As a long time veteran of the online marketing industry, I have had to ask for access to my fair share of Google Analytics accounts. Part of doing reporting and SEO work means using analytics tools to determine performance and user behavior.
Over the years, I have also noticed that many companies start to lose control of their accounts. Companies don’t know who had access, don’t have Admin / Ownership of accounts or have an associate who left and can no longer get into an account.
Why is it important? If you have been aggregating data about your users and the performance of your products online, you are putting your data and insights into your business in jeopardy.
Know Who Has Access
Not only do they not have a process for reviewing access, but they don’t have an idea of ‘who’ has access. Most companies, big or small, will have more than one agency or contractor working on web-related activities at one time. You might have a someone working on a 6-month project or managing seo / paid search for you for a few years. All of these people will most likely need access to your accounts. Sometimes, they need administrative access which allows them to view more information and build connections with other accounts.
Here is the thing, those people finish their project or the agency doesn’t do work for you any longer. That doesn’t mean their permissions to see your information are gone … even if they are doing work for a competitor. Make sure to remove their individual and agency level access when the contract date has expired.
The remedy (in Google Analytics) . . . look through your User Management screen (above) under your Account Permissions. These users can be assigned to different Properties or Views, but this will give you a complete list of everyone with access to this account.
If you don’t recognize a name, there are few things you can do. Depending on your company size, you can ask around. If other people use external sources, see if they know who users on the list are. If you work for a small company and handle all of the accounts, you can immediately take action.
If you know the person no longer works for you and shouldn’t have access, then just delete the user. Click on the checkbox next to their name, then select the Remove link in the top right of the screen.
What do you do when you work for a bigger company and find a stray account that people are not sure about? One of the best ways to deal with this situation is to do what I call Benching a user. Don’t remove them from the account. First, you want to remove all of their privileges. On the User Management screen, click on the person’s name to get to the details page (see below). On that page, uncheck all of the permissions (circled in red below) and click the Save button in the top right.
If you get an email from the user after you remove access, you can ask for details about that account. Since the email address is provided, you can be proactive and let the user know you have removed permissions. You can also recommend they contact you if they need renewed access.
Who Owns Your Analytics Account
We would like to think that all web engagements end happily. Maybe your PPC agency is happy that you decided to bring the work in-house or pick another agency. Yes, that is sarcasm. On more than one occasion, I have had to help a company wrestle account access away from a contractor or agency.
For many companies, Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts get started by the agency. It is understandable. However, Rule #1 - the ownership of an account should always be with the company. Start the account yourself and share access to the contractor / agency.
Recently, I requested Edit access for analtyics because I needed to create goals to track conversions. The president of the company who was my contact didn’t have access. The president reached out to the agency that started the account to request access for both of us. The agency was questioning why they couldn’t just provide Read access. I was shocked. It is not appropriate for an agency to question a company’s president about having Admin access (refer to Rule #1).
Does the Person “Owning” the Account Still Work There?
Many of these platforms have made it easier to transfer ownership, but it is always better for a company to start the process as an owner. I frequently set up Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts for companies. The first thing I ask is if they have a Google account set up. Yes, you can set up an existing external domain account with Google.
If a client doesn’t have a dedicated account, I recommend that they set up a centralized email account. The easiest way to do that is to establish a firstname.lastname@example.org. You can give multiple people access to the account.
Why not doing it to an individual users account? People leave. Even presidents of companies leave. Creating an account that multiple users can access and isn’t tied to an individual will save a lot of heartache in the future.
Trust me . . . I have spent many hours hacking through the process with Google to get access to an account started by an employee who is no longer there or set up by an outside email address.
The other alternative is to set up a general gmail account that can be used for corporate access. Since you don’t have full control over this account, it is not recommended over using a general internal email, but I’ve had to use this method many times.
If you go this route, make sure that all parties using the account are aware of password updates and provide a centralize (and secure) place for passwords and other verification information such as birthday and answers to security questions.
Apply Oversight to ALL of Your Accounts
In this post, I talk specifically about Google Analytics. I am sure as you were reading you thought, what about Facebook, what about Twitter. Basically, the same theory applies. Make sure to review you accounts and have a plan for transition and maintenance to avoid getting locked out of your accounts.