Google Analytics Removes Service Provider and Network Domain Dimensions
In early February of 2020, the Service Provider and Network Domain identifiers in Google Analytics were removed… deprecated… and replaced with (not set) in the Network Report area.
Read below for my take on the impact for B2B lead generation, and some good workarounds and alternatives to recover or replace these two previously helpful Google Analytics dimensions that are no longer supported.
Tip: Use the collapsible yellow ‘Article Contents’ navigation box to jump to specific sections.
Last Updated: Mar 29, 2021
What Happened to Service Provider and Network Domain?
Two Google Analytics Network Dimensions – Gone Forever?
Early in February 2020, I was doing some GA consulting work for a client and stumbled upon this issue.
For this B2B client, I have RegEx filtering in place to look for customers and prospects who have specific text string patterns in the Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions.
(These are sometimes also called the Google Analytics ISP dimensions, since they often reported internet service providers as the identified website visitors.)
My custom filter on GA’s ISP dimensions provided a very rudimentary B2B IP Lookup function for sales lead generation and follow-up purposes. My client liked getting weekly automated reports with these insights.
Here’s a quick example of what that might have looked like for a specific filter on the Service Provider dimension, with Network Domain as the secondary dimension in the Google Analytics Network Report area.
Then I noticed that the activity line for this custom report dropped to zero starting in early February 2020.
I had a strong feeling this was not a coincidence or a simple GA bug. Something else was going on here.
Finding the Service Provider (Not Set) Problem
A quick look at the unfiltered GA data produced the A-ha! moment for me.
In early February 2020, the Service Provider dimension went almost completely to (not set)! Network Domain started showing (not set) as well.
They had both become deprecated – no longer supported – by Google Analytics.
My custom RegEx filter to find ‘interesting visitors’ for my corporate client was suddenly rendered useless!
See below for how it looks inside a GA Universal Analytics property.
(If you’re new to this aspect of GA, go to the Audience >> Technology >> Network report. Leave the primary dimension set to Service Provider, then add Network Domain as the secondary dimension.)
Why Did Google Analytics Drop the ISP Dimensions?
Looking for a Full Explanation
I did some quick research by Googling ‘google analytics service provider not set’ and found several helpful posts and a good 3rd-party workaround to restore these dimensions.
At the time, I only saw a brief explanation from Google on this action. See the ClickInsight article (link below) for that.
I suspect this change has something to do with evolving data privacy laws – perhaps GDPR and CCPA related.
Here are five resources that go into greater detail. They also do a nice job of explaining the many helpful uses of the Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions.
A helpful article from ClickInsight, including a brief (and vague) explanation from Google.
A support thread from Google here. (Active through at least March 11, 2020.)
An Analytics Community forum discussion here. It’s helpful and still active as of ~ mid April 2020.
An article covering the loss of the ISP dimensions in GA from Seer Interactive.
A post from the founder and CEO at Leadfeeder, one of the industry leaders in website visitor identification software for B2B sales and marketing teams.
As these articles and discussions show, common use cases for these dimensions also include identifying and filtering out spammy incoming traffic, excluding internal company network traffic, etc.
A Better Option for B2B Lead Generation
In my particular case, though, I was using them for B2B sales prospecting by identifying visiting company names that might be of interest for my clients’ sales and business development purposes.
This is also what Leadfeeder performs, although in a much more sophisticated, feature-rich, and sales-friendly way when compared to Google Analytics reports.
Company IP Tracking – Google Analytics Not Required
Importantly, Leadfeeder’s software does not rely on the Google Analytics Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions in order to work properly.
Their Leadfeeder Tracker works by itself, or alongside Google Analytics, to provide advanced IP-to-company matching using their proprietary methods and databases.
This also helps them identify visiting companies even with work-from-home remote employees. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many corporate employees to work remotely, and Leadfeeder has developed innovative ways to remain effective even with company employees spending less time attached to ‘corporate’ IP addresses.
You can give Leadfeeder a test drive for free via the 14-day trial offer below.
Note: I have an affiliate marketing relationship with Leadfeeder and may be compensated for customer signups that come via this article.
How To Restore Service Provider and Network Domain
A Workaround to Restore GA’s ISP Dimensions
It’s possible to restore the lost GA network dimensions through a straightforward service provided by Jerre B. over at IpMeta. In this approach, new custom dimensions replace the two network dimensions that Google Analytics no longer supports.
I’ve implemented the IpMeta solution on at least two websites now and it works great! Once you’ve got IpMeta set up, you can simply build new GA reports using the new custom dimensions.
(I’ve done this so far only on the more common Universal Analytics properties, not the new GA4 property type. I plan to implement IpMeta on a GA4 property later.)
The IpMeta website also offers a few handy GA reporting templates that use their custom dimensions to identify businesses, educational institutions, ISPs, and spiders/crawlers.
Impact on B2B Lead Generation
Options for Identifying Website Visitors
For those like me who liked using the Service Provider and/or Network Domain dimensions for B2B IP tracking purposes, I see two decent paths forward.
Option 1: Try the IpMeta approach and then continue using GA as before, only with the new custom dimensions in place for company identification, filtering, etc.
Option 2: Take a close look at the 3rd-party software tools built specifically for website-based B2B lead generation using visitor identification and tracking.
Note: Just be sure the vendor’s software hasn’t been hampered by the loss of the GA network dimensions. See the Leadfeeder article (also linked above) for more on that potential issue.
I’ve researched these tools and offer more insights and resources in my group of website visitor tracking posts here.
For more about the software solutions in this space, see my vendor summary and links here. Or hit the button below. (New tab/post will open.)
Goodbye to Service Provider and Network Domain
So, it looks like as Google Analytics evolves, we’ll have to learn to adjust to big and unexpected changes like this one.
And, maybe start taking a more serious look at some Google Analytics competitors.
At this point, I’m happy to have IpMeta as a good option for restoring the Google Analytics ISP dimensions.
However, many B2B companies with sales lead generation priorities may be better served by tools like Leadfeeder and similar software solutions designed specifically for B2B sales teams.
Comments and Feedback
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How did you formerly use the Google Analytics Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions?
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