Getting Started with Google Analytics

2015-01-25

Entity Hierarchy

To get started with Google Analytics, in any meaningful, way you need to understand the structure you are working within. There are a variety of important "entities" (for want of a better word) and if you understand what they're for you will be better able to get what you're looking for from Google Analytics. Unfortunately their names don't help in some cases. I will attempt an explanation in the text below.

 

Google Account

This is your root Google account - what they call their “One Google Account for everything Google” or “One account. All of Google". You need one of these to create a Google Analytics account. You need to sign into it to access your Google Analytics account. Click here for the link the Google Accounts home page.

 

Google Analytics Account

This is linked to your Google Account (as defined just above). You have to have a Google Account to create it and you have to log in to that same Google Account to access it. Click here for the link to the Google Analytics home page. When you sign-up for a Google Analytics Account the form that you have to fill in is used to create an initial Account, Product, and View (all as defined below).

 

Account (within Google Analytics)

When you've set yourself up for Google Analytics, and you've had a look around inside it, you'll have seen that there are three pervasive entities: Account, Product, and View.

 

Account is described here, Product and View are described below.

 

The "Account" we are talking here about isn't your Google Analytics Account, and it certainly isn't your general-purpose Google Account (both as defined above).

 

No, this "Account" is an Analytics data collection and reporting entity and it is totally distinct from the other two types of account.

 

Your Google Account "owns" your Google Analytics Account and your Google Analytics Account can contain (or own) up to 100 of the type of Account I'm trying to describe here. When you sign-up for a Google Analytics Account you have to fill in a form and you are highly likely to think its the form for your Google Analytics Account - but it isn't. It's the form for the first of the 100 accounts you can create WITHIN your Google Analytics Account. You can create up to 99 more if you want to. You can also delete them - but be warned - if you delete the last one you are effectively deleting your Google Analytics Account.

 

As described below, Accounts (the type I'm trying to describe here) can contain up to 50 "Products". Each "Product" can have 25 "Views".  "Account" and "Product" are meaningless names in my view - just treat them as labels. An"Account" is just a way of grouping "Products".

 

Product (within Google Analytics)

A "Product" can be view as a bucket into which raw Google Analytics data is dumped. When a web page (that's set up for Google Analytics) is displayed in a web browser data is sent to Google and Google, effectively, puts that data in a Product-bucket. Such web-page-data can only be put in one Product-bucket. Web pages from different domains can be associated with the same Product-bucket - which could cause puzzlement because you specified a domain when creating the Product. Therefore there isn't a hard and fast one-to-one relationship between Product and Domain (though the Product form, at the time of writing, implies that there is). The contents of a Product-bucket are used to create a View (as described below) - and a View is the starting point for getting meaningful Analytics reports.

 

The Product's "Tracking Code" is what links web pages to the Product. Each and every web page, that you want to gather Analytics data for, has to have a Product's Tracking Code embedded in it. This is what links the web page to Product. The Product's unique ID (derived from the unique ID of the Account that owns the Product) is featured in the Tracking Code - and this is what makes it possible for Google to put the Analytics data in the correct Product-bucket.

 

View (within Google Analytics)

A "View" is basically the data that's in a "Product" (as defined above) with an option Filter (or set of Filters) applied to it. Filters can be used to remove unwanted data - so that the View holds a subset of the data in the Product-bucket. Filters can also be used to transform the data. Both of these outcomes are achieved by applying rules that you define when you create the Filter. Views are the starting point for the various reports that detail how your web site is being used.