You Can Get There From Here

Many branched sign post

There is an old saying here in Pittsburgh: you can’t get there from here, which refers to the difficulty in getting around due to all of the rivers and streams in the area. I don’t think it’s said to be discouraging, as much as it is said out of laziness — directions tend to be a bit convoluted*. However, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

In my prior work with a university, I was confronted with a technical challenge. How could they follow a prospective student’s path from their website, through an embedded third-party inquiry form, and back to the academic program landing page they started on, without losing session state? Oh, and they wanted to capture this in their usual Google Analytics dashboard. No pressure there.

Conventional wisdom dictated that this was not possible; the student would be considered a third-party referral upon return from the form submission. I wasn’t convinced.

After a bit of research, I found the solution to this issue in Google Analytics’ Referral Exclusion List. By default, Google Analytics (GA) treats third-party form submissions as a referral and creates a new session upon return to your website. This also goes for embedded forms, which are still third-party assets. However, excluding the third-party’s domain allows the session to persist, by asking GA not to trigger a new session.

Next, rather than simply displaying the default “Thank you for filling out my form” message in the embedded form, I redirected the student to a custom “thank you” page hosted on the university’s site. This provided the necessary tie back to their website for analytics purposes. Without the redirect, the student would still be considered to be on the hosted page. In addition to allowing the student’s browser session to persist, an added benefit was that this method also allowed for a more personalized user experience, with the original academic program landing page at the center.

As you can see, with a bit of creativity you can get there from here. All it takes is the willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, a penchant for thinking outside the box, and the ability to build bridges.

Where can we help you to get to?

For more information on our creative processes and services, contact info@elliance.com.

*Thank goodness for GPS!