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.
This is sometimes also called the Google Analytics network not set or missing ISP dimensions problem.
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.
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Last updated Jan 14, 2023
Contents (click to expand/close)
- Google Analytics removed the Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions in early 2020, even though these were very useful for a variety of reasons.
- You can restore these with a free GA add-on service called IpMeta. It works with GA4 now also.
- You can also use more advanced tools like Leadfeeder for B2B website visitor identification, as an alternative to the removed GA network ID dimensions. This has advantages for ABM-focused marketers as well.
- B2B marketing and sales teams now have both free and paid methods for dealing with the lost GA ISP/network dimensions. IpMeta is a good option for other use cases too.
What Happened to GA 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 from IpMeta 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 four 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.
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.
Leadfeeder now also offers a ‘Google Analytics Connector’ that lets you bring their company identification and firmographic data directly into Google Analytics. This has a number of interesting use cases for B2B marketing/sales teams.
You can give Leadfeeder a test drive for free via the 14-day trial offer below.
Good Also for Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
Leadfeeder is also an option for B2B teams pursuing affordable ABM strategies.
Learn more here about how B2B website visitor tracking tools support account-based marketing. They can help with account-based advertising and retargeting as well.
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. It’s a good and pretty straightforward way to resolve the Google Analytics network not set problem.
(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.
Learn more in my related post about how IpMeta works to restore the lost ISP dimensions in Google Analytics.
Impact on Google Analytics for 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 for recovering or replacing this functionality.
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.)
Google Analytics ISP Dimensions — Conclusion
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 / network 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 and marketing teams.
Leadfeeder and tools like it are also good for B2B account-based marketing, so that’s another reason to look closely at them.
Comments and Feedback
How did you formerly use the Google Analytics Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions?
Is their removal a major or minor issue for you?
Have you looked into the workaround provided by IpMeta?
Or does this boost your interest in using 3rd-party tools for B2B company identification for lead generation and sales follow-up, or ABM-focused strategies?
Drop a quick comment below if you have feedback, questions, or any other insights to add here.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing with your social networks.