Other, not set and similar values in Google Analytics

google-analytics-explained_and-similar-valuesHave you ever found the (other), (not set) or similar entries in your Google Analytics Reports? Probably yes. Perhaps you have thought that something is wrong with your Google Analytics tracking code, your filters or considered the idea of Google Analytics software having bugs… why not? Or maybe, like most of us, you just don’t have a clue about these keywords existence.

Well, if you identify yourself in any of the previous assumptions, this article is perfect for you! You will have a quick overview and understanding about what the (other), (not set) and similar values means in your Google Analytics Reports and how to solve them. So, let’s begin…

What does the (other) mean in your reports?

According to Google Analytics Help page, each report dimension (for example, Page, Screen Resolution, Browser etc.) has a number of values that can be assigned to it. The total number of unique values for a dimension is known as its cardinality. For instance, the Mobile dimension has two potential values (Yes or No), so the cardinality for that dimension is two. Other dimensions can have any number of values assigned. For example, the Page dimension has a different value for every URL that appears on your site.

Dimensions with a large number of possible values are known as high-cardinality dimensions. Reports containing high-cardinality dimensions may be affected by Analytics system limits, resulting in the creation of the (other) entry in the report to contain the data that exceeds these limits. Please take into account that Analytics is still tracking data normally but is simply unable to display all data uniquely in your reports.

How can this exactly happen in your reports?

The Google Analytics system limits that may cause the (other) entry to appear in your reports are the following:

  1. Data limits for daily processed tables (processed tables allow commonly requested reports to be loaded quickly and without sampling).

This processed tables stores a maximum of 50.000 rows (each row with unique dimension value combinations) in Standard Analytics and 75.000 for Google Analytics 360 per day. So, when there are more than that number of dimension value combinations for a given table, Analytics stores those remaining values in the (other) row.

  1. Data limits for multi-day processed tables

Google Analytics uses this kind of tables to further speed up reports with longer date ranges (each table contains 4 days’ worth of data). Multi-day tables are created from the corresponding daily processed tables and store a maximum of 100.000 rows for standard Analytics and 150.000 rows for Google Analytics 360. Thus, when these limits are exceeded the (other) row is created with the remaining data.

Because dimension values (like unique URLs or campaign keywords) often repeat across given days, the multi-day processed table limits typically only affect sites with a lot of unique content and/or keywords.

  1. Report query limit:

Google Analytics system limits may also affect your Queries Report. So, for any date range, Analytics returns a maximum of 1 million rows for the report. Thus, rows in excess of 1 million are assigned into the (other) row.

(Other) entry common cases:

  • All Pages report:

Typically, the (other) value is mostly displayed in the Site Content – All Pages reports. As you can see in the image bellow:

other

Solutions?

According to Google Analytics, if you are a Google Analytics 360 user, you can export the report as an Unsampled Report to retrieve up to 3 million unique rows of data. Unsampled reports are generated using raw data from the visits tables and not from processed tables.

On the other hand, if you are a Standard Analytics user, you can avoid the (other) placeholder to appear in your Page dimension by filtering out any dynamic session/customer ID variables in the “Query parameter” settings. You can exclude query parameters from your reports by stripping them from URLs.

  • As stated by Alex More from LunaMetrix, here is what you need to do:Take a look at your top page paths and search for duplications. Perhaps you have URLs with page paths that pass along session information, or language information, or previous page information. The end result might look something like this:

other2

  • The quick fix: Determine which URL parameters you don’t want to see in your reports. Then, go into your Admin, under View Settings, and add a comma-separated list of the query parameters you want to exclude. Your page paths will begin to consolidate (moving forward), and your daily unique total might just slip under  50.000.

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  • Also, if you have a site search, you should also exclude those search query parameters from your page path report. In your View Settings, look under Site Search Settings and mark that one little checkbox called “Strip query parameters out of URL”

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By doing this you’ll make sure that you don’t have a bunch of page paths that look like this:

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…instead, they’ll look like this:

other6All traffic > Channels Report

Another common case of the (other) entry displaying is in the Channel Grouping report. If the session can’t be classified into one of the system defined channels, it will automatically be classified into “Other Advertising,” which shows up as (Other). Channels that are not properly classified are usually: affiliates, offline campaigns (excluding email), YouTube, and the like.

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Besides, it’s easy to know what the (Other) channel contains by using source/medium as a secondary dimension.

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What does the (not set) mean in your reports?

According to Google Analytics Help page “(not set)” is a placeholder name that Analytics uses when it hasn't received any information for the dimension you have selected. The reasons for ”(not set)” appearing as a dimension value vary according to the report. Regularly, this label doesn’t tell us much in terms of analytics or decision-making and it can be displayed in multiple places throughout your data. In some places it is not a concern while in others, it is a red flag that should not be overlooked.

As said by Will Aden a Web Development and SEO Engineer at Vortex Business Solutions states in an article that “(not set)” entries can appear as several metrics. The main cause come from four major sources:

  • Visits without a keyword: If a visit doesn’t contain a keyword, then it will show up as (not set) in a Search Engine Optimization - Queries Report. Direct visits, referrals and visits from non-Google search engines will show up as (not set). So, if someone visits your site by directly typing in your URL, clicks a link to your site through an external website (like Facebook or Twitter), uses a search engine like Bing and Yahoo to get to your site, then their visits will show up as (not set). Also, even if they come from Google Images and Google Maps are classified under referrals (not set) with the source google.com.

On the other hand, if you see a (not set) row in your Paid keywords report, this is a sign that something isn’t configured correctly. You’re getting Paid Search traffic from somewhere, but you’re not getting the details about that traffic. Make sure that the correct accounts are linked to the correct view. If this is set correctly and the problem remains, then something may be wrong with your tagging (it is always recommended to use auto-tagging). When using manual tagging, make sure you’re also passing through the utm_term parameter.

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  • Google Analytics Code Error: Google has said that outdated GA code may not properly capture all the information on a page visit, thus leaving out the keyword and resulting in (not set). Incorrect implementation of the GA code could also interfere.
  • Browser Privacy Settings: Some metrics such as language, location, screen resolution, or operating system will have several (not set) entries as well. These come from the user’s browser settings. Metrics such as language or location can come up as (not set) due to privacy settings on the user’s browser. They may not want that kind of information freely available.
  • Server Error: a hiccup with Google’s servers may result in some (not set) entries. Google’s servers receive millions and millions of requests all day, every day. No matter how reliable a server is, none are expected to have 100% uptime with zero errors. However, server error seems to occur infrequently.

Server errors, browser privacy settings and visits without keywords can’t be solved. What you can do is make sure that your code is up to date, and implemented error-free.

Other (not set) entry cases:

According to Samantha Barnes a Senior Analytics Engineer at LunaMetrix in a blog post, the following are some dimensions where the (not set) may appear.

Landing Page

Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages

This report tells us which page or screen a user viewed first when they came to our site. There are three main issues that could cause the (not set) to show up:

  • Example No 1: Expired Sessions

By default, sessions expire after 30 minutes of inactivity, which is measured from the last hit that GA receives. If you have a website where someone could theoretically load a page, spend 30 minutes on that page, and then come back later and trigger an event (like a PDF download), then that new event will trigger a brand new session with a landing page of (not set).

This can often happen with websites with long-form content or embedded videos, however almost everyone will see it show up for a small portion of traffic. Think how many times you may have opened a webpage only to be distracted and come back to it later.

Solution #1: If you expect this to happen on your site due to your content, you can change your Session Timeout settings to be up to 4 hours. This should decrease the (not set) numbers.

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Solution #2: Maybe a better solution would be to implement more events to help keep the current session alive. These can be things like YouTube tracking, scroll tracking, or even a timer after a certain number of minutes. But, be careful! this change will also affect your bounce rate, time on site, and time on page, still you’ll only be moving closer to accurate!

  • Example No 2: Broken Sessions

When a user loads a webpage, any combination of hits can be sent in; pageviews, events, social actions, transactions, etc. These should all be connected so you can get a full picture of user activity on your site. However, for a variety of reasons, sometimes these hits can get separated and exist in separate sessions. If a new session is triggered by anything other than a pageview, you’ll see your Landing Page show as (not set). This is one of the more serious issues that should be addressed.

Solution: Usually this happens with a tracking issue; events and pageviews triggered from a combination of on-page JavaScript and perhaps a tool like Google Tag Manager. So, make sure your trackers are talking together to connect all of the hits of session.

  • Example No 3: Incorrect Implementation

A pageview should always be the first thing fired when a page loads. If something happens where an event fires before a pageview, or is the only thing to fire on a page, then you’ll see this issue show up.

Solution: Double-check your implementation and make sure pageviews are firing first.

Hostname

Audience > Technology > Network

This is one to definitely pay attention to! Go to the Network report and change the primary dimension to “Hostname.”

Remember that the Hostname dimension refers to the page that was loaded. Thus, you should only see Hostnames that are familiar to you and from your own site. If you see a (not set) row, it is likely from ‘ghost’ spam (a spam bot that leaves fake data in your GA reports).

Solution: Your best bet is to create an Include filter to only include traffic that is coming to your site. If there are hits that are not coming from your site, they’ll be filtered out.

Source, Medium, Campaign and Ad Content

Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium
Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns

These dimensions are associated with your acquisition reports. The Source and Medium should always be populated. Either they are automatically recorded by Google, or tagged with custom UTM parameters. If you see (not set) showing up as the source or medium, it is likely from a mis-tagged link. If (not set) shows up for campaign or ad content, it is likely because these traffic sources did not have campaign or content information.

Solution: Make sure that all tagged links are formatted and spelled correctly. The URL builder from Google is a good tool to use when creating utm parameters.

Browser and Browser Version

Audience > Technology > Browser & OS

When you visit a webpage, the page detects what is called a “user agent”. The user agent has information related to what device you are using as well as which browser and browser version. If you see (not set), it is likely accounting for a very small percentage of your traffic. Google had libraries to identify user agents so when it does not match, (not set) will show up. This could indicate crawlers and bots, especially if you see a bounce rate and new sessions percentage near 100% and an average session duration of less than a second.

Solution #1: Make sure the option to exclude hits from known bots and spiders is checked in your View Settings.

Solution #2: If you are still seeing a lot of (not set) hits showing up in your browser reports, add the secondary dimension to see which service providers they are coming from and manually exclude with view filters.

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Reverse Goal Path

Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path

The reverse goal path report shows goal completion locations as well as the previous three pages viewed. This is separate from goal funnels and will show all goals. (Not set) will always show up in this report. Why? Because it doesn’t always take three or more steps for users to complete goals (which is a good thing!). Remember, (not set) shows up when there is no data to show.

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What does the (not provided) mean in your reports?

Finally, the keyword (not provided) describes organic searches that are being hidden from your view in your Search Engine Optimization – Queries Report, to provide a measure of privacy for users.

What does this mean?

In 2011 Google switched to a secure server (https) which encrypts search results. Since then, any keywords searched organically by users who are logged into their Google Accounts (Gmail, Calendar, Apps, YouTube etc.) will show up in your Analytics reports as (not provided), in other words, content is being denied by the search giant itself. So, is normal to have this entry in your Queries report.

The keyword’s Medium will still be accurately described as ‘organic’ search, but the actual keyword text will no longer be visible to you.

Conclusions

All things considered, definitely, when analyzing reports in GA you’ll encounter few or many (other), (not set) and (not provided) entries. Sometimes many of them may harm or affect your data requiring your special attention and implementation like, making sure that your code is up to date and implemented error-free, setting campaign tagging correctly, event tracking or spam blocking. Other times they become an inherent part of the reports, such as in the reverse goal path with the (not set) keyword or the Queries Report with the (not provided) entry, that you should not be worry about.

Depending on the case, now you know how to deal them! There could be many more cases, but so far these are the most common ones.

Knowledge is power!  So, take advantage of this valuable information any time and let me know if you have some questions or comments about it. I’ll be pleased to read and answer them. Want to learn more on Google Analytics? Subscribe below.

 

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