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Experience Profile Anonymous, Unknown and Known contacts

When you first get started with Sitecore's experience profile the reporting for contacts can cause a little confusion. There are 3 terms that are thrown around, 1) Anonymous 2) Unknown 3) Known. When you read the docs they can bleed into each other a little.

First, have a read through the Sitecore tracking documentation to get a feel for what Sitecore is trying to do.

There are a couple key things here to first understand:

  1. Unless you call "IdentifyAs()" for request the contact is always anonymous. 
  2. Tracking of anonymous contacts is off by default. 
  3. Even if you call "IdentifyAs()" if you don't set facet values for the contact (like first name and email) the contact will still show up in your experience profile as "unknown" (because it has no facet data to display). 

Enabled Anonymous contacts




Notice in the picture I have two contacts marked in a red box. Those are my "known" contacts that I called "IdentifyAs" on. I know they say "Unknown" but we will get back to that.

The other records show "Anonymous". By default, none of these records will show. Tracking these can lead to data bloat. So if you are going to enable this make sure you have a plan for how to make the data meaningful for you still.

To enable this there are a couple of things to do. The steps are defined in this stack exchange thread answer, but I will list them here again just in case (The thread is about creating a known contact with WFFM but you don't need to get caught up in that).

  • Update IndexerSettings.xml file within [site_prefix].xconnect\App_data\jobs\continuous\IndexWorker\App_data\Config\Sitecore\SearchIndexer to change IndexAnonymousContactData to true
  • Update IndexerSettings.xml within [site_prefix].xconnect\App_data\config\sitecore\SearchIndexer to change IndexAnonymousContactData to true
  • Open command prompt in admin mode and navigate to [site_prefix].xconnect\App_data\jobs\continuous\IndexWorker and execute XConnectSearchIndexer -rr or XConnectSearchIndexer -requestrebuild
  • Rebuild your indexes and rebuild link databases, both from Sitecore control panel


The key here is to execute all those steps. Change the config in both places and do all the rebuilds. Once you do that you can reload this page and see the anonymous records. I struggled with this at first because I was only changing one config location and doing just the XConnectSearchIndexer -rr command. Once I did all those, anonymous records showed up. There is no need to rebuild the reporting database as some threads out there kind of point to.

You can also set the configuration settings to false and do your rebuilds to remove the anonymous records.

Create "Known" contacts

The two records that are highlighted in the above image are my known contacts. "But they say unknown." Yes, that is true. This is because all I did for those contacts was call "IdentifyAs()". So they have a tracking identifier linked to them now but no other data. So the reporting screen has nothing to show in the name or email column.

When you click on a record that says "unknown", in the profiles details page the header says "Anonymous" which can be confusing. Even though the heading says Anonymous this is a known contact. 


I removed all the anonymous contacts and then visited the site again. This time though I ran the documented code for adding a facet to a contact. Then on my visit, I called "IdentifyAs" and identified the request using the identifier that was set up for the contact I created. When you do this you can see I now have a new contact record with real information in the name and email field. The facet I added is the PersonalInfo facet which is one of the OTB facets with Sitecore. You will notice now the name and email fields are populated and if you click on Luke Skywalker, the profiles detail screen no longer says "Anonymous"!
So while the profile search screen may be returning data that says "unknown" these are NOT unknown contacts. They are known contacts with some unknown data fields. There really are just two types of contacts in Sitecore. Known and Anonymous, but a known contact can sometimes display "known" and "anonymous" even though it is known. 

If you happen to be struggling with the "unknown" header in the picture below, read Sitecore xDB - Custom Eras in Experience Profile Timeline

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