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Resolving persistent self-referrals with cookie campaign timeout

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I have read numerous articles & posts on the causes & solutions of persistent self-referral issues such as cross-domain tracking, missing/incorrect tracking codes and out-of-date cookies.

In our specific case, I have confirmed that the cause of our persistent self-referrals is cookies that are still set to old referral sources (in my case old alias domains which have since been redirected). We did this by comparing the new vs returning users segments in the Referral report for the domains that should have been removed by the Referral Exclusion list. We confirmed that nearly 100% of the self-referrals are coming from returning users.


The issue seems to be that the campaign cookie timeout is set to 6 months in GA admin, together with the fact that returning users are accessing our site either directly or via bookmarks, and thereby still referencing these out of date cookies in their browsers.


Some solutions that have been mentioned include:

1. Users must delete old cookies

2. We need to wait for the cookies to expire by user inactivity over a 6 month period (otherwise cookies get reset back to 6 months every time they are used).

3. Users must visit our site via a search engine or via a new traffic source.

4. Reduce the cookie campaign timeout in GA admin to fast track the replacement of the old cookies with the new cookies.

For us, option 4 seems to be the most time effective and the one we are thinking to pursue.



1. What are the downside's of implementing option 4? One is that we loose out on conversion data as returning users are converted to new users.
2. What is the most effective way of implementing option 4 if the majority of our users return within a 7 day period? Would it be to reduce the cookie campaign timeout to, for example, 7 days over a period of at least 7 days?

Thanks in advance,




1 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Resolving persistent self-referrals with cookie campaign timeout

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor
Hi Duncan :_)

I cant answer your 2nd question however there is a really indepth and good article on one of the Cert. Partner sites in
regards to your first question:
Bronwyn Vourtis, Google Analytics Top Contributor
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Re: Resolving persistent self-referrals with cookie campaign timeout

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 3
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Thanks for taking the time-out to reply Bronwyn - that certainly helps with the first question!