While it’s not something a web analyst might have to think about every day, deleting profiles and accounts is a bit of housekeeping that gets done on occasion, mostly to keep the Google Analytics interface from getting cluttered up with (seemingly) useless collections of data.
It’s tempting to think of an unused Google Analytics profile as junk mail offering you a credit card with a six-month teaser rate right when you’ve just consolidated your other five credit cards, but stop right there.
Seriously, stop. Get your finger off of that ‘delete’ button. You’ve got to think carefully before getting rid of profiles, and especially whole Google Analytics accounts, or else you could get yourself into some deep trouble.
Sometimes, it’s not entirely your fault. Sometimes it’s just a web analyst’s worst nightmare come true, a manifestation of Murphy’s Law at it’s finest (or worst). A disgruntled employee might decide that it would be absolutely hilarious to go out in a blaze of glory and take your Google Analytics account with them.
Or it might just be an honest mistake committed by a drowsy analyst on a dreary and overcast Friday mid-afternoon. In that case, we’ve also got tips on getting your account back and on making sure you don’t lose your data in the first place.
Real Life Consequences
Take a few deep breaths, because there are some things you need to think about before you decide to get rid of a dusty old account:
- You’re never going to get that data back. It’s also not going to magically copy itself into your new profile or into a different account. You’ve told Google to get rid of your data, and Google, respecting your privacy and the proprietary nature of your data, doesn’t keep it for very long after you’ve informed them you’d like to have them dump it all into the incinerator. A Google Analytics Certified Partner might be able to help you get your data back, and we’ll explain your options later on in this blog post.
- You never know how important your currently “useless” data might become. What if the last five years of data is exactly what you need to find a huge trend in your company’s traffic that will change the way you think about your web strategy? Google keeps analytics data on active accounts for 25 months in the free edition of Google Analytics, and longer for Google Analytics Premium Edition. Several years of data can be terrifyingly useful when you need it the most… and can’t find it anywhere.
- Have you asked absolutely everyone in your organization with access to the profile if they still need the old data? No? That’s pretty inconsiderate – you need to be sure that the data isn’t needed anymore before you get rid of the profile. How sure? “Beyond a shadow of a doubt” is a good start. If other people in your company are relying on that data, taking it away from them without notice can really have some nasty side effects. Such as sudden unemployment and/or defenestration. One way to test whether or not someone is actively using Google Analytics is to remove their user access for three months. If they haven’t complained about not having access after those three months, there’s no reason to reinstate it: they’re done with it.
- Did you have a fancy custom analytics dashboard built to make sure your company’s executives can keep their fingers on the pulse of your website traffic? Chances are, it’s probably dependent on the profile you’re about to delete. Which means, your executives are going to freak out when everything drops to zero or they get a truckload of errors on their screens. Was the dashboard hard-coded for that profile, or can you just go into a configuration panel and change the account number or profile it’s grabbing data from? Do you know? Can you get hold of the developers who created the dashboard in the first place? How much will it cost to get them to change the profile feeding data to the dashboard?
Be Kind, Please Rewind
Every subject has its share of urban legends, and Google Analytics account recovery is no different. Some say that you have to set up an AdWords account, and then spend a certain amount of money per month in order to get Google to help you out of your jam. Others will say that you have to hire a consulting agency that happens to be a Google Analytics Certified Partner. Still more will say that you have to make a sacrifice of unicorn blood poured on unmelted, freshly-fallen snow imported from the top kilometer of Mount Everest’s height and untouched by human hands, put on a loin cloth and head-dress dyed in Google’s colours, do the chicken dance thirteen times, then post a video of said ritual on YouTube under your real name.
Here are the facts, folks:
- The e-mail address you are sending the request from must have full administrative access to the account or profile that was deleted.
- You will need to send an e-mail to a Google Analytics Certified Partner with the following information in the body. The Google Analytics Certified Partner will then forward that information to Google:
- Your name.
- The e-mail address of the individual who has administrative access to the affected Google Analytics account or profile. This e-mail address has to be the same one they use to log into Google Analytics.
- The Google Analytics account ID (UA-XXXXXX) of the account that was deleted or, as the case may be, the account which contained the profile that was deleted.
- The date on which you believe the account or profile was deleted.
- The Google Analytics web property ID (UA-XXXXXX-X) of the account or profile that was deleted.
- The name of the account or profile that was deleted.
If you don’t have all the info, just send whatever it is you do have. Some is better than nothing, though the more information you have, the greater the likelihood of success.
- If you’ve deleted a Google Analytics account, you have 14 days from the day that account was deleted to get it restored.
- If you’ve deleted a Google Analytics profile, you have 90 days from the day that profile was deleted to get it restored.
- Google doesn’t currently have the ability to identify the specific user who deleted the account. They hope to be able to eventually develop that specific capability. They will, however, send an e-mail to each administrator of an account when a profile is deleted, including the date that profile was deleted.
Only You Can Prevent Data Loss
Haven’t deleted your account yet? Getting a little nervous after hearing about how hard it is to get your account back? Here are ways you can keep this from happening to you by practicing some good user governance:
- Have the person in charge of analytics in your organization act as the gatekeeper: no one has admin access, and no one deletes profiles or accounts unless they sign off on it. Are you that person? Great: watch it like a genetically-engineered super-cyborg-hawk.
- Don’t give access, even user access, to anyone whose Google Account isn’t using your company or organization’s (or your consultant’s) e-mail domain, or is using a free or personal e-mail address (ie. Gmail, Hotmail, Live.com, Yahoo!, etc.). This makes it a lot easier to know who the account belongs to. It also helps prevent social engineering attacks against your analytics data by ensuring that you don’t just give access to anyone whose name looks familiar, regardless of where they got their account from.
- Never have more than one admin for every five users. That’s the minimum optimal ratio, at least as far as Cardinal Path is concerned – keep the ratio as high as possible between the number of admins (low) and the number of users (high).
- Watch who you give admin access to. Don’t trust them and can’t throw them very far? Wouldn’t have them as a sidekick if your life suddenly turned into an action-espionage-thriller? Probably not a good choice. If that person might confuse the process to remove user access rights from a user with the process to delete a whole account, they’re definitely not admin material
- If you have to give admin access to someone, do make sure that they have been properly trained on the use of Google Analytics. Cardinal Path offers a number of training courses all across the United States and Canada which would help prepare a prospective admin for this responsibility.
- Make sure someone in HR lets you know when someone from your company’s analytics group, or to whom you’ve given access, gets fired, gets laid off, or quits on bad terms. As soon as someone is no longer employed by your company, who as a result feels angry and aggrieved, and who also realizes there’s a delete button, the chances that they will take your Google Analytics account with them as they walk out the door skyrocket. Also, if you’re considering doing this – DON’T. Whatever hardship it’ll cause your company is nothing compared to the lawsuits you’ll find yourself at the sharp end of.
- Once every six months, or quarterly if you’re sassy like that, send an e-mail out to every single user who has access to your Google Analytics account. If they don’t reply within two months, they didn’t need access; go ahead and revoke it. It’s just good housekeeping.
- Keep a list of all your accounts, profiles, UA account numbers, the date each account was created in a spreadsheet saved in a safe place such as ‘the cloud’ or on the company network just in case the unthinkable becomes real. This will prove invaluable when requesting help from Google or a Google Analytics Certified Partner.
A little bit of preparation, procedure, and paranoia can save you a lot of trouble later on.
I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends
Do you need anybody? Well, Cardinal Path has helped a number of clients not only get their accounts and profiles back, but also optimize their Google Analytics or Adobe SiteCatalyst setups to get the best and most accurate analytics data possible. Find out how Cardinal Path can be your “Get Out of Analytics Hell” card and contact us today!
We’ve also advised a number of clients on how to develop analytics and evidence-based cultures at their companies – you should take Stéphane Hamel’s Online Analytics Maturity Model questionnaire to find out where you stand.