Google Accounts vs. Google Analytics Accounts: A Cautionary Tale

Google accounts are confusing. Marvelous, mind you, but nonetheless confusing. The most common mix-up I run across is people thinking their “gmail account” is just that. In fact, it’s much more. That same user name and password can give you access to Google Documents, Google Reader, Google Calendar, and a host (so to speak) of other rich and fruity Web 2.0 appolicatons. — even Blogger. Your “gmail account” is in fact your Google Account.

Understanding this a wonderful thing, unless you slip into thinking it’s the only type of Google account. This is where I fell into trouble. There’s at least one other: a Google Analytics Account. Your Google Account can give you access to multiple Google Analytics Accounts. And people can share administrative rights to the same Google Analytics Account. Can you blame me for getting confused?

Specifically, I ran afoul setting up Google Analytics for my church. After getting comfortable with it at work, a few months later I set up what I thought was a separate set of analytics for my church. Wrong. In fact I’d set up a “profile” of my work’s account for my church. Church and state. Hmmmm….. But the important point is that profiles are subsets of a Google Analytics account, and if you want to share administrative rights to that account, you share all profiles.

Now it’s a very good idea to share administrative rights to your Google Analytics accounts, assuming the website is not just yours. But could I share this hybrid account with anyone at work or at church? Well, actually I could have. There is one member of my church whom I work with, but I don’t think he would have been happy with this faux solution or with me.

Given that my church had much less data and need for the data, that account was the one to go. What I did was set up a separate account for my church and uploaded the new tracking code. The next day I checked to be sure the second account was working. It was, so I exported a boatload of PDFs from the old account – essentially archiving this data in case we ever need it in the future. And now all is well.

Meanwhile, a picture being worth all of the words above, here is a quick graph of Google Accounts vs. Google Analytics Accounts vs. Google Analytics Profiles. May it prevent you from falling into the same trap.

Google Accounts graph

3 Responses

  1. Excellent point.

    Put a Google AdWords account in the mix for an even more complex situation. You can add Google Analytics to an AdWords account to get traffic stats with your PPC reports, but you can’t add AdWords through your Analytics account. That can be an issue if a third party, such as an agency, initiated your AdWords through a separate account.