In 2020, Google Analytics stopped showing data regarding network domain and service providers. A shame, because these dimensions made it easy to filter out bot and internal traffic. It also helped you identify visitors from certain companies. But, let’s not cry over spilled milk. Can you get this data back in Google Analytics 4? And what’s the best way to protect yourself from similar turbulent changes in the marketing landscape?
- The network domain and service providers dimension disappeared from Google Analytics in February 2020.
- The data made 3 things easy: identify bot traffic, filter out internal traffic and see which companies visited your site.
- In Google Analytics 4, there are some workarounds to get some of the data back.
- Changes like these are a disaster, but you can take measures to control the damage.
What were network domain and service provider in GA, anyway?
Network domain and service provider were dimensions in Google Analytics that were populated automatically based on the IP address of a visitor. If it was possible to identify the owner or registrant of the IP address, GA showed the name of the service provider or network domain.
You can look up IP addresses with many tools, such as this one. And as you can see on the screenshot below, it can reveal pretty useful information.
The image above shows that you can easily find tons of information based on an IP address alone. GA used it to answer two questions:
- Who is the owner or registrant of the visitor’s IP network? The Service Provider.
- Who owns the domain name of the service provider? The Network Domain.
These dimensions were helpful to a lot of people and their loss was felt in some pretty major ways.
People started looking for explanations and solutions.
And then, there was Google Analytics, not giving the faintest clue about the unannounced change.
Why were these dimensions so useful in the old GA?
The service provider and network dimension in the old version of Google Analytics was useful in 3 ways: bot/spam traffic filtering, lead generation, and internal traffic filtering.
I don’t want to linger on the past, so we will only have a quick look at each one of them and then move on to alternatives.
One of the main reasons why people were so upset over the loss of the service provider and network domain dimensions is because they were very helpful for filtering out bots and spam referral traffic.
You could also simply look at your reports to see if there was a suspicious-looking ISP generating a lot of traffic.
Additionally, many larger companies have their ISP set up as their company name. Thanks to this, organizations could see which pages certain companies were viewing and engaging with. As a result, companies could come up with appropriate leads simply by viewing how other businesses were interacting with their site.
Internal Traffic Filtering
Finally, another popular use of the service provider and network domain dimensions was to help organizations filter out internal traffic. If your organization has your ISP set as your company name, then filtering out your internal traffic was easy as pie before.
What Are Some Workarounds?
Because the service provider and network domain dimensions were so helpful, a lot of people were not happy when they were depreciated. Trust us: We feel your pain here. That’s why we’ve come up with a few workarounds you can apply in Google Analytics 4.
Here are three tips for making up for the loss of your service provider and network domain dimensions:
1. If the issue you’re having is that you need to filter out internal traffic, you’re in luck! While you won’t be able to filter out quite as easily as before when you could see your named ISP, you can still filter out internal traffic using your IP address in a fairly straightforward way.
2. Getting data back from Service Providers to identify spam and bots is a tough nut to crack. IP addresses are namely considered to be personal data. Google Analytics can even suspend your account when you collect full IP addresses in GA4.
Your safest option is to activate granular GEO location in GA and rely on it blindly. There are flaws. But, if you notice that a lot of traffic comes from a place that doesn’t make sense, you can further investigate to see if you’re dealing with bot and spam traffic.
3. Finally, if you were using your service provider and network domain dimensions for lead generation, the best solution for your company is to purchase a premium subscription for a tool that can help break down your B2B interactions. There are a lot of options available, but a couple of the best ones are LeadFeeder and SalesPanel.
These tools allow you to see which companies visit your website and how they interact with your content. Yes, you’ll have to pay for your subscription, but it could be worth it if this was already a standard sales channel for you.
As far as privacy is concerned, you don’t need to worry about collecting IP addresses in your GA account.
Leadfeeder is GDPR compliant, but make sure you have your cookie banner and GA4 consent set up properly.
Farewell to Service Provider and Network Domain Dimensions
The loss of service provider and network domain dimensions was a shock to many Google Analytics users.
Typically, when dimensions are depreciated in Google Analytics, users are given a significant heads up. However, that was not the case for two of our favorite dimensions that found themselves depreciated in February of 2020. The service provider and network domain dimensions were replaced with “not set” at that time.
Unfortunately, the service provider and network domain dimensions were very helpful for a lot of users. Many organizations used them for generating new leads, filtering out internal traffic, and identifying bot/spam referral traffic.
However, as they have been permanently done away with, you’ll have to look for new ways to make your data work for you.
Can you prevent data disasters like these?
The marketing landscape is transforming at lightning speed. New tools spring up like mushrooms.
On the other hand, the sad case of service providers and domain network dimension in Google Analytics shows that data can be gone in the blink of an eye. No warning. Wiped out forever. Tears and mourning as a result.
How can you, as a business owner, data consultant or marketer prevent disasters like this? Unfortunately, you cannot predict what big tech is up to.
But you can
- have peace of mind
- stay on top of changes while keeping your focus on the job
- and be able to get answers and solutions the moment something drastically changes.
How is that even possible?
Our DDU Skills community is a safe haven where experts solve data disasters before your competitors are even aware they are happening.