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How to use Google Analytics for multiple websites

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Google Analytics Multiple Websites

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The Google Analytics (GA) platform is an excellent tool that can provide valuable insights for all of your projects, but it can be tricky to keep track of everything if you’re not familiar with using it for multiple sites.

Adding to the challenge is the imminent replacement of Universal Analytics (UA) by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This new version promises to be even more powerful yet also more complex, with new features and options that can be confusing for even the most experienced analysts.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using Google Analytics for multiple websites. We’ll break down how to set up your account, add new properties, and share data between multiple sites on both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4.

The need to track multiple websites in Google Analytics

On the surface, Google Analytics looks like a tough tool to master. There are so many things going on in the dashboard – from sessions and users to conversions and Ecommerce data – that it can be intimidating for novice users.

The beauty of using Google Analytics is that once you understand the basics, you can replicate your configurations across multiple properties with ease.

However, there are certain scenarios where you might need to adjust your tracking code or configure things differently. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • You’re tracking several geo-targeted Ecommerce websites. Ecommerce businesses usually sell their products or services in multiple countries and regions. That requires setting up multiple websites, each targeting a specific location, currency, language, and more.
  • You’re handling a website supported by several microsites. Microsites are small websites usually attached to a larger, primary website. They might be used for specific campaigns, products, or services, and they often have their own domain names or subdomains. You’ll need to set up each one as a separate GA property.
  • You have a blog on a subdomain or an alternative URL. A lot of businesses choose to keep their blog separate from their main website, either on a subdomain (e.g., blog.company.com) or an entirely different URL (e.g., companyblog.com). If you want to track traffic and engagement for your blog separately from the rest of your website, you’ll need to set it up as its own GA property.
  • You have a primary website and an app. Google Analytics can track not only websites but also mobile apps. If you want to track user behavior on your app separately from your website, you’ll need to create a new property for it and use the GA SDK for your platform of choice.

These are just some examples, but there are endless possibilities when it comes to tracking multiple sites in GA.

The key is to carefully define the project’s analytics tracking requirements before even starting to think about the implementation. Once you know what needs to be tracked and where, the rest will fall into place.

Planning and preparation

Again, the most important thing when it comes to tracking multiple sites in Google Analytics is to plan ahead. Don’t even fire up your Google Analytics account until you’ve answered the following questions in detail:

1. Which web properties do you need to track in GA?

Web properties don’t just refer to websites. They can also be microsites, mobile apps, blog platforms, and landing pages – basically anything that generates web traffic and engagement data.

You also need to anticipate any future web properties you might need to track.

For example, if you’re planning to launch a new microsite or website in the near future, it’s best to set it up in GA now rather than wait until it goes live. That way, you can start collecting data from day one.

2. What business objectives are associated with each web property?

Aside from identifying which web properties you need to track, you also need to think about why you’re tracking them. What business goals will each help you achieve?

As an example, let’s say you have an Ecommerce website, a blog, and a microsite for a specific campaign. The business objectives for each might be:

  • Ecommerce website: increase online sales
  • Blog: increase brand awareness and drive traffic to the website
  • Microsite: generate leads for the sales team

Once you’ve identified the business objectives for each web property, it will be easier to decide which metrics and dimensions you need to track.

3. Do you need a separate GA property for each web entity?

This is where you need to start thinking about how all the web properties will work together in GA. Do you need to track them all in a single property? Or would it make more sense to create separate properties for each one?

There are pros and cons to both approaches. Here are they:

  • Tracking everything in one property can give you a holistic view of your data, but it can also make your reports more difficult to interpret.
  • Creating separate properties for each web property can make your reports easier to understand, but it might also make it harder to spot patterns and relationships across all your data.

The best way to decide is to ask yourself what kind of insights you’re hoping to get from your analytics data. Some common examples include the following:

  • Comparing traffic from different channels (e.g., organic, paid, direct)
  • Finding out which content is most popular with your audience
  • Identifying which web properties are driving the most conversions

Once you know what kind of insights you need, you can decide whether it’s better to track everything in one property or create separate properties for each web property.

4. What are the overall analytics requirements for the project?

Finally, you need to think about the overall analytics requirements for the project. This refers to the specific data you need to collect in order to meet your business objectives.

Some of the most common GA data points include:

Traffic sources (e.g., organic, direct, referral)

  • Pageviews and unique pageviews
  • Bounce rate
  • Session duration
  • Transactions and revenue
  • Conversion rate

This part will be informed by the answers to the previous questions. So, for example, if one of your business objectives is to increase online sales, you’ll need to make sure you’re tracking transactions and revenue in GA.

If one of your goals is to generate leads, on the other hand, you’ll need to track conversion rate, as well as the specific pages and actions that users take before they convert.

Together, these steps will form the master plan for your GA implementation. By taking the time to think about all the different elements upfront, you can avoid problems later on and make sure your data is as accurate and insightful as possible.

Google Analytics account structures

Google Analytics currently has two versions: the old Universal Analytics and the new Google Analytics 4 platform. They each have a different process for GA account structures:

GA account structures in Universal Analytics

In UA, a web property is considered to be a single entity. This can be anything: a website, a blog, or a mobile app. Each web property is given a unique tracking ID.

UA also uses “views” to segment and analyze data when you add a site to Google Analytics. It works like this:

  • You set up a web property, which has a default view. This view includes all the data for that web property.
  • You can then create up to 25 additional views for that web property. Each view can have its own filters, goals, and other settings.
  • Views are typically used to segment data in a way that’s meaningful for your business.
  • For example, you might create a view for each website in your network or for each country you’re targeting. You may also create a view for mobile traffic or for a specific campaign.

Configuring views is one of the most critical parts of setting up Universal Analytics correctly. If you don’t set up views properly, you might accidentally delete data or skew your results.

GA account structures in Google Analytics 4

GA4 removes views altogether. This means that data is no longer segmented at the view level – everything is rolled up into a single property.
  • One GA4 property can track data from multiple websites and mobile apps.
  • This makes it much easier to get a complete picture of your customer’s journey, as you can see how they interact with your business across multiple channels.

GA4 also introduces a new concept called “data streams.” A data stream is a specific source of data, such as a website, a mobile app, or even an IoT device. You can have up to 100 data streams per property.

  • Data streams make it easy to see how different channels are performing and to compare apples to apples.
  • For example, you can compare the data from your website to the data from your iOS app and see how they stack up against each other.

Finally, because GA4 doesn’t include views anymore, you’ll need to handle user access and permissions differently. Instead of using views, you’ll need to use account-level and property-level permissions.

Now, let’s dive into how to handle multiple domains in Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics.

Multiple domains in universal analytics

Setting up multiple domains in Universal Analytics involves a lot of moving parts. Depending on how many web properties you have, you may need to track hundreds or thousands of different domains, subdomains, and cross-domains.

Because of this, planning is the most critical part of the process. First, you’ll need to take a close look at your data and decide how you want to segment it. Then, once you have a plan, you can start setting up your views and filters.

Keep in mind the following when setting up multiple domains in Universal Analytics:

You can use a single Google account for multiple GA properties

There’s no need to create separate Google accounts for each GA property you want to track. In addition, you can set up a maximum of 25 GA accounts under that single account.

Most businesses will only need one GA account. But if you need more than that, you can upgrade to a premium account, which gives you enterprise-level features and support.

Each GA property will have its own analytics ID

The analytics ID is a unique identifier for each GA property. This tells GA which property to track the data for.

You’ll need to generate a new analytics ID for each GA property you want to track. You can do this in the Admin section of your GA account. Generally, you’ll be using multiple GA properties (and their respective analytics IDs) for each domain you want to track. You can manually implement these tracking codes or use Google Tag Manager.

Universal Analytics views can be configured depending on reporting requirements

UA views allow you to customize the data that are being collected for each domain. This can be done through filters and segments.

Filters let you include or exclude data from your view. For example, you might want to include data from all subdomains but only exclude data from a specific subdomain. Segments let you divide your data into groups so that you can compare them side by side. For example, you might want to segment your data by gender or by location.

On top of that, you can also use views to create a configuration backup for your UA property. This is useful if you ever need to roll back to a previous version of your configuration.

Cross-domain tracking is a useful feature in UA

Cross domain tracking refers to tracking activity across multiple domains from a single GA property. This can be beneficial for certain types of properties, such as Ecommerce websites with third-party shopping carts.

Without cross domain tracking, the data from your website and the data from your shopping cart would be tracked separately. This makes it difficult to see the full picture of the customer’s journey, especially since there are third-party data involved.

You can configure referral exclusions in UA

Finally, setting up multiple domains in UA also involves configuring referral exclusions. This feature lets you specify which domains should not trigger a new GA session. In simple terms, it enables you to exclude certain referrals (aka traffic sources) from your data.

This can be useful in cases such as when you have a paid ad on another website and you don’t want the traffic from that site to be considered referral traffic.

Multiple domains in Google Analytics 4

Establishing a property on GA4 and adding GA4 to a domain is a highly technical process, but as long as you follow the steps, it’s not that difficult.

Here’s a quick rundown of how to add a website to Google Analytics 4:

  1. To get started, open your GA4 account and click on Admin.
  2. Go to the account column. If there are several accounts, select the one you want to use.
  3. Next, click on GA Setup Assistant under the property column.
  4. Then, click on the “Get Started” button on the GA Setup Assistant screen.
  5. This will lead you to the next screen, which has the button to create property.
  6. Click on “create property,” which will establish a new GA4 property name and ID.
  7. After that, you will be able to see the “Data Streams” option.
  8. If you click “Data Streams,” you can see the specific stream ID for your GA4 property.
  9. Clicking on the stream ID will pull up the Web Stream Details page, where you can get the GA4 measurement ID.
  10. Next, head over to Tagging Instructions to get the global site tag (gtag.js) code.
  11. Copy the code and paste it into thesection of the website HTML. You can also deploy it via Google Tag Manager.

Remember that you’ll need separate measurement IDs and GA properties for each domain you want to track.

You can also execute cross-domain tracking in GA4 using the data stream for the website. Before doing so, make sure to plan it with care. There are certain scenarios where it might not make sense to aggregate the data into one property, such as for websites and apps that are not related to each other.

Lastly, you can also set up referral exclusions in GA4. To do this, define conditions to identify any referring domains you want to exclude.

Automated reporting using Reporting Ninja

Once you have your data divided into multiple domains, you can use Reporting Ninja to automate your Google Analytics reporting process.

Reporting Ninja is a web-based reporting and analytics service that connects to your GA account and generates beautiful, custom reports that are easy to understand.

What’s more, our reports are highly customizable – you can change the look and feel of the report, choose which data to include, and even add your own branding.

Sign up today for a FREE, no-obligation 15-day trial of Reporting Ninja!

Final thoughts

Setting up Google Analytics for multiple websites is all about planning and preparation. The better you understand each property, your business goals, and how customers interact with your website, the easier it will be to set up and maintain GA for multiple domains.

Once you have all that data, link your GA account to Reporting Ninja. Our Google Analytics integration is designed to help you visualize, organize, and present analytics data in a way that is easy to understand.

Get a 15-day FREE trial of Reporting Ninja when you sign up today!

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