From a technical point of view, there is only 1 way to practice Google Analytics without a website or app. Unfortunately, this approach will only get you this far. Luckily, you have 4 other options to develop your GA skills without owning a website…
Important: to practice Google Analytics, you need an account
To work with Google Analytics you need to create an account first. Before you do so, you need to know a couple of things.
- Practice is key when you learn Google Analytics. You need to understand theoretical concepts. To boost your knowledge, you will have to get your hands dirty while digging in data.
- You can add both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 properties in your GA account. Since UA will sunset in 2023, I strongly recommend you focus on practicing GA4.
- If you have access to somebody else’s GA account, make sure both parties comply with the legislation, such as the GDPR.
You can create your free GA account here.
If you are a student, or don’t run a business, you can use a regular Google account to create your GA account.
Welcome to the wonderful world of GA where the fun can begin when you have created your first GA property…
#1 Create an empty GA property
When you create a property in GA, you can enter a property name. This is something else than a domain name.
In the property name of your account, you can enter:
- Any name between 4 and 100 characters.
- The domain name of a website you are not affiliated with at all. Yes, even that is possible. On a side note, if you do this, you cannot collect data from the website you entered.
And there you have it. Your first GA training environment.
Without a website.
And no data.
A GA account with no data may seem a waste of time. But if you are an absolute beginner, it is a safe start because:
- You don’t need a website to create a GA property.
- You don’t risk breaking or losing anything.
- Setting up GA4 for a blog is relatively easy.
- You can change most admin settings of your property, even if that won’t have any effect. This is not the case with the GA demo accounts. More about these further below.
- You learn the very first step to set up a GA account.
- It is a good way to get acquainted with the interface.
- You will see some limited guided tour elements in your GA account that will help you understand some elements better.
- Your GA account won’t have any data. In order to collect data, you need to add the Google Tag to your site. In GA4, you need to set up a data stream. Obviously, if a site doesn’t exist, you cannot add any code to it.
- You can import data in GA with, for instance, a csv file. But this data differs from what you see in, e.g. exploration reports.
This is the only option you can play around in GA without the need of an actual website.
Practicing GA in an empty account is like pushing buttons of a remote control while the TV is switched off
However, if you are an absolute beginner, this is a good warm-up for the real work-out…
#2 Use the Google Analytics demo accounts
The 4 official Google Analytics demo accounts are your best option to practice GA without having your own website or app.
Let me first briefly explain the pros and cons for you.
- The GA demo accounts are the quickest way to start practicing GA without having your own website.
- The demo accounts are packed with data. Although you have limited access rights, you have tons of data that you can only find in high performing sites and apps.
- You can explore the GA accounts of an ecommerce site and an app.
- Your access rights are restricted to the Viewer role. This corresponds with Read & Analyze permission in UA.
- This implies that you can’t change the administrator settings of the demo accounts, such as linking products, data retention, etc.
- You can add a maximum of 100 GA accounts per Google account. The demo accounts are counted too. If you only start learning GA, that would not be a problem. Besides, you can remove the demo accounts, or create a new GA account.
- Anything you do in the GA demo accounts is for your own mindset. You can hardly use it as a proof of your GA skills to customers or your boss. And it’s not likely that you will create an exploration and get hired by Google.
- The demo accounts don’t provide any contextual guidance. As a beginner, you won’t have a clue about what you are looking at.
- These accounts contain customizations that don’t exist in fresh GA accounts. Conversions, for instance, will look different for your site.
A lot of cons, but in reality, you can easily spend days in the demo accounts.
Google Merchandise GA4 store demo account
This demo account will give you access to the GA data of this web shop.
In the account, you can investigate the ecommerce purchases report.
There are many other things you can explore. Don’t waste your time trying to understand everything by yourself. With these articles from our blog, things will become more clear:
- The User Lifetime Exploration Report
- The Monetization Report
- The power of Predictive metrics
- You can use the exploration templates and create your own explorations in the demo account.
- Also, have a look at the funnel reports
- Spend some time in the advertising workspace
- And also have a look at audiences
Google Merchandise UA store demo account
This is the older demo account for the same Google Merchandise web store. I recommend you don’t spend much time on it, unless you are migrating from UA to GA4.
Since views don’t exist in GA4, you will see these only in this GA demo account. There are 3: Master, Test and Raw data.
Google Merchandise Store: Attribution project demo
This demo account is connected to the UA demo account.
Again, I don’t recommend spending much time here, unless you are still using UA. But even then, you can prepare for the future and spend some time reading our introduction to attribution in GA4.
The GA4 Flood-IT! demo account
The GA4 Flood-IT demo account contains data from a Google website and a game app.
It’s bizarre that the app is only available on iOS and no longer on the Google Play Store. And yet, there is a data stream that says it exists and that it’s receiving data.
Anyway, data is better than no data.
In this demo account you can train useful GA skills.
- A better understanding of the engagement rate metrics in GA4
- Make sure you look at the event report. You can, for instance, see which level players have reached.
- And just like any site, apps also need to acquire visitors
There is much more to explore in the demo accounts. But let’s move forward and see how you can enter this training tool.
How to access the Google Analytics demo account?
You can access the GA demo accounts in 3 simple steps.
Log in to your Google Analytics account.
Click on a link of one of the following accounts
Access the demo accounts
In your GA account, you can switch your properties with the account selector.
Then, you can select the demo account of your choice.
Although the GA demo accounts are an excellent laboratory to learn how to work with reports, explorations, etc., they are also limited.
The next options give you more freedom.
#3 Development environment
If the company or organization you are working with – or for – has a development site, you can install Google Analytics on it.
- You can install a separate GA4 account and eliminate any risks for your live site.
- The environment is ideal to debug GA4 before implementing changes in the GA account of the live website.
- You will have fewer visitors – and with them data – than for a production site. Nobody is, for instance, going to run paid campaigns or link back to development environments.
- You will need to repeat the successful changes you make in your GA development account in the account of the live site. However, if you use Google Tag Manager, you can also add a development site to configure, e.g. content grouping and publish them later on your live environment.
#4 Access somebody else’s GA account
You can ask website owners if they want to share access to their GA account. If you are a marketing student there will be for sure a business owner in your personal network, or even better: your street.
Another group that will welcome you are charities and non-profit organizations.
Tell them about the exciting world of data and ask them if you can have a look at their GA account to see if you can reveal opportunities.
Chances are that they will be happy you want to dive into their account.
Many businesses don’t have the resources to do it.
And it is a win-win situation. You can offer to do it for free. In return, you get access to a real GA account you can use as a learning environment.
- Real sites, even small ones, have real data in GA.
- You can build a list of references and monetize your skills later on.
- If you get the hang of it, you can boost your GA expertise and become a GA4 power user. And maybe one day, you too will share your best GA practices with the world.
- Smaller businesses will easily give you full control of their GA account.
- A side-effect is that you will closely work with different kinds of people operating in different industries. If you develop soft skills, you are a step ahead of many data-driven marketers.
- You will most likely only have access to accounts of smaller businesses and not the ones that pay high-ticket prices for GA services. The more complicated websites are set up, the more chances you have to grow into an expert who can make a decent living from GA.
#5 Practice in the GA accounts of your customers
If you are a web designer or run a web or marketing agency, you will have customers who are already using GA. Since they already know you, it is easier to offer them GA services.
And the demand for GA4 experts is rising.
- You don’t need to be a GA4 expert from the beginning. It is likely that even from the moment you start with GA4 yourself, you will already know more about the platform than your customers.
- You can learn fast by following Standard Operating Procedures. Our team has created a whole set. All you need to do is follow the steps.
- The more accounts you can practice with, the faster you will learn.
- While practicing, you can earn money. How cool is that?
- No matter how small the sites are, data of live sites is not something to mess up.
That’s all, folks.
Or is it?
You have one more option, but I will break the promise I made at the beginning of this article…
Bonus: become a site owner yourself
The moment you own a site, you can practice GA as much as you want. This doesn’t mean that you have to build a site, though.
You can buy sites of all shapes and sizes on platforms and marketplaces. From blogs to ecommerce sites. From apps to affiliate sites.
Depending on your goals and budget, you may find an interesting opportunity to practice your GA skills in no time.
- As a website owner, you have control over your site and your GA account. For instance, nobody will tell you there is no budget or point to track clicks in GA.
- If you have practical experience with your own site, you will better understand the metrics of GA reports. Let’s take, for example, the report that shows you where website traffic is coming from. Although the concept is not hard to understand, the moment you try to drive traffic to your own site, you will realize what it takes to achieve this. This knowledge will make you a data-driven marketer with a profound background.
- You won’t have much data in your account if you create your own site from scratch. It will take you a while before you get visitors.
- If your primary goal is to practice GA, maintaining a website will slow you down.
- Creating, or buying an app or ecommerce site is an investment. Unless you plan to turn it into a business, or side hustle, it will be too expensive to only train your GA skills.
Conclusion: Is practicing GA possible without your own site?
You can pass the GA certification exam without ever having spent time in Google Analytics itself. But if you are serious about developing your data-driven skills, you will need hands-on experience.
The only requirement is that you need to create your own free GA account. Luckily, you don’t need to own a website.
There is only one option that the website doesn’t even have to exist, but this will be an empty GA property. Even when you import data into it, it will be pretty basic.
A better option is to get access to a GA account of sites that are online.
The GA demo accounts are filled with data from an ecommerce site and an app. But they also have limited access rights.
If you want to get full control of both your site and GA, the best option is to create, or buy a site.
I sincerely hope that one of the above solutions will set you on your ideal path to practice your Google Analytics skills. If this article was useful for you, you will find even more joy from our newsletter. It is filled with practical tips and advice to give data-driven marketers like you a head start.