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The Right Way for an Agency or Consultant to Set Up Google Analytics

If you really love your clients, you have to be willing to let them go. If they come back then they love you, too. Since starting our first agency, ProFromGo Internet Marketing, and growing into Vendilli Digital Group, we rarely see clients leave us to work with another agency. That is a rarity for us, but when it does happen, we want to always be sure we left our client in a better place than we met them in terms of their business and website considerations.

In this article I'm going to explain how and why we set up Google Analytics (GA) the way we do for our clients. The second goal of this article is to also explain to new clients coming to PFG from other agencies or "SEO companies" why we may not be able to access very valuable historical data in cases where the other agency didn't set up Google Analytics the way we prefer and isn't willing to play ball with you (or us).

If you're a website designer/consultant, agency owner, or employee, and you have different systems and softwares set up in a way where clients aren't free to leave and take their digital "things" with them, then you're probably doing something wrong.

Don't Hold Your Client's Data Hostage

A few years ago while sitting in a classroom at the University of Pittsburgh receiving some training and tutelage from our buds at LunaMetrics, I made an interesting discovery: I'd been setting up Google Analytics in a manner that was less than ideal for some clients who may not want to work with us for eternity. When I was first getting started doing mostly some freelance consulting, I thought: "Why would a client ever want to leave?"

Well, sometimes they want to go. Sometimes we want them to go. If you've been in business long enough in any industry, you probably know that you just can't please all the people all the time.

Long story short, I was setting GA up in a way that was less than ideal for clients who decided to move on and I also saw this time and time again on the opposite end, when clients were coming to us from a provider or consultant who set things up wrong.

Actually, the accounts were set up just right for data collection and analysis which is what GA is designed to do. We even had some nice conversion tracking and goals all set up and working smoothly.

When I say it was set up wrong, I mean that I wasn't setting things up in a way where our clients owned the accounts where GA was collecting data and could easily take it with them at anytime and without warning or notice to us.

Fast forward to present day and having come across this same type of issue time and time again when dealing with new client onboarding, especially in instances where the new client is coming away from another provider, I suspect some agencies do this on purpose simply to make it difficult or painful for clients to leave or fire them, or simply because it is a little less work.

Do Things Right the First Time

In our case, it was a combination of convenience and ignorance. I realized as we started to pick up clients from other agencies exactly why this resulted in such a poor experience for clients who decided to move onto better agencies like ours (see how I did that?).

When you move on to a new agency or internalize certain aspects of your digital marketing, you'll definitely want to have access to all of your historical Google Analytics data. That is a great starting point for evaluating content marketing ideas, website performance, and all kinds of other considerations.

When you lose access to that historical data, you're nearly starting back at square one with a new agency when there may have been many "quick wins" and lessons that could be garnered from that data had it been available.

I decided right then and there at that classroom on Pitt campus I was going to get this fixed and go back and re-visit over a dozen accounts and re-tool things the way LunaMetrics suggested, and it definitely took some doing.

Today, we make every possible attempt to ensure our clients own everything we do for them, especially their Google Analytics data. That way they can take it along whenever they like and will always have historical data to look back on.

I suspect many agencies simply create a new profile within their own Google Analytics account when setting up a client on Google Analytics out of laziness or ignorance. In our case it was ignorance and is something we fixed and improved years ago yet I still come across this mistake regularly as we pick up new clients, especially ones that come to us from other agencies.

Without further Adieu, Here's the Right Way to Set Up Google Analytics

In a perfect world, the Google Analytics account should be set up so that the client owns the data and the agency is delegated access to that data as a user. This way, if the client should decide to separate from its agency, the client will retain access to all of that awesome historical data. The client can then easily delegate access to a new consultant, agency, or team member without any headaches.

For Business Owners (Clients of a Consultant or Agency)

If you are a client, you should ask your agency to help you set up GA in your own Google account and this may require you getting together with them or doing some screen sharing in the event you can't physically meet. You can also set up a new business Google account just for this purpose or temporarily allow your agency or consultant access by sharing your password, but follow that option at your own risk and only if you completely trust your agency or consultant.

In some cases, I'll even use Team Viewer to simply take control of our client's computer and do this on the fly so that they're comfortable letting us set things up without needing to give us any unsupervised access to their Google account.

For Agency Owners, Web Designers, or Consultants

From the agency/consultant perspective: You should set up new GA accounts for your clients inside of a Google account that they own. From there, add yourself as a user to view that data. That way, if your client decides to leave, they can remove you as a user quite simply or you can remove yourself to "cut the cord."

Chris Vendilli
About the Author
Chris is the founder and CEO of Vendilli Digital Group. In his free time, you’ll find him camping, fishing, or playing beer league ice hockey with a bunch of guys who refuse to admit they’re already over the hill.
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