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Referral Exclusions Question

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I manage a fairly large domain for a university, that has hundreds of subdomain properties and accounts under it.

 

We'd like to be able to better track referral traffic from within the organization (outside referral tracking works fine). Here's the rub, as they say. Google Analytics by default creates a referral exclusion for every GA property that reflects the organization's main domain address >> we'll call it "college.edu."

 

ASSUMING I UNDERSTAND IT CORRECTLY - If the referral exclusion is set to "college.edu," then it will filter out all data showing referral traffic between the colleges' various subdomains .  Example: referrals from abc.college.edu  to  xyz.college.edu OR to gadzukes.college.edu, would not show up in the GA aquisition>>referral data.

 

Question: Am I correct in thinking that the referral exclusion should be reset for each GA "subdomain  property"? Example: Should the GA property for abc.college.edu have its referral exclusion set to abc.college.edu.  AND the GA default setting for "college.edu" deleted? 

 

Thank you in advance for your insights. 

Re: Referral Exclusions Question

[ Edited ]
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 2
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭

Hi Robert,

 

This is how it works:

 

1. If you haven't set the cookieDomain, GA uses the full domain shown in the hostname of the URL, except it ignores a www. prefix, if any. If your subdomains of your main domain should be treated separately, this is the desired option.

 

ga('create', 'UA-XXXXX-Y');

 

2. If you've set cookieDomain: auto, GA uses the highest-level domain possible from the hostname of the URL. This is suggested code when first installing GA. If subdomains of you main domain (college.edu) should be treated together, this is the desired option.

 

ga('create', 'UA-XXXXX-Y', 'auto');

 

3. If you have used the manual configuration, GA uses the domain you specify. The domain must be an ancestor of the domain in the hostname of the URL.

 

ga('create', 'UA-XXXXX-Y', 'xyz.college.edu');

and

ga('create', 'UA-XXXXX-Y', {'cookieDomain': 'xyz.college.edu'});

 

Both are equivalent.

 

Here's the table that I created for you:

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 00.08.37.png

If you want to treat subdomains as separate sites, you would want to specify the domains manually with separate cookies for each.

 

Keep in mind: If you're using different UA-properties for each domain, they will share nothing (not even cookies), and you can’t pass any GA data from one subdomain to another. Then just add your subdomain "xyz.college.edu" to your referral exclusion list in the "xyz.college.edu" property and everything should be fine. You'll not see any self-referrals and your main domain "college.edu" will not be excluded.

 

Referral Exclusions should pattern match domains so that college.edu is actually .*college.edu and xyz.college.edu is actually .*xyz.college.edu. Basically, if you add xyz.college.edu to your referral exclusion list it should match:

1) xyz.college.edu

2) abc.xyz.college.edu

 

but will not match:

1) abc.college.edu

2) college.edu

 

Recommend you reading this amazing article written by Simo Ahava as well: http://www.simoahava.com/analytics/cross-domain-tracking-across-subdomains/

 

Hope this helps. Let us know, how it goes.

Taavi

Re: Referral Exclusions Question

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 3
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Taavi Kalvi - Thank you for the detailed answer! I'll try diving into the Cookie Domains and get back to you if I stuck, which if fully anticipate. LOL. Cookie Domains never entered my mind. Thank you.

Re: Referral Exclusions Question

[ Edited ]
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 4
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭

Hi Robert,

I just updated my last post to make it more understandable. I read through your question once again and noticed that you mentioned: "that has hundreds of subdomain properties and accounts under it". If you're using different properties (tracking codes) in order to track each subdomain separately, you can just use 'auto' parameter and everything should be fine.

Hope this helps.
Taavi

Re: Referral Exclusions Question

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 5
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Taavi:

Thanks for the updated answer. You are correct. We are using separate UA-XXX tracking codes for each subdomain property. And, we're setting the referral exclusion to reflect each site's subdomain, xyz.college.edu. So, given your followup note above, it sounds like we should use the "auto" setting for the cookie domain and we'll be good.

Re: Referral Exclusions Question

Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 6
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
Yes. Just add a subdomain to your referral exclusion list, not the top-level domain. Then GA will not create a referral exclusion for every GA property that reflects the organization's main domain.

Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.
Taavi

Re: Referral Exclusions Question

[ Edited ]
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 7
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Taavi - Thank you for your time and insights. That's encouraging news.

 

My only concern/question is, will changing a site's GA property 'referral exclusion' to that site's subdomain (xyz.college.edu) usher in duplicate referral or visitor/sessions data within GA? I'd like to think not, but I'm not certain.

BTW: We also are expanding our use of Google Tag Manager, so I'm not sure if that changed 'referral exclusion' would impact GTM.

Re: Referral Exclusions Question

Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 8
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
Hi Robert,

No, it will not.

Regarding GTM, if you want to keep the same implementation (track every subdomain separately using different UA tracking code), just add a single GTM code to every subdomain page and create specific Google Analytics pageview tags for every subdomain. It will not have an impact on referral exclusions.

Hope this helps.
Taavi