What is “not set” in Google Analytics SEM Reports?
Occasionally you will see the dimension (not set) appear in your Google Analytics (GA) report. Why does this appear in the report and what does it mean?
The value (not set) is essentially a placeholder for pieces of information that Google Analytics records but cannot match to a dimension value. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- A redirect in the destination URL used for the ad
- Manually tagged URLs are missing parameters
- Untagged landing pages
- Google Display Network traffic
In this blog we’ll go into further details on each of these causes in relation to your Google Ads and Google Analytics data.
This value can be caused by a simple redirect from one page to another and tracking parameters are not passed along with this redirect. Often times when a web page is obsolete a redirect is put into place so that site visitors who came across the obsolete page will instead be redirected to a live page on the site. There are various reasons why a web page would be obsolete, either because a product is discontinued and the product page is no longer relevant or a site is restructured and new pages are created in place of old pages. As a result, tracking parameters may be lost during the site redirect.
We recommend checking your destination URLs to see if any of the pages are redirecting to a different landing page, and whether or not your tracking parameters are being passed in this redirect. There are various free tools online that help you determine whether a URL has a redirect in place, such as Redirect Detective and Redirect Checker.
If you have not enabled auto-tagging in your Google Ads or Bing Ads accounts, you are most likely manually tagging your final URLs with tracking parameters or not adding parameters at all. Your tags may be missing necessary parameters for Google Analytics to track information on your SEM traffic. Google As a result, GA will assign a campaign, keyword or other value of (not set) to the missing data.
We recommend checking your manually-tagged URLs to ensure it has all necessary parameters that you want to track and record. Even better, start utilizing auto-tagging so that you don’t have to manually append the necessary parameters to your final URLs in Google Ads. You can use Google’s auto-tagging feature for Google to automatically add tracking parameters to your URLs. This is found in the Google Ads interface under All Campaigns > Settings:
If you are still manually tagging, below is an example of all the parameters you should have tagged to your URLs in Google Ads:
Certain pages on your site may be missing the Google Analytics pixel. As a result, GA loses data on users that click to these pages. You can use Google’s Tag Assistant to check your site landing pages for the tags they contain and if the pages are missing the Google Analytics tag.
Traffic coming through the Google Display Network are not often associated with search queries and keywords. If you are pulling a search keyword or query report from Google Analytics, data for GDN traffic may often times appear as (not set).
In any Google Analytics report there is a “natural” level of data that will come in under the dimension (not set). This is usually a very small portion of your traffic (less than 1%) and can be attributed to click information being lost even if auto-tagging is enabled. This can be due for various reasons, mostly technical (e.g. the tag not firing properly, tags not loading, browsers blocking 3rd party cookies, etc.). No tracking system is perfect.
To minimize the occurrence of (not set) in your Google Analytics data, run a check on each of the possible causes that we’ve discussed, including checking on manually-added tracking parameters, checking for site URL redirects and utilizing the Google Ads auto-tagging feature.