It’s hard to get things right the first time. You may come up with a brilliant plan for your Google Analytics setup and think that you’ve thought of everything, only to have the data start coming in and realize that things are not looking quite like you hoped they would. Or perhaps your analytics just need a modification and you need to change your goal steps or create new ones. When these kinds of things happen, you may need to alter your Google Analytics profile settings.
And that’s OK. While we recommend setting up a “sandbox” profile where you can test what effect changes to your profile might have on your data before editing your main profile, at some point you’ll have to make those changes live in order to reap the benefits of cleaner, better data. When this happens, you will want to record those changes.
You can think of it as your Google Analytics change log, journal, diary, etc. The important thing is that somewhere you keep track of all the changes made your Google Analytics Profile settings and installation, and when you made them. There are a variety of reasons why you would want to do this.
The first and most obvious reason is that if a change you make completely screws up your profile, you’ll want to be able to change your profile settings back to the way they were before. Note that data will remain corrupt for the time period in which you had those less-than-desirable settings active, but at least going forward you can have things back to normal.
The second reason why this is important is that changes to your profile setting will not affect historical Google Analytics data. Because of this, you’ll want to be able to know what sort of valid comparisons can be made with your data going forward from the change and historical data prior to the change. Maybe you’re comparing apples to apples, but some are red and some are green.
For example, if you set up a new filter to better exclude your internal traffic, you should account for the slight decrease in traffic, but you should still be able to compare most site statistics.
If, however, you change one of your goals to track something else entirely different, you won’t be able to compare current goal to historical goal data at all. Not only that, but while your historical goal data will remain constant, the names of the steps in your Funnel Visualization Report will be the names of the steps of the new goal that your replaced it with. So in the case of a goal change, you will want to be very precise in making sure that you record when you changed the goal, what the goal steps used to be, and what they were replaced with.
Here’s another example of a change in goals that might throw you for a loop if you don’t have a change log: If you add a step somewhere in the middle of the steps for your goal, Google Analytics will not move the entrance/exit data down to the corresponding steps, but will instead rename all the steps following the inserted step. So if your goal used to be Contact Info >> Confirm >> Thank You and you insert a “Billing” step so that it reads Contact info >> Billing >> Confirm >> Thank You, for the historical data will be renamed like this:
Confirm -> Billing
Thank You -> Confirm
You’ll also have a new step, “Thank You”, which will show 100% of visitors moving from the new “Confirm” to the new “Thank You”. Just looking at this mess, it seems like it might be a good idea just to create a new goal instead of change the old one. If you haven’t used up your four goals, this is probably a good idea. But if you have used them up, then you’ll need to make sure to log these changes and that you and anyone else who has access to your Google Analytics account is aware of these changes and when they occurred.
So keep track of those changes! It can save you a lot of time, headache, and frustration down the road.