Monday Back to Basics: Accounts vs Profiles

Monday, February 23, 2009 | 1:38 PM

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These days, there are so many different uses for the word "accounts," and it's getting harder and harder to keep track of which definition is "in" or "out." The trend used to be to keep them for emailing or blogging, but now you can apparently use them to store a huge fortune solely for cats. See?

It can get quite confusing, which is why we’re not surprised that in January alone, over 14,000 people searched our Help Center to look up the difference between an account and a profile, two very important Analytics terms that have always remained a classic question for any analytics user.

The Difference Between an Account and a Profile

To put it simply, an account contains a collection of profiles. Note, if you have a simple website, you can probably get by without creating profiles. Profiles exist to let you do two important things.

  1. Separate out information about specific web properties, like your blog
    In this analogy the account is the house and the profiles are the rooms. You want to know everything that's happening in the house, but you also want to do special analysis just on the living room. Maybe you have some people at your company who only care about one room. By creating a profile, you can restrict access for these people to just that room.

  2. Apply different rules and criteria for advanced analysis
    Here, you're using profiles like different lenses to look at your data. Maybe you need to do super-specific analysis on just new visitors in California. You can use a profile like a microscope to zero in on just that group of users. This type of advanced analysis can also be done using advanced segments.
Profile Do's and Don'ts

Do
  1. Give each profile a different name so that it's easily identifiable (e.g. "Blog Only")
  2. Add the start date to the name of the profile so you'll always know how much data exists in the profile
  3. Give reports-only access to specific users for your profiles
  4. Create different filters for each profile so you can create different sets of data for different types of analysis
  5. Use the search box in the "top content" report to test filters on your profiles
  6. Filter out query parameters from your reports using profiles
  7. Talk to an authorized consultant about profiles if you have a complicated website and you're feeling unsure
Don't
  1. Neglect to create a master profile with all your original data for a website. This is really important!
  2. Give users "administrator" access for specific profiles. "Administrator" access is not profile-specific. This means administrators automatically get access to every profile in the account.
  3. Change settings on your profiles without keeping a log of changes. Otherwise things can get really confusing.
Other Resources
Any "do's" or "don'ts" we're missing? Leave a comment and we can add them!