How does it work with Campaign Timeout in Google Analytics nowadays?

The other day we discussed Campaign Timeout in Google Analytics. In order to find out the correct answer we turned to Google and the first result led to a site where they stated that the campaign is prolonged each time a user comes to your site (if the traffic source is not changed. If you want to refresh your memory regarding traffic sources or attribution modelling in Google Analytics). Hmmm, that was not what I expected and remembered. I had to check it out by doing a test. Oh, the joy when I realized my memory did not fool me.

The short version:

If a user returns to your site by typing in the URL (hence direct traffic), the campaign is not prolonged (in the way that it did with ga.js).

The slightly longer version:

When Universal Analytics was rolled out in 2014, there was a change in how campaign timeout worked. This deals with for how long a traffic source is attributed even if the visitor comes as direct traffic. In the former, Classic Analytics (ga.js), the timeout was extended each time a visitor came to the site. This meant that a campaign or source of traffic could theoretically live forever.

Universal Analytics, hence now

Session timeout: 30 min

Campaign timeout: 6 months (default setting in Google Analytics)

1 sep 2018: Visit outfox.com through campaign-tagged traffic source. Campaign timeout should now be 6 months ahead, March 1, 2019. Reported in Google Analytics as campaign traffic.

1 Nov 2018: Direct visit to outfox.com. Reported in Google Analytics as campaign traffic.

April 1, 2019: Direct visit to outfox.com. Reported in Google Analytics as direct traffic.

 

Classic Analytics, before 2014

Example from how it used to be, in the not to smart way:

Session timeout: 30 min

Campaign timeout: 6 months (default setting in Google Analytics)

1 Sep 2018: Visit to Outfox.com through a campaign-tagged traffic source. Reported in Google Analytics as campaign traffic. Campaign timeout should now be 6 months ahead, March 1, 2019.

1 Nov 2018: Direct visit to Outfox.com. Reported in Google Analytics as campaign traffic. Campaign timeout moves forward 6 months ahead, May 1, 2019.

April 1, 2019: Direct visit to outfox.com. Reported in Google Analytics as campaign traffic. Campaign timeout moves forward 6 months ahead, Oct. 1, 2019.

And so, this could go on forever and ever (or as long as the visitor does not change traffic source, but continues to enter the site directly.)

This was a bit of a mess. So since 2014, it is more as you would expect.

So, if you read a blog post saying that the traffic source extends all the time (if the traffic source is not changed), you can dismiss it. So, that was Classic Analytics. Not now.

Then you can always discuss if six months is the ultimate length for how long you should give cred to a campaign, but we’ll take that in another blog post! If you want help with your campaign tagging you can use the GA Campaign URL addon. You can always contact Outfox if you would need assistance in your campaign management/analysis!