Common Analytics Assumptions — Whiteboard Friday

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And of course, last but not least, you probably saw this little bonus that I have down here. GA4 not set. This is a huge problem that people are seeing in GA4. They’re like, “I looked at my landing pages, and a bunch of them were not set, or I was looking at my acquisition, and a bunch of it was not set. What is going on?”

So this is how GA4 works and how it’s different from Universal Analytics. GA4 is measuring a series of events that happen on your website, a page view, a scroll, someone clicking on a call to action button if you’ve set it up to track that. If I have, say, a tab open on the website, maybe this tab you’re on right now, maybe you clicked it from, say, a newsletter, and then you decided I’m gonna watch that video later. And then you came back later, and you clicked play in the video, that page didn’t reload. There’s no more page view event. But because you clicked play on this video you’re watching right now, there’s a video play event.

The problem is that because there’s no page view, we don’t know how you landed on the website because that page view event, that session start event, goes along with that initial page view. So if you had come back to this tab, hit reload, and then hit play, we would know where you came from. But because you didn’t, you just hit play, maybe go back and reload, and then hit play, so we know where you came from; the problem is it’s gonna show up as not set.

So if you’re seeing a lot of not set in your GA4, there’s a little tiny part of it that is a bug that Google may or may not fix. But the other part of it is that people are hoarding tabs. How many tabs do you have open right now? I bet it’s more than this one. And so because of that, you’re definitely gonna see a lot of not set in your reports. The amount of not set that you see will depend on the number of people who hoard your tabs.

Hoarding tabs isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People like to read stuff later. People might be like, I’m gonna think about this product for a week and then buy it. So this can tell you how many people are doing those things. But it is something to think about when you’re doing that reporting. Should you include that not set data? Maybe report on it in a slightly different way.

So if you’re seeing not set, don’t stress about it. That’s what’s going on. You may or may not wish to include it in your analytics. I find that when you’re reporting to people who are not doing what we do, such as leadership at your company or your clients, it’s sometimes best to get rid of it ’cause it just confuses people who aren’t us. But certainly, you know, depending upon the kind of data that you’re capturing with not set, you might wanna report on it or not report on it.

And so with that, those are common analytics assumptions I find that people are making that are mostly incorrect. I hope this helped you in your analytics journey and I promise that eventually, over time, we will all love GA4 because we’re kind of stuck with it now. Thanks for watching.

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