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Subdomain Tracking for Higher Education Websites- Universal Analytics

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One of the most common issues we see with Higher Education websites is incomplete tracking across all subdomains. Because colleges and universities often have different departments or interest groups run by different decision-makers, it is incredibly common to see multiple subdomains created to cater to these individual topics; think: athletics.myuniversity.edu, or admissions.myuniversity.edu. More often than not, we find Google Analytics implementations on these subdomains is incomplete, incorrect, or missing altogether. Here’s some information on how you should be tracking your Higher Education website across all subdomains.

If a visitor to your website clicks from one subdomain to another, you want to be tracking that visit as a single session in Google Analytics. There are two main steps you need to take to accomplish this…

  1. Set the Cookie Domain
  2. Create a Referral Exclusion

Setting the Cookie Domain

Universal Analytics uses a single cookie to identify the user with a unique client ID. By setting the Cookie Domain to ‘auto’, this instructs the tracker to make the cookie available to all subdomains.

Using the recommended JavaScript tracking snippet from Google does this for you.

<!– Google Analytics –> <script> (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’);

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXX-Y’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’); </script> <!– End Google Analytics –>

This must be explicitly set in Tag Manager:

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Creating a Referral Exclusion

The second step in properly tracking your subdomains is to update your referral exclusion list in Google Analytics. To do this:

-          Navigate to the Admin Panel

-          Add your root domain (myuniversity.edu) to the referral exclusion list.

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By default, a referral automatically triggers a new session. When you exclude a referral source, traffic that arrives to your site from the excluded domain doesn’t trigger a new session. By adding the root domain to this list, you are ensuring that as users move from one subdomain to another, session continuity is maintained.

By following these simple steps you will be able to completely track your website- subdomains included. All of your website data will be housed under a single UA-ID and a single Google Analytics property. It is important to note that these changes are not retroactive, so historical data will be incorrect until proper tracking is implemented.

Questions? Contact us today for help properly setting up your website’s Google Analytics configuration.