Everything you need to know about Unassigned Traffic in GA4: Never Ask Again

Note: Empower yourself and others by sharing this insightful article on LinkedIn or social media. Let’s build a well-informed community together. Need help? Reach out anytime. 

Introduction

What is unassigned Traffic in GA4?

In GA4, traffic that fails to be linked to a specific traffic source or medium within the default channel grouping is labelled as “Unassigned.” This scenario typically occurs when users arrive through links lacking UTM parameters or when the UTM parameters used do not correlate with an established channel group. Specifically, if the essential utm_source or utm_medium parameters are not accurately matched to predefined values, such traffic gets categorised under the “Unassigned” channel, indicating an ambiguity in the source or medium of the traffic.

Unassigned Traffic usually means that the website traffic is not attributed to any of the following default channel groups – 

 

1) Direct

2) Organic Search

3) Organic Shopping

4) Organic Video

5) Display

6) Cross Network

7) Audio

8) Affiliates

9) Paid Search

10) Paid Social

11) Paid Shopping

12) Paid Video

13) Paid Other

14) Referral

15) SMS

16) Email

17) Mobile Push Notifications


Why am I seeing Unassigned in my GA4 reports?

 

1) Missing or Incomplete UTM Parameters

 

Traffic sources may not be accurately identified if the incoming links lack UTM parameters. UTMs are crucial for specifying the source, medium, and campaign, enabling GA4 to attribute traffic correctly. Ensure all marketing links are tagged with comprehensive UTM parameters for clarity in traffic origin.

 

For instance, incorrect UTM parameters may have been used for tagging referral campaigns. Instead of applying the standard utm_medium=referral, some might use abbreviations or variations like utm_medium=ref or  utm_medium=reff, or any other incorrect abbreviation. These unconventional terms are not standardised within GA4’s tracking logic, leading to traffic being improperly categorised as unassigned.

 

To ensure that traffic from social media campaigns is accurately tracked and assigned to the “Referral” default channel group in GA4, it’s essential to use recognized utm_medium values such as “referral”. 

An example of a URL with incorrect UTM parameters.

 

2) Incorrect Measurement Protocol Implementation

 

The Measurement Protocol serves as a method to funnel data into GA4 directly from servers, such as those hosting CRM systems. Its primary function is to augment existing data collected from website interactions, rather than to start new sessions or identify new users/visitors.

 

Should a visitor initiate a session on your website, additional server-side events can be appended to this session using the Measurement Protocol, even for actions up to 72 hours prior.

 

For real-time integration, when developers push data via MP linked to an active website session, it’s crucial to include both the client_id and session_id parameters to ensure continuity. 

 

Incorrect or missing client_id and session_id can significantly impact traffic attribution in GA4, leading to “unassigned” traffic. The client_id is essential for associating events with a particular user session. Without it, or if it’s incorrect or fails to match the user’s current session in GA4, the events transmitted via the Measurement Plan might not be accurately linked to the active session. Similarly, the session_id is crucial for session continuity. Errors or omissions in session_id can disconnect events from the user’s session, preventing GA4 from correctly mapping these events to the user’s journey.

 

3) Impact of Ad Blockers and Privacy Tools

 

Ad blockers and privacy tools can limit the ability of websites to set and read cookies and prevent the execution of analytics tracking scripts, such as those used by GA4. When these scripts are blocked, the visits and actions of users employing these tools are not recorded, potentially resulting in an increase in “unassigned” traffic in GA4 reports, as the source of these visits cannot be identified.

 

Modern browsers increasingly incorporate features aimed at protecting user privacy, such as blocking third-party cookies by default or implementing Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) mechanisms. These features can have similar effects to dedicated ad blockers and privacy tools, making it challenging for analytics platforms to track user behavior accurately across sessions and sources.

 

4) Issues in Cross-domain tracking

 

When a user navigates from one domain to another within the same session, and cross-domain tracking isn’t correctly set up, GA4 may treat the activity on the second domain as a new, unrelated session. Since GA4 can’t link the traffic back to its source, it defaults to “unassigned.”

Without cross-domain tracking, the original traffic source (e.g., a campaign, referral, or organic search that led the user to the first domain) is lost when the user reaches the second domain, resulting in unassigned traffic in reports.

 

5) Unwanted referrals exclusions not configured

 

Typically, when a user navigates from one domain to another and then returns to the original site, GA4 treats this as a new session, attributing the source of this new session to the domain the user last visited. Without referral exclusions, traffic from your own domains or third-party payment gateways could be mistakenly counted as a new session with an external referral source.

 

If these domains are not added to the referral exclusion list, GA might attribute these internal navigations to new referral traffic. When the source cannot be determined due to the referral being excluded incorrectly, it may default to “unassigned.”

6) Bot Traffic

 

Automated scripts or bots mimic user behavior but don’t fully replicate human-generated data signals, contributing to unassigned traffic. Implementing bot filtering in GA4 settings can help minimize this noise.

 

Some possible fixes for Unassigned Traffic in GA4

 

1) Ensure Correct UTM Parameter Usage

 

Verify that all external links leading to your site are correctly tagged with UTM parameters. This includes checking for consistency in the use of utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_term, and utm_content parameters. Correct UTM tagging ensures that GA4 can accurately attribute traffic to the right sources and campaigns.

It is recommended to follow Google’s support document while tagging the URLs with UTM Parameters via this link.

Example of a correctly tagged URL.


2) Configure Cross-Domain Tracking

 

If your site operates across multiple domains or subdomains, ensure cross-domain tracking is correctly set up. This allows GA4 to maintain a single session as users navigate across your digital properties, preventing sessions from being incorrectly marked as “unassigned.”



3) Update Referral Exclusion List

 

Review and update your referral exclusion list in GA4 to include any internal domains or third-party platforms (like payment processors) that should not initiate a new session. Properly configuring referral exclusions helps maintain accurate session and source attribution.

 

4) Utilizing Automatic Tagging for Enhanced Accuracy

 

Manual tagging can be problematic on some ad platforms, but by connecting Google Ads with your GA4 property, you can enable automatic tagging. This function automatically corrects any potential errors in manually entered UTM parameters, substituting them with accurate, system-generated tags. This seamless integration not only simplifies the tracking process but also significantly reduces the risk of data inaccuracies due to manual entry errors, ensuring more reliable and precise performance analytics.

Conclusion

 

In wrapping up, tackling “Unassigned” traffic in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) hinges on a deep dive into traffic source attribution and the intricacies that lead to mislabeling. Addressing core issues, from incorrect UTM tagging and Measurement Protocol inaccuracies to ad blockers and flawed cross-domain tracking, can dramatically improve traffic data precision. By fine-tuning these areas, along with leveraging automatic tagging for Google Ads, marketers can sharpen their insights into traffic origins. This effort not only refines analytics but also bolsters strategy with accurate, actionable data. Ultimately, mastering these challenges means transforming “Unassigned” traffic from a perplexing obstacle into a well-understood aspect of your digital analytics arsenal, setting the stage for more effective and targeted marketing initiatives.

FAQs

 

  • What does “Unassigned” traffic mean in GA4?
    “Unassigned” traffic refers to visitors that GA4 cannot link to a specific source or medium due to missing or incorrectly matched UTM parameters or issues with traffic source attribution.

  • What impact do ad blockers and privacy tools have on GA4 tracking?

    They can block cookies and analytics scripts, preventing GA4 from recording visits and actions, leading to an increase in “Unassigned” traffic since the source of these visits cannot be identified.

  • How does incorrect UTM tagging lead to “Unassigned” traffic?

    If UTM parameters do not match predefined values in GA4 or are missing, the traffic cannot be accurately attributed to a specific source or medium, thus being labelled as “Unassigned”.

About Author

Aditya is a Web analytics professional with experience in the Overall journey of a digital business from frontend development to creating digital marketing campaigns and implementing complex tracking on the website through GTM including server side mechanisms. He has a vast expertise with the analytics tools such as GTM and GA4 and thus is able to give insights about what all is happening in the user journey. He has conducted many CRO and Analytics Audits, extracting actionable insights from large data sets and thus providing strategic recommendations for improving conversions and user experience.

Share This Article:
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email
Table of content

Related Stories

Unlock the potential of your data with GA4's Data Layer Push, empowering seamless integration of custom...
Channel Groups in GA4: Never Ask Again" empowers marketers with precise insights by categorizing traffic sources....
In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), duplicate transactions can occur when multiple identical transaction events are recorded...
"Discover the keys to effortless integration: Our comprehensive guide walks you through every step of importing...