We see it all the time, and it usually goes untreated. No, it’s a not a rash we got while swimming in the public swimming pool (gross!). It’s the NOT SET value which appears in various reports in Google Analytics. In this short post, we’ll review the signs, symptoms, and solutions for Not Set so that you don’t have to let it plague your Google Analytics account and most importantly, taint your data.
What is Not Set?
In short, Not Set is a placeholder value which is shown in Google Analytics any time that GA hasn’t received a value for a specific dimension. This placeholder value can really appear in an array of standard and custom reports so it’s completely common to come across it when auditing a Google Analytics account.
It’s most common to see the Not Set placeholder in a few reports.
- Advertising reports
- Landing page reports
- Keyword reports
What Causes Not Set in My Google Analytics Report?
There are a number of causes for Not Set, each of which is based on the specific scenario where you’re seeing this placeholder value.
Not Set in Advertising & Google Ads Reports
In Advertising and Google Ads reports/views, you may see the (not set) value in cases where your ad account account and Google Analytics account are not communicating correctly. This is commonly caused by:
- Auto-tagging not being enabled: This is very common in Google Ads as by default (at the time of writing this post), auto-tagging is NOT enabled. When auto-tagging is not enabled, Google Ads will not pass campaign, keyword, etc. value to Google Analytics.
- Redirects: We see this all the time where the ad URL is redirected to the real URL. It’s almost always done by accident or careless ad creation. In this case, the redirect causes campaign/keyword information to be dropped from the session.
- Manually UTM tags are missing parameters: If you running ads off the Google network where auto-tagging is not available (or not selected) such as Bing Ads, Facebook, etc., you’ll need to manually tag your links to include critical campaign data such as campaign name, keywords, etc. If not, NOT SET.
Not Set in Landing Page Reports
When reviewing a landing page report, not set can also appear. It’s most common in this situation that a hit was created offsite and thus, there was no landing page. How can this happen? Common scenarios that we see are:
- Call Tracking: When using call tracking solutions (as you should!), it’s possible that you have your call tracking account connected to Google Analytics. Let’s say that a user saves a tracking phone number and calls it hours after the original session. Google Analytics will not see a session but your call tracking provider might still fire an event.
- Pages with Missing GA Code: Let’s say you use a third party landing page tool and forget to add Google Analytics tracking code to it. Then, you fire an event for each form submission. In this case, Google Analytics will record the hit, but not have a landing page to associate it with.
Not Set in Keyword Reports
When looking at reports on keywords (paid search mostly), there are situations where Not Set is common. This is mostly in cases where 1) the ad account was not connected correctly (view the above paragraph related to this) or 2) there were no keywords! In #2, think of a display retargeting campaign. If you were to create a report which allows a drill-down from the dimension Campaign to the dimension Keyword, clicking on the retargeting campaign would natrually yield no data for keywords because there are no keywords involved. It’s really just a scenario of dimension mismatch.
Does Not Set Mean That Something is Wrong?
Definitely not. Particularly, when you combine dimensions in a custom report which don’t belong together. This happens a lot in custom reports as dimension combination don’t always fit. Examples of this:
- Facebook Ads: Let’s say you’re running facebook ads. You want to view the campaign and ad group of the campaign to report on. But wait, you cannot UTM the Ad Group dimension (it’s only used for Google Ads). So naturally, a report which allows drill down from the facebook campaign to “ad group” will yield not set.
- Display Ads: Anytime you combine search ad dimensions (keywords, position, etc.) with display ad dimensions (campaign, source, etc.), you’ll get not set as display ads won’t have associated keywords (typically).
In either case, you’ll see that there is no tracking issue but there is a reporting issue where incompatible dimensions are being paired.
As you can see, there are a number of scenarios where not set is seen in GA. Some, you can (and should!) fix. Others, are simply mismatches of data. We hope this helps you with understanding the logic involved here to troubleshoot these situations.
Rick Maggio brings over 15 years of tactical, hands-on experience managing digital advertising campaigns both small and large. Rick has worked in agency-land and on large in-house marketing teams and loves sharing his extensive experience with the LDA community.