Google Analytics and site visitor IP addresses
A buddy sent me an email today saying that he had a bunch of simultaneous visitors to his work’s website today. All the visitors were from Seattle and he wanted to know if they were legit or not. How did he know they were from Seattle? Google Analytics told him so*.
I suggested that we reverse DNS their IP addresses to see what their company (or at least their ISP). He told me he didn’t know how to find their IP address. He’s new to analytics so I assumed he just missed it someplace and I logged into my analytics account to find the setting. Nope, couldn’t find it. Quick googling, ahh haa, Google does NOT let you track IPs and you can’t even use a custom variable anymore 🙁
I was quite shocked at this, since the most basic form of visitor monitoring is perusing your web server’s (Apache, IIS, etc) log files. The most prominent bit of data in there is usually the IP address of your visitors.
Presumably it’s a privacy issue and that’ why Google disabled IP tracking. Other people speculate it’s because Google is afraid that monitoring IPs would show that clickfraud is going on. Who knows the reason, but I am still surprised.
So, I told my buddy that I was wrong and we can’t use Analytics to get the IP address. If he really wants to find out more about that mysterious influx of Seattle visitors, we’re going to do some log analysis (or switch to a locally hosted analysis tool like piwik).
*ironically, when Google says a visitor is from ‘Seattle’, they are using the visitors IP and doing reverse DNS (or similar) to determine that approximate geographic info. Of course that info can be misleading, for example I am in MO but the NOC (network operations center for my satellite ISP is in another state, and that is where I show up as geographically)
More resources on the IP address / Google Analytics topic: