There’s always one guy or gal in every organization that’s, effectively, the designated “Analytics” person; scruffy, sweater-wearing types who’ve tried to explain the transformative and born-again feeling that they get after figuring-out something cool based on the data.
Or, like a dog wearing a tie, they could have no idea what they’re doing.
Either way, there’s one really simple mistake that I see happen on account after account that will haunt you like a big stupid ghost in years to come.
The Power (And Curse) of Google Analytics Views
The number one rule of Google Analytics is that data collection is never retroactive.
For thousands of years, website owners have been horrified to find out that simply installing Google Analytics today does not tell you who came to your site for all the years you didn’t have it set up.
This same principle applies to both Views and Filters.
What Are View Filters?
The types of filters you can attach to views are limited compared to the filters available in a custom report.
That is because views are intended to let you filter the most basic portions of your dataset.
Filtering-out certain types of traffic is critical for the accuracy of your visitor data.
One common problem comes from Google Analytics recording traffic to the site from the owner or the site developer (in some case this can be internal traffic from employees of a company). This problem is fixed by setting-up a view filter that tells Analytics “Hey, that’s me. So don’t record this as traffic.”
Or let’s say you have an e-commerce site and just want to look at the traffic associated with the Shopping section of your site. Creating a new view that matches the page path (e.g. “www.yourwebsite.com/shop.com”), which will give you a view of the traffic for just that section.
Or, to drive the point home, let’s say that your site keeps getting crawled by an annoying bot from a dubious “SEO” company in South America, making your site appear to have a drove of referral traffic. Again, a great situation for adding a view on the profile level.
How You Should Not Set Up Filters
It’s not uncommon for people to have one view, but one mistake you should never make is not having a Master View. I’m not making this up — it’s actually in the instructions in the Developer section of Google Analytics.
The idea is simple: you need to have one “clean” view that never has any filters.
This is because once you filter data at the view level that data is deleted. That’s right. It’s permanently gone.
Unless, however, if you have a Master View setup.
Effectively, the Master View is a catch-all for all data, no matter what. Since View Filters are the only issues that permanently affect your data (short of simply having the wrong website address), they’re just smart to have to set up.
Even if you only use a filter for filtering your own traffic based on your IP, a Master View can show you things like unauthorized access from someone on your wifi network or a program maliciously in your website.
Or just learn what a stalker you are of your own content. For whatever your reasons, please, for the love of all things numeric set up a Master View!