Why you should use multiple properties in Google Analytics

Following is the typical structure of a Google Analytics account:

A Google Analytics (GA) account can contain one or more properties.

In the context of GA, a property represents a website or a mobile app.

So if you have got one website, you are most likely to use only one GA property.

On the other hand, if you have got say 2 websites then you are going to use two GA properties.

Each GA property can be made up of one or more views.

In the context of GA, a view is a profile which contains all or segmented data of a GA property.

A view is made up of several reports. 

Majority of businesses have got only one website.

So they generally use only one GA property.

Let us call this property a ‘live GA property’, for easy reference.

By default every GA property has got one view called the ‘All Website Data’ view.

You can change the settings of your ‘live GA property’ at both the property and view levels:

Whenever you change the settings of your live GA property, you change the way your data is collected, processed and reported by Google Analytics. 

Following are the various methods through which you can change the settings of your live GA property:

Every change you made to your GA property setting(s) has the potential to inflate/skew your current analytics data.

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Majority of optimizers directly make changes to their ‘live GA property’ before testing them on a different property.

Let us call this different property as ‘test GA property’ for easy reference.

Here is how both ‘test’ and ‘live’ properties listing may appear in your GA account:

A typical ecommerce website updates almost all of the time.

Similarly, new marketing campaigns are launched, old marketing campaigns are paused/edited almost on a daily basis.

All of these changes, force optimizers to change the settings of their ‘live GA property’ in one form or the other, with or without using Google Tag Manager.

But whenever they change such settings, they risk inflating/skewing their analytics data.

Let us suppose you implemented new custom dimensions.

Now if your custom dimension setup is not correct, you will have to make changes to it.

But while you are making changes to get your custom dimension setup right, you are also unknowingly skewing your analytics data in the background. 

Even if you are using a ‘test view’ (a GA view set up just for testing purpose), you are still skewing your analytics data because custom dimensions are set at the property level and not at the view level.

So using a ‘test view’ is not good enough.

You need to use ‘test property’.

Creating a test property in Google Analytics

A test property is just like any other GA property.

You create test property in the same way, you create any other property.

You can learn more about creating a new property from this article: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1042508?hl=en&ref_topic=1009620

Getting all of the tracking data in the test property

Creating a test property in GA is the easy bit, getting data into it can be quite hard.

When you use a test property in GA, you are basically creating a duplicate of your ‘live GA property’ with same property settings and tracking setups.

Both properties will/should get exactly the same data.

The only difference will be, that the test property could/would contain test data.

Whereas, the live property won’t contain any test data.

A ‘live GA property’ represents your live/production website.

Whereas a ‘test GA property’ represents your ‘staging website’.  

You don’t push any changes to your live website without first thoroughly testing them on your staging website.

Similarly, you don’t push any changes to your live GA property without first thoroughly testing them on your test GA property.

If you maintain ‘staging’ and ‘live’ versions of your website then this concept of ‘live’ and ‘test’ environment should not be new to you.

There are various methods you can use to get analytics data into your test GA property.

If you use a staging website

You can copy-paste the Google Analytics tracking code provided by your test property on all pages of your staging website and then duplicate all of the existing website tracking currently being deployed via live GA property into the test property.

If you use Google Tag Manager then you can create a new test container just for the staging website and then duplicate all of the existing website tracking currently being deployed via live GTM container into the test GTM container.

Note: Make sure that you never auto import the configuration settings (tags, triggers and variables) of your test GTM container into the live GTM container. This could accidentally skew your live GTM configuration settings and skew your analytics data. Always manually make changes to your live GTM container.

If you do not use a staging website

If you are not using a staging website then you have to use two trackers on your live website.

One tracking object will send all of the analytics data to your ‘test GA property’ and the second tracking object will send all of the analytics data to your ‘live GA property’:

This is a complicated tracking setup and I would recommend that you use a developer who understand the ‘Google Analytics development environment’. 

I use multiple trackers to send same analytics data to two different GA properties (‘live property’ and ‘ga property’).

You can learn more about using multiple trackers from this article: Using multiple Google Analytics tracking codes on web pages

Learn about the Google Analytics Usage Trends Tool

The Google Analytics usage trend is a new tool which is used to visualise trends in your Google Analytics data and to perform trend analysis.

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

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