What are views and filters?
We’ve seen that within your Google Analytics account you can set up one or more Properties, each of which tracks at least one website or app. Within each Property you can create multiple Views. Google used to call these “Profiles”, but the term “Views” does give you a hint as to how they work: a View is a defined perspective – a window, if you like – on the data related to that Property. It might be a panoramic picture window, so to speak, which gives you the complete picture; and in fact, one default unfiltered View is automatically created when you set up the Property, giving you access to all the data for that Property.
You can, however, create additional Views that give you a more restricted picture by defining filters, which Analytics deploys to exclude some data, include some or transform the raw data it is receiving.
Why would you want to do that? One common example is to give you a truer picture of traffic to your site by excluding visits made by yourself or your staff. Instead of counting every hit, you’d set up a filter to exclude traffic coming from IP addresses within your business, so that what Analytics shows you in its reports is just genuine visitor traffic, which is – of course – what you really want to know about.
In the same way, in addition to the default View of all the data for your site, you could create a View of the traffic to a subdomain such as sales.mysite.com, so that you can see the data relevant to that in all the available reports within that View. Or you might wish to have a View of just the AdWords traffic to your site. If you send both web and app data to the same Property, you might want to create specific Views that enable you to analyses just web data or just app data separately, in addition to the View or Views that track both together. In each case, for each additional View you create, you apply filters to them so that they each include the specific subset of data you’re interested in.
A few important points to note about Views in Google Analytics:
- All incoming data related to the Property gets sent to all Views within it: however, Analytics applies the filters defined for each View to process the incoming data and this processed data is what you see in all the reports within each View. Applying a filter means Analytics will ignore or throw out all data that doesn’t match, and that excluded data is simply not available in any reports within that View. For all practical purposes, it just doesn’t exist. This is the crucial difference between applying filters at the View level and using Segments.
- The filters you’ve defined will apply to all reports within that View: this means that some reports might have no content, if the data that they’re designed to report on has been filtered out.
- Processing by other Analytics reporting tools, such as Goals, Segments and Alerts, is applied within individual Views: you’ll recall that when you set up any of these, you first must select the Property and then the View in which you want them to operate. All these tools can work only on the data in that View, which has been pre-filtered before they receive it.
- When you create a View, Analytics can start reporting on that specific data from that date forward: reports in that View will not contain any data collected prior to the creation date of the View. If you need to view reports dealing with data from before that date, then you can use the original unfiltered View, created automatically when you first set up the Property, and use the date range and other controls to isolate specific information. Be careful, however, not to apply filters to that original View or you’ll lose all access to the unfiltered data.
- In the same way, if you delete a View, that specific perspective of the data is gone: So, don’t delete a View if you think you might ever want to report on that specific perspective of the data.
For these reasons, Google strongly recommends that you don’t delete the original, unfiltered default View or add filters to it. When you add filters, the data they exclude becomes “unavailable”, permanently. When you delete a View, that specific historical perspective of the data is gone, forever. So, if you want to create a filtered View of your data while preserving all the original data, create a copy of the original, unfiltered View or set up new, additional Views and then customize each one to meet your specific reporting needs in each case.
You can add up to 50 Views to a Property – remember, you need to have an account with Edit permissions (or be the account administrator) to add Views:
How to create a new view in Google Analytics:
Click the Admin tab and select the relevant Account if you have more than one. Next, click the Property to which you want to add the View.
2. Create new View
In the View column, click the drop-down menu and select “Create new View”.
3. Choose and name View
Select either Website or App as appropriate (see below for more), and then enter a name for the View – use something specific and descriptive of the data you’ll be filtering for, so you’ll be able to easily pick this View from a list in future.
4. Pick time zone
Next, select the Reporting Time Zone (see section 4.1 of the ‘Google Analytics: Getting Started’ playbook for more on this). If your Analytics account is linked to a Google AdWords account, the time zone is automatically set to your AdWords preference and you won’t see this option.
5. Create View
For a standard reporting View, leave User ID OFF (see below), then click Create View.
After you create a View, you can come back to the Admin page and edit the View settings.
If your Analytics account is linked to an AdWords account (see chapter 2.5 of the ‘Google Analytics for SEO, SEM, Website and CRO’ playbook), data from the AdWords account is automatically imported into any new View you create on that account before – of course – being subjected to any filters you’ve set up on the new View.
What is the difference between a web or app view?
When you create a View, you can choose between an App View and a Web View. Google says these two View types “give you a slightly different analysis experience but are otherwise the same”. For example, App Views include some reports that aren’t available in Web Views, such as Crashes and Exceptions and the Google Play reports, while Web Views give you Site Content reports. It would seem logical to choose according to the type of Property you’re dealing with, or the more important type if you’re including both websites and apps in the same Property and want to report on them together in the same View.
Create a copy of a view
Google warns that some Analytics features – notably filters – fundamentally alter how data is collected or processed in your account in ways that cannot be reversed. As a result, you should always duplicate the original View before making changes. Always keep the original View unchanged and add filters or other reporting features to the duplicate Views to meet your specific needs. (You have to wonder why Google doesn’t just lock the default unfiltered View and make it impossible to edit or delete…)
Duplicating a View is a straightforward process:
How to create a copy of a view in Google Analytics:
1. Click the Admin tab, select the relevant Account and Property, and navigate to the View you want to copy.
2. In the View column, click “View Settings”, then click “Copy View”.
3. Give the new View a distinct name, so you can distinguish it from the original, and click Copy View to confirm. Job done!
When you duplicate a View, settings and features controlled at the View level (like filters, Goals, users and their permissions) are duplicated in copied Views. Cost source links and shared assets (like annotations, Segments and alerts) are not duplicated into copied Views.
How to edit view settings
Assuming you have Edit permission, you can change a View’s settings at any time. Click the Admin tab, select the relevant Account and Property, and navigate to the View you want. In the View column, click View Settings.
You can change the following elements – when complete, click Save to enable your tweaks:
- The View name: perfect if the name you gave your View doesn’t make sense.
- The Website name used by Content reports: including In-Page Tracking (but note that this does not change the actual URL being tracked – that’s set at the Property level and depends on the unique identifier embedded in the site code).
- Reporting Time Zone: this determines when Analytics regards each day as beginning and ending for reporting purposes (see section 4.1 of the ‘Getting Started with Google Analytics’ playbook). Note that this applies from when you make the change, not retrospectively, so there may be a glitch in your reports at the transition point.
- The default homepage for your site: usually index.html or default.html. Changing this affects how page information appears in your reports. If you’re not sure, leave this blank.
- Exclude URL Query Parameters: any query parameters or unique session IDs (for example sessionid or vid) that appear in your URLs but you do not want to see in your reports.
- Currency to display: self-explanatory.
- Bot Filtering: select this option to exclude sessions from known bots and spiders.
- Site Search tracking: this must be set up separately for each View – see the Site Search section, above.
Understanding how to use filters
The View settings are useful, but of more importance are the filters you apply to a View. As we’ve noted, Analytics will apply the specified filters to exclude, include or transform data before it’s reported on in each View, so it’s vital to be certain of what you’re setting them to do, or the data you see could be incomplete or misleading in unexpected ways.
Analytics offers a range of predefined filters – examples include excluding or only including traffic from a specific domain, such as your ISP or company network. You could also opt to exclude or only include traffic from specified IP addresses, or to exclude or include only traffic to specified subdirectories, among others.
You can also define custom filters, which may be Exclude or Include filters, Search and Replace, convert Lowercase to Uppercase or vice-versa (handy where some reporting tool is case-sensitive). There’s also an Advanced filters option that combines multiple fields.
It’s vital to understand how filters operate, because of their fundamental effect on the data you end up seeing. For example, setting up an Exclude filter to exclude the Chrome browser will exclude all information about anyone who visits your website using Chrome, so you’ll see no user, path, referral or domain data for these. Google has a comprehensive reference guide to filter types and uses, which you should make a point of studying before you get stuck in.
Broadly speaking, however, filters work in the standard way according to ordinary IF-THEN logic. You begin by selecting the Filter Type (Predefined or Custom), then the Filter Field – the type of data you want to evaluate or change. This may be User IP address, device type, geographic location, and so on. You then specify a Condition and from this pick an Action that tells Analytics what to do if the condition is true.
An example would be to create a simple Include filter that specifies if Country exactly matches UK, then include that data in your view. This would mean that all data from countries other than the UK would therefore be ignored.
If you’re using predefined filters to do things like exclude traffic from specified IP addresses, or IP addresses beginning with a certain string, then you simply specify your business’s internal IP addresses using “Regular Expressions” (which for IP addresses means a format like this: 163\.212\.171\.123 – Google has a guide to the details).
Bear in mind that filters, like all configuration settings, are not retroactive; as we’ve noted, they apply from when you create them onwards. This means there will be no data available from before you created the filter, and you need to watch out for gaps or glitches in your data if you change a filter.
Note also that filters are applied in the order they’re listed in your configuration – and order matters because the output from one filter becomes the input for the next filter in the chain. If, for example, you want to measure traffic from North America, you need to create an Include filter to include data where the Country is the US OR Canada. If you create one filter to include US only and then another to include Canada only, you’ll end up with no data: the first filter will output only US users, so the second filter will find no Canadians and output zero data.
For this reason – and because filters fundamentally change what data you’ll see – Google emphasizes that when you’re setting up a new filter you should always test it on your account’s Test View first. Only when you’re certain it does what you expect it to should you save and apply it. When you do save a new filter, it’s added to the Filter Gallery for your account and can then be applied to any View within it.
Creating and managing view filters
It is possible to create a filter at the Account level and apply it to multiple Views, but we’ll focus here on creating a filter for one View.
How to add and apply a view filter in Google Analytics:
1. First steps
Click the Admin tab, select the relevant Account if you have more than one, then navigate to the Property and View you want. In the View column, click Filters, then “+New Filter”.
Select “Create new Filter” and enter a name for the filter.
Select Predefined filter and choose the filter you want, or select Custom filter and configure the options following our guide above.
4. Preview and save
Before you commit to using the filter, click the “Verify this filter” link to see how it will affect your data reporting. When you’re happy with the filter, click Save to enable it.
5. Apply to other Views
To apply an existing filter to another view, first navigate to that view, then click “+New Filter”. This time, choose “Apply existing Filter”, then select the filter or filters you want to use with that view before clicking Add>> to apply them. Click Save to finish.
Understanding User ID views
We’ve seen that when setting up a View, you get an option to switch on User ID View. This applies only to User ID enabled Properties. A User ID View is a special reporting View that displays only data from sessions in which you send unique ID and related data to Google Analytics. This View enables you to analyses the segment of traffic with an assigned ID separately from your other traffic.
What does this mean? User ID is essentially a way of identifying unique users across multiple devices and different sessions. This gives you a more accurate user count and a more rounded picture of engagement with your business or brand, but it requires you to be able to generate your own unique IDs, consistently assign IDs to users, and include these IDs wherever you send data to Google Analytics. This usually means you need to have a sign-in and authentication system, with robust data protection. Then, you could send the unique IDs generated by your own authentication system to Google Analytics as values for the User ID. Any engagement that takes place while a unique ID is assigned, such as link clicks and page or screen navigation, can be sent and connected in Google Analytics via the User ID.
User ID Views include a set of Cross Device reports, which aren’t available in other reporting Views. These reports give you the tools you need to analyses how users engage with your content on different devices over the course of multiple sessions. Bear in mind that the Property must be User ID enabled, you need to set up the User ID integration in your Analytics tracking code, and you need to add a new View to the Property and specifically make it a User ID View. Note also that User ID Views display only data from sessions in which a User ID is assigned and related data is sent to Google Analytics. They won’t include any data from sessions without User IDs, so you’ll need to have different Views in addition to see and analyses any every day, non-authenticated traffic, including any new users who haven’t (yet) signed up.Read previous article Read next article