the small business or organization.

But what happens in a couple of years when the decision is made to replace the old site, and find a different company? Then someone at the development company decides to clean up the files, and delete the references to their former client. And suddenly all the data is gone.

If you think that this may have happened to you, there are a couple of ways to check. One is to log into your Google Analytics account. Click on “Admin” on the top of the page. Just below the menu, if the name under the header “Administration” is the name of your development company, then you are under their account.

Another indication, particularly if you don’t have access to the Google Analytics account, is to right click on your website home page, and select “View Source” or “View Page Source”. Search for the text “UA-“ or “GA-“ (without the quotes). You’ll find a string of numbers, something like “UA-1234567-01” or “GA-1234567-35”. The first set of numbers is the account number. The last set of digits is the property number within the account. If this is a large number, say for instance 35, that means you have the 35th property in a single account. That is a pretty good indication that you have been lumped in with dozens of other clients of your web company.

So what do you do if you don’t own your data? I always, without exception, strongly recommend that you change it to your own account. Sure, this causes some short term problems because your history is in one account and your future will be in a different account. That means you have to get data from two different accounts to compare this year to last. But the risk is just too great to give away ownership.

Business runs on data these days. Make sure you own yours.