Google Analytics allows you to easily configure, filter, and focus your site's traffic data in powerful ways. And we want you to avoid the few pitfalls that we have seen around configuration of filters, goals, and e-commerce. For example, when a filter is accidentally implemented incorrectly in a profile, important data can get excluded from that profile's reports. Another example relates to goals: creating a goal in a profile and then changing it is common, but the historical data in that profile will always reflect the first goal, which may not be desirable. For the dates they were implemented, these configurations will unfortunately modify data for that time period permanently.
One simple yet powerful way to avoid incorrect modifications is to use duplicate profiles to test out changes to your account settings. This way, you can ensure that you have implemented the settings correctly without affecting the data in your main profile. When you duplicate profiles, the new data you collect appears in several profiles at once, letting you manipulate the duplicate data in different ways. You can then keep the original profile unaltered so it can contain every piece of data collected by the tracking code on your site.
Using duplicate profiles is a great way to explore some of the more advanced functionality that Analytics has to offer without the risk of making mistakes. It lets you experiment without losing the data that you are already using for your analysis.
For example, let's say that you want to implement an Include Filter to include only data from a particular subdirectory. If you implemented this filter in your main profile, you might make a syntax error and inadvertently include none of your data in your reports. Or several months down the road, you may decide that you are actually interested in the rest of the data from your site, but now have no way of seeing it. A duplicate profile will let you ensure that the filter is implemented correctly, and it leaves the option open to analyze the data from your main profile in the future.
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