Google Analytics: Deciphering “Not Set,” “Not Provided,” and “Content Targeting”

One of the most important tools in the business of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is Google Analytics. Google Analytics (GA) is a tracking tool created by the largest search engine provider, Google, and functions to analyze visitor traffic on the Internet. GA is an important tool for any company because it assists in maximizing market potential. By being able to track and analyze visitor traffic to your company website, for example, you are better able to understand your audiences preferences and needs. GA is an important marketing tool precisely because it allows companies to more accurately target their markets for maximum impact.

Search Engine Optimization and Google Analytics can be confusing at times, especially when you throw updates and new terminology into the mix. No fear, that’s why I’m here as your SEO professional consultant.

Recently I’ve been asked by a lot of my clients about the semi-recent changes made by GA, which have to do with deciphering “Not Set,” “Not Provided,” and “Content Targeting”. These are three new terms that will show up in your GA reports of the customer traffic metrics to your website.

 Google Analytics: Deciphering “Not Set,” “Not Provided,” and “Content Targeting”

“Not Set”

“Not Set” will appear as the value (not set) in your GA reports. This will show up when:

  • The visit is a case of “direct traffic”. This means that the user has entered your website by directly entering your website URL into the browser address bar; or
  • If the visit is a case of “referral traffic”. This means that the user has entered your website by way of clicking on your website URL link on another site, such as a blog, forum, or aggregator, but not from a search engine; or
  • If the visit is a case of “paid traffic” for a Google AdWords account that is not linked to the current GA account. This is a common occurrence for company’s with more than one Google AdWords account that are all tied back to one GA account, because GA can only collect data from one AdWords account. The data incoming from the unconnected AdWords account will therefore be reported as (not set).

“Not Provided”

“Not Provided” is represented as the value (not provided) in your Google Analytics report. Simply put, this happens when a user is logged into his or her Google account while performing a search.

There has been some controversy over why Google has decided to withhold data to its paying customers (your company) in its reports, but the most apparent reason seems to be due to privacy reasons for its search engine users.

  • Information (not provided) happens when users are on a secure Google page. This is often represented by URL links beginning with https:// rather than http://, such as when users are signed into a Google account.
  • When users have just signed out of a Google account (because they are still on the secure pages).
  • When users are using Firefox 14 or above which now makes all Google searches automatically secure; or
  • When users directly opt to use secure searches for personal reasons.

Content Targeting”

“Content Targeting” will show up as the value (content targeting) in your Google Analytics report. This category will provide you with the number of visits generated by ads that are not directly related to the user’s search. These visits are generated by ads on Google’s Display Network.

  • This will happen when a user clicks on your advertisement that has appeared on a page unrelated to the specific users search. For example the user clicks on your Facebook Ad and it has nothing to do with a specific keyword search term.; or
  • Display ads which you will often see when visiting websites, mobile phone, or in online youtube videos.


Keywords show up in Google Analytics when:

  • A visitor makes a Organic search visit and is not logged into his or her Google account.
  • A visitor makes a Organic search visit from other search engines.
  • A visitor clicks on a PPC ad and the Analytics account is linked to the Google Adwords Campaigns.


It’s important to keep up with these changes and new terminology. By understanding the full depth of Google Analytics, you can read your GA reports with a clearer understanding of what your data really means. In return, you can more accurately serve your target markets with maximum impact. Happy optimization!