Although the concept of having test vs. development/staging vs production environments is well known to the information technology world, it is not a common concept for those of us on the marketing-communications or business side of the lunch room. However, in digital analytics, the concept is critical.
In Google Analytics, a “View” is a collection of settings and definitions used to generate a unique set of your reports. A View is specific to your account and your organization’s page tag (or Google Analytics tracking code). Within a View, you can have custom settings, including setting a particular ‘home page’, time zone, establishing unique access rights by users, enabling filters and more.
Start with the Google Analytics account hierarchy
Google Analytics account hierarchy
In Google Analytics, a View is the “inner circle” of the hierarchy of your Account, and the ‘level’ that you’ll spend the most time in.
By contrast, at the outermost ring, you’ll find your Google Analytics Account Settings that define ownership over contents of your account. In the middle, you’ll find your ‘Property’ settings.
Ideally, organizations will have 1 Google Analytics account, but within that account, they might have 1 or more properties (such as multiple websites / domains or a mobile app).
Finally, within a property, there can be multiple views (formerly profiles), which are all different views of the same data set, collected the same way for everyone with Views in the account.
Google Analytics account hierarchy: Account vs Property vs Views
Generally, your website equals your view.
However because of the availability of enabling filters, your Google Analytics account can – and should – have more than one view.
Additional views are generally created because of reporting requirements.
Views are typically created by copying a “master” set of data and then applying filters to the copy.
Filters are our friends
Filters are a means of eliminating unwanted or isolating specific information, thus filters are how we create different Views in Google Analytics. For example: If website XYZ.ca has no filters, we would call it “View A – Unfiltered” versus website XYZ.ca with filters applied, might be named “View B – Filtered”.
A typical rationale for a separate View would be to separate internal / employee website visitor activity from client/customer website visitor activity. Using filters, you can create Views of your website or mobile app data that:
- Includes only only your prospects / customer and excludes your staff, agencies or contractors, or that
- Includes only your staff, agencies or contractors but excludes your prospects / customers
Alternatively, you might want to exclude referral spam, also known as ghost spam traffic, which can inflate your numbers with ‘fake’ data.
Always best to create at least 3 Views
Knowing that there might be different filters needed, it’s better to anticipate the request by creating and maintaining at least 3 views in your account from the outset. Further, when you create the different Views, incorporate creation / modification dates and if possible, which filters have been applied.
The 3 views you want should include:
- Your “Unfiltered” or “Raw” data view
- Your “Test” view and
- Your “Master” or production view, where you want everyone spending their analysis time.
Unfiltered or Raw data View
Your ‘unfiltered’ view is exactly that – it includes all data collected by Google Analytics, and is reflective of the “gross” traffic to your website. It includes everybody and everything. And, once you’ve created it, you can ignore it. It will simply collect data, essentially giving you a backup copy in case something ever goes wrong. And believe me – it can go wrong.
Your test view is a copy of your unfiltered View, but it’s meant as a sandbox – or a playground – where you can safely create, test, apply, delete and generally experiment before applying ‘final’ version filters to your Master View. It’s also a safe place to test configuration changes: your search settings, or Goals or Funnel Visualizations.
Your Master view is copy of your Raw Data View – but this time with (your fully tested) filters, such as Exclude Employees, enabled and applied. This is the View you want everyone looking at. In fact, I’ve often named this view “USE THIS ONE – Master View: Excludes internal” so everyone internally knows its the place to be.