Campaign time-out duration and how it impacts campaign reporting in Google Analytics

Campaign time-out is set to six months by default in Google Analytics.

What does this mean and how does time-out matter?

Conversion will always be attributed to the last paid source logged (e.g. social or paid search) and remains logged for 6 months, even if the last visit or last 50 visits was direct during the 6 months.

Google analytics documentation states that: “A direct-traffic visit that follows a paid-referred visit will never override an existing paid campaign. Whatever is the latest paid campaign visit is listed as the referral for the visit.” Documentation link.

I believe 6 months is too long a duration for attributing conversion to a paid source. It may be relevant if you only run a new campaign every 6 months, but will not accurately reflect the fast pace of marketing initiatives being rolled out.

Unfortunately its hard to recommend standard durations for setting campaign time-out.

These are some things to consider when trying to decide on one:

  1. What is your primary objective and measure of it’s success? Longer durations may be more applicable if it is brand recognition.
  2. How long is the consideration period? How far back should we look back for conversions?
  3. What value do you place on repeated direct visits or organic search traffic to your site? How is this traffic used in decision making?
  4. How often are new campaigns rolled out and how long do they last?
  5. Where do you think the credit should go for the most important conversions? Last interaction, first interaction or interactions along the way?

Final Thoughts

Working out the answers to the questions above will not only help in deciding on an appropriate campaign time-out duration, it can also point you towards other attribution models you should be reviewing.