Google Whisperer’s Guide to “Not Set” in Google Analytics

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Google Whisperer’s Guide to “Not Set” in Google Analytics

Not Set. It is one of the most common errors to see in Google Analytics report. This is also one of the most common questions I get when troubleshooting with dealers. At a high level, this error means that something in the data flowing into Google Analytics wasn’t configured properly. While this is great information to have, the struggle in diagnosing the error is that it shows up in multiple Google Analytics reports for multiple reasons. This week’s Google Whisperer’s Guide is a tour through the most common “not set” errors in Google Analytics so you can understand why it happens and how to fix the issue. We are going to dive a bit into the weeds here, so buckle up. But I promise that once you understand the source of the errors, it will become easier to get better data from your reports.

location not set in GA example

Not Set in Location Report

A common place to see the “not set” report is in the Locations report. It seems odd that traffic to your website wouldn’t have a location set to it, but it can happen. Google Analytics defines the location of a website user based off of the IP address of the device they are using. If Google is unable to define a location, it will show as “not set” in this report. Studies have seen that up to 5% of traffic could have a “not set” location and that’s okay. The one time this could become an issue is if you have a lot of “not set” traffic for a certain channel. For example, if half of your paid search traffic had a location of “not set” it’s time to talk to your paid search vendor to make sure they have everything set up properly.

google ads not set

Not Set in Paid or Organic Keywords

One of the great benefits of Google Analytics is the ability to connect Google Ads and Google Search Console to Google Analytics. Those three tools combined create a strong foundation for understanding how different channels drive people to your website. But two parts of the acquisition section of Google Analytics can cause errors. If there’s a Google Ads account driving traffic to your website, the keywords from that account will show as “not set.” For organic keywords, you’ll see both “not provided” and “not set”. “Not provided” are all the keywords Google took from SEO years ago, but “not set” means that something is wrong with how Search Console is connected to Google Analytics and it’s time to check it out.

not set campaign

Not Set in Source/Medium/Campaign

One of the key things you need to ensure clean data flowing into Google Analytics is the proper use of UTM tagging. UTM tags are guidelines you can place within any click URL to designate specific campaigns, source, and medium of traffic. When those are not used, you will see the “not set” in that part of the report in Google Analytics. If you see this within a paid search report, go talk to whomever is doing your paid search advertising and confirm they are using the correct UTM tags. For organic search, one place you can use UTM tags is within Google My Business. You should be using different UTM tags for each link in a Google My Business listing. That way, you can start to differentiate your reporting between GMB organic and standard organic.

Not Set in Landing Page report

While not as common as the other reports, seeing “not set” in the landing report page does happen. There’s three major reasons you would see that. The first is an expired session. By default, the session time in Google Analytics is 30 minutes. If someone has the tab open and comes back to site, the interactions could show as a “not set”. The second major reason you might see this is if you have a filter incorrectly filtering out pages or events from the view you are working in. The final reason you may see “not set” is because of a code issue on your site or in your GTM. If your initial page view isn’t the first thing to fire at page load, you could be getting events without a page.

Are you still with me? I know that was a lot of information, but I hope this guide helps you troubleshoot the next time “not set” shows up in one of your Google Analytics reports.  This is also a guide you should add to your bookmarks. That way, you don’t have to remember all the information, you just need to have it handy when it matters. The cleaner your data is, the more decisions you can make from it. And don’t worry. If I lost you at “not set”, reach out and I am happy to help anytime!


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