You Ask, I Answer: Google Analytics Campaign Timeouts and Lookback Windows

Mike asks, “In Google Analytics, is lookback window the same as conversion window?”

Good question – at first they can seem similar, but they’re different features. The conversion window’s proper name is campaign timeout, and it’s the length of time someone can be attributed to a campaign, without subsequent activity, before they’re dropped out. This is in reference to the utm_campaign tracking code. Lookback window is just how far back to look in conversion analysis for more complex attribution models like time decay. Watch the video for a walkthrough.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode Mike asks is in Google Analytics is look back window the same as conversion window? So this is a good question.

It’s the first two can seem similar, but they’re they’re very different features a conversion window.

In this case, the proper name is campaign timeout.

And it’s basically the amount of time that somebody can be enrolled in a campaign, which you did to them by tagging a link they clicked on with the UTM campaign tracking code.

And subsequent actions within that campaign before they stop.

So everything within Google Analytics operates kind of on like a timeline.

You do something and then some time goes by and you do something again, and it’s almost like a clock resets and says, Hey, you just didn’t a new thing.

I’m going to say that you’re you’re back in the game, right? And then you some more time goes by, and then that person doesn’t do anything.

Then, whatever that window is you set Google Analytics will say, Well, you know, that was the last time you did something, and it’s a long time has passed.

So the next time you come back, if it’s outside the window, you set me saying, I’m gonna put you in a new campaign, or I’m going to treat you as though you’re in.

Maybe a similar the same name campaign, but you are essentially a separate person at that point, because you’ve gone outside that window.

This is important for attribution analysis.

Because if your campaign windows are too short, then essentially, every time that person comes back outside of that window, they’re treated as a new person.

And that’s not something that you want to have happen.

You want to know that that’s the same person as much as possible.

And so there’s two schools of thought this one is is making campaign windows long as possible which there is some sense to that.

But if you have a product or service which has repeat buyers, things and you want to know and that Windows, US super short window, you may want to know that yes, this person came back and really should be treated as a new person for the purposes of understanding things like upsells and stuff like that.

Another school of thought is, you know, keep the the window as short as a sales cycle, which can be risky because again, if you want to treat that person as a new person, who do you want to know, it was the same person the whole time.

So let’s look in Google Analytics where this is stored.

I’m going to bring this up here.

In Google Analytics, that campaign timeout, if you go to your settings in the lower left hand corner, go to tracking info, and then you go to session settings and this is where campaign time at a store and you can see it’s got a maximum 24 months out of the box, it comes with a six month campaign window are the general recommendation here is if I would say if it’s your campaigns are less than six months, then keep it at this.

If it’s more than the six months, then it should be ideally double what you’re asking.

average sales cycle is so if your average sales cycle is nine months, make it 18 months Why? Because you won’t be able to catch those people who are anomalies who sit outside that window and know that they’re essentially are this still the same person if you have a sale that occurs yearly, you definitely want to have this beat maybe even be that 24 months to see is that person the same person over and over again? Right.

So you have to do some analytics.

Now look back window is something different look back window.

If we go into multi channel funnels here into assisted conversions, you will see the the look back here.

Look back window is how Google uses time to do the attribution analysis itself in this window and it’s it always resets itself to 30 days.

Look back window is how long of a time Google should take into account data for more complex attribution models.

Generally speaking, most people use Google Analytics with the default, which is last touch with and look back window doesn’t really matter for that.

It’s also a bad attribution model.

Look back window is more helpful for more complex models like time decay, where essentially, there’s HalfLife windows every seven days that Google assigns decline and credit to conversions that are two touches that happened earlier in the past saying, hey, yeah, you open email, but you open the email 80 days ago.

So the credit x is very little compared to that Facebook ad that you just clicked on two days ago that you get more credit, and the conversion because it’s more recent, your look back window, essentially tells Google take into account however little or much information we have here in order to from from a time perspective in order to get a more nuanced view of how much how far back should we be looking to to give conversion credit to different channels.

So if you’ll see I have another 11 assists conversions 60 last touch conversions here.

If I set this look back window, crank it all the way to 90 days.

I didn’t really change anything.

Let’s do this year 113 one fifth one there and let’s see if there’s a substantial difference here.

You can see the assistant conversion value went down a little bit when I shorten that window because essentially we’re saying when you get when you shorten that window give credit only up to how far back to look.

So stuff that happened previously suddenly starts to lose credit because they happened so long ago, it’s outside this window.

So instead, generally speaking, for most companies, most of the time, there isn’t a harm in keeping that window at 90 days just to be able to see what as far back as you can go deserves some credit when you’re looking at these assistive versions, what deserves a little bit of credit and attribution for those conversions.

So that’s the way how to use this look back when but this is especially important for e commerce, because e commerce has actual dollar amounts built in.

But it also does use the dollar amount set when you set your goals and goal values.

So those are the two timeouts and Windows within Google Analytics that are important.

And they’re both very different and application.

It’s important to know what to use and where in order to get great answers.

Remember the wit especially when it comes to look back window, and attribution models and stuff.

The ultimate goal is not to have a fancy model, the ultimate goal is to make good decisions to say okay, what should I invest more in? What should I invest less than what’s driving better results or worse results for me? And that’s the purpose and function of this information.

So good question.

Good.

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