Best Practices for Google Analytics Profiles and Filters

Recently, I heard from a colleague at another institution regarding how to best configure their Google Analytics profiles, especially in regards to filters.

A Google Analytics profile is a view into one of your web properties with specific sets of filters applied to it. For example, one profile I keep of the university library website which I manage filters out everyone except those users coming through an IP range that is used by our wireless users. This profile, then, let’s me see how our wireless users differ from our lab computer users. It’s particularly important, in fact, because it turns out that the browser and OS choices our wireless users make are very different from what our campus IT provides on the lab PC images (Apple vs. Microsoft, Google Chrome vs. IE and Firefox).

The most important best practice for profiles is to always have multiple profiles. You should always have one profile that has absolutely no filters so that if your data ever looks weird you can see right away if it’s your filters causing problems. So, we have one profile without any filters and then multiple profiles that have various other filters applied. For example, for my main analytics report profile, I have the following filters applied:

  • Filter Name: Case sensitive; Filter Type: Lowercase – Remove
  • Filter Name: LibraryIPfilterout (our IP filter); Filter Type: Exclude – Remove (this filter excludes library staff machines from our data)

Here’s how you create a filter:

  1. Go to Google Analytics, and select the Admin tab on the right of the orange bar
  2. On the Account Administration screen, you’ll see a list of accounts (one should be your library site’s account) – select it
  3. On the account’s page, you’ll see your properties (which should include your main website’s URL). You’ll also see a Filters tab – select that
  4. You should now see a list of all filters applied to that web site account. You will also see a “+ New Filter” button. Click that.
  5. You will then need to fill in the parameters of your filter and then Save it.
  6. Once created, it can be applied to any profile. Simply go back to Step 3 and select the URL you want to create your profile for.
  7. Select “+ New Profile” and create this profile
  8. Then locate the Filters tab and apply any filters that you want, including the one you created.
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