How to Solve Unassigned Traffic in Google Analytics 4
Updated: May 11
If you've ever seen "Unassigned" in your Traffic Acquisition Report, then you might be wondering what it is and why you get traffic that is labeled as unassigned. Of course, it's always important to know where your traffic is coming from - so it could be a huge problem if a large majority of your traffic is not grouped under a specific channel. In this article, we will provide an explanation of how GA4 works and why this unassigned category exists, and most importantly, show you a simplified, step-by-step guide on how to solve unassigned traffic in Google Analytics 4!
Before we begin, in case you need some video guidance, here's a 10-minute tutorial from XYZ Lab's Youtube Channel!
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Example 2: Influencer
Part 1: How GA4 Labels Incoming Traffic
When traffic comes into your website (inbound traffic), Google Analytics 4 will first compile the Session Source, Session Medium, and the Source/Medium reports. What this means basically is that when traffic comes to your website, the first reports that are going to be created are the Session source/medium, the Session medium, and the Session source.
A source is the website platform or entity where the traffic is coming from. For example, if you click a link on Google, the source is going to be Google. If you click a link on your website, the source is going to be your website. If you click a link on Facebook, the source is going to be Facebook.
The medium refers to the type of traffic. For example, if you click an organic link on Google, the medium is going to be organic. If you click a hyperlink on a website, the medium is going to be a referral.
In this Google Support article, you'll find information on "Channels for manual traffic" and understand what Google Analytics 4 expects to see under Source and Medium to group inbound traffic correctly. Based on the criteria on this link, then the system groups this traffic under the dimension in your Google Analytics 4 that is called "Session Default Channel Group", which is an aggregation of the source and the medium. It is a grouping of all the traffic that the system records based on the source and the medium under certain categories.
Part 2: Why You Have Unassigned Traffic
The problem that you are facing when you have "Unassigned" traffic is that you don't apply UTM tags and you don't provide guidance to Google Analytics on how to actually group the traffic correctly.
As an example, we'll look at a real advertisement. Let's say you go on Facebook or Instagram or any other platform and you start clicking on ads. Pay close attention to the URL and you're going to see this UTM parameter. Here, you can see the UTM source equals facebook and the UTM medium equals cpc.
In another example here, you're going to see again the same parameters. The UTM source equals facebookpaid and UTM medium equals social.
These parameters basically help GA4 to label the incoming traffic as the relevant source and the medium. With these two examples here, what will happen in the Google Analytics of these specific companies is that in the first example, under the session source/medium they're going to have an entry that is going to be called facebook/cpc. For the second company, they will have an entry that is called facebook paid/social according to their UTM tags.
This is important because based on this Google Support article, Google Analytics 4 tells us here under "Channels for manual traffic" that if you use certain parameters, it will result in the tool grouping the traffic under certain categories. So the tool here tells us, for example, if the source is a social media website and the medium is any of these keywords (cp, ppc, retargeting, paid), then the traffic is going to be grouped under Paid Social.
So, the problem that you are facing is that when incoming traffic comes to your website through various sources, you are probably not using UTM tags correctly. Even if you are using them, maybe you are not following exactly the instructions on the link above, and therefore the system cannot understand where the traffic is coming from and is unable to group it correctly. Thus, you'll end up with the unassigned value under your session default channel group.
Part 3: How to Solve Unassigned Traffic in Google Analytics 4
In order to solve the unassigned traffic in Google Analytics 4, you'll have to create UTM tags. When we want to launch a campaign, we are going to use certain channels (Facebook Ads, Email, Influence Marketing, Engagements, Display, Youtube Ads, etc). Here, we will show you how to create UTM tags for the relevant channels.
How to Create UTM Tags:
Step 1: Navigate to this Campaign URL Builder (Link)
Step 2: Paste your Landing Page URL to the website URL column
Step 3: Fill in the Source and the Medium according to Google's requirements
Pay attention and follow the instructions in this Google Support article to provide the correct information for traffic to be grouped according to the relevant channel.
For example, if you want your traffic to be grouped under Paid Social, the source should be a list of social sites and the medium should be any of these keywords (cp, ppc, retargeting, paid).
Here, let's say the source is Facebook and the medium is CPC.
Step 4: Copy the generated campaign URL and insert it into your campaign setup
This link will be the link you use on your Facebook Ads. It means that when you set up your campaign and insert the landing page (where people will land after they click on your ad), you're not going to use the plain URL. Instead, you're going to use the URL with the parameters so the tool will record the traffic correctly.
When you go to your Google Analytics under Session source/medium, you're going to see a record of facebook/cpc. Because of this source and medium combination, then this particular traffic will go under Paid Social and not Unassigned.
Example 1: Email
Let's say I want to label my traffic under Email. In this Google Support article, to categorize your traffic under Email, either the source or the medium should be email.
Navigate to this Campaign URL Builder (Link) and follow the steps above, inserting the source as newsletter and the medium as email. As long as either the source or the medium is email, then the traffic is going to be grouped under Email.
Don't forget to copy the generated campaign URL and use it in your campaign setup instead of your plain URL.
Example 2: Influencer
For influencer marketing, then the traffic should be labeled as Affiliate. In this Google Support article, to categorize your traffic under Affiliate, you need to label the medium as affiliate.
As such, you'll need to provide a link to the influencer with the correct parameters. For the source, you can put in the influencer's name, and the medium is going to be affiliate. Because the medium is affiliate, then this traffic is going to be grouped under the Affiliate channel.
As usual, this will be the generated campaign URL.
Example 3: Display
If you want your traffic to be grouped under Display, then the medium should be one of these keywords (display, banner, expandable, interstitial, cpm).
You can set the campaign source as Google Display Network and the medium as display, so this traffic is going to be grouped under the Display channel.
As usual, this will be the generated campaign URL.
There you have it! If you want to have your traffic grouped under a certain channel, then all you need to do is follow the exact requirements set in this Google Support article. As long as you follow the correct UTM tagging logic, then you're not going to find the entry that is called unassigned, because unassigned traffic is a result of traffic that Google Analytics 4 cannot recognize.
Now, we hope that this article solved your problem! If you're in need of more Google Analytics guidance, then you can sign-up for the Google Analytics Fast Track Course at this link or download the full GA4 Fast Track course slide deck at this link.