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Identifying Anonymous Website Visitors

Last updated Dec 1, 2023

Website Visitors and Identity Resolution

Website owners and businesses are naturally curious to know ‘who’ is visiting their websites. This interest often goes beyond high-level metrics like raw visitor and session counts, visitor demographics, etc.

For legitimate business reasons, we often want to go further in terms of visitor recognition, identity resolution, or website visitor ‘identity deanonymization’ as it is also sometimes called.

In B2B companies, for example, more informative website visitor identification and tracking helps the marketing and sales team be more productive and efficient, driving new leads and revenue growth.

This post explores anonymous website visitor tracking in a business context, with a focus on value for B2B firms.

Let’s take a closer look below…

Table of Contents (+/-)
    identify anonymous website visitors for b2b lead generation
    For B2B companies, identifying anonymous website visitors helps boost lead generation and revenue growth.

    This post contains a few referral links to vendor partners. We may receive compensation for purchases made via these links, at no additional cost to buyers.

    Anonymous Website Visitors — A Quick Definition

    Discovering and Understanding Your ‘Unknown’ Website Visitors

    Who are the visitors on your website right now? Like, right now… this very instant? How about yesterday? Or last week?

    If you’re like most website owners/operators, there’s a very good chance you don’t actually know. You may know where they’re coming in from (geography), and how they came to your site (traffic source/medium), but you probably don’t actually know WHO they are or were.

    For some websites and businesses, knowing more about who is on your website can be critical — even a game-changing piece of information.

    Here’s my quick definition of ‘anonymous website visitors’, for the purposes of this post anyway.

    Anonymous website visitors are people who visit your website and wish to remain unidentified by choice. They are simply visiting your site, for any number of reasons, but do not have a reason to do anything on the site that identifies them.

    These visitors are typically in research mode and have no immediate need to provide any identifying details. For example:

    • They don’t contact you via email (e.g., submitting a product inquiry form)
    • They don’t sign up for your webinars or other ‘gated content’
    • And they don’t need to talk to your sales reps (at least not yet)

    Note: This definition does not include sites where users are normally ‘logged in’ almost permanently, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc. Membership-based sites know and track you as a recognizable user, at least via email address.

    B2C and B2B Differences

    In many cases, such as a B2C e-commerce site, the website owner may not care much about visitor identification until an online purchase is made (which then requires personal-level customer and transaction details.)

    For other sites, namely B2B websites, the corporate sales team would love to know who is visiting their website, what pages they’re viewing, etc.

    And, their B2B marketing teammates would love for website visitors to sign up for gated content, register for webinars and virtual events, sign up for e-newsletters, etc.

    This aids them in follow-up lead nurturing and conversion efforts, in both traditional and account-based marketing (ABM) strategies.

    See more on this B2B-specific angle below.

    Why Identify Anonymous Website Visitors?

    Benefits of Unmasking Your Website’s ‘Digital Ghosts’

    There are many reasons why website owners want to be able to identify their website users at least down to the organization level (e.g., visiting company), and sometimes at an individual level as well.

    B2B Websites (business-to-business)

    In the B2B world, where businesses rely on their corporate websites to facilitate the sale of goods and services to other businesses, knowing ‘who’ is visiting your B2B website can bring great advantages.

    Related activities include:

    • Identifying specific companies that visit your website
    • Identifying specific company employees who visit your site (sometimes possible)
    • Tracking specific visitor activity and behavior on-site
    • Leveraging buyer intent insights
    • Lead scoring for prioritizing sales prospects
    • Receiving near real-time alerts when target visitors land on your site
    • Gaining ‘first mover’ sales outreach advantages over your competitors
    • Website visitor ID and tracking for account-based marketing (ABM) programs

    B2C Websites (business-to-consumer)

    In the B2C world, site owners sometimes want to identify their anonymous website visitors at an individual level. Unlike B2B, B2C site owners don’t generally care about the company affiliation of their site visitors.

    Limitations of General-Purpose Website Analytics Tools

    Millions of websites use general-purpose visitor analytics tools, such as Google Analytics (GA), to track user behavior and other visitor-related dimensions and metrics.

    You may already have GA running on your own website. Probably by now the latest ‘GA4’ version that replaced the familiar ‘Universal Analytics’ version in mid-2023.

    When it comes to visitor identification, the main problem with Google Analytics and similar general-purpose website analytics tools is that they don’t provide useful identifiers for anonymous website visitors.

    This is usually a privacy-related thing. For example, Google Analytics does not identify website visitors by name, IP address, or company affiliation.

    Many GA competitors also highlight visitor privacy as a key part of their value proposition.

    This is a good thing overall, in my opinion.

    Related: There are many options to use for general website analytics other than Google Analytics. For example, see these Google Analytics alternatives for WordPress websites.

    Google Analytics used to provide basic network-level website visitor identifiers and even basic B2B reverse IP lookup capabilities for company-level identification, but these features have been removed/deprecated for quite a while now.

    So, Google Analytics and most GA alternatives are great for understanding your website audience behavior at a high level, but they fall short (by design now) when it comes to identifying anonymous website visitors and tracking their specific on-site behavior.

    B2B Company Websites and Anonymous Visitor ID

    Turning Anonymous Website Traffic Into Actionable Sales Leads

    When people (and martech software vendors) talk about identifying anonymous website visitors, it’s very often in the context of B2B websites that support marketing and sales objectives.

    B2B software vendors understood the limitations of tools like Google Analytics in this area, and the unfilled needs of B2B marketing and sales teams who urgently wanted to know who was visiting their websites.

    They wanted anonymous visitor ID details at least at the visiting company level, if not all the way down to the visiting individual.

    The result over the last decade or so has been a wide range of B2B website visitor identification and tracking platforms.

    Illuminating the ‘Dark Funnel’ of B2B Marketing

    These platforms, and other so-called ‘B2B sales intelligence tools’, all play a role in shining a brighter light on the cleverly named ‘Dark Funnel’ of B2B marketing.

    b2b dark funnel concept b2b marketing sales
    Identifying or ‘unmasking’ anonymous website visitors is part of illuminating the so-called ‘dark funnel’ of B2B marketing and sales.

    The idea here is that many B2B buyer activities happen ‘in the darkness’ from a selling company’s standpoint. Companies want to have better and earlier insights into buyer behavior, including B2B buyer intent data and even predictive capabilities.

    All of these can combine to give B2B sales and marketing teams an edge over their competition, leading to faster prospect engagement, higher win probabilities, and revenue growth as a result.

    B2B Buyer Intent and Lead Scoring

    Tools that aid in identifying your anonymous website visitors typically also track visitor activities on your site, such as page views, content downloads, etc.

    This visitor-level activity can help you understand ‘B2B buyer intent’ and also assist with lead scoring. Together, buyer intent insights and lead scoring help your sales team know which visitors to prioritize for their sales follow-up activities.

    Company-Level vs Personal Identifiers

    This is a big issue when it comes to identifying your anonymous website visitors because it may bring PII — Personally Identifiable Information — into the picture.

    Company-Level Visitor Identification

    Many of the ‘classic’ website visitor ID and tracking tools focus on providing company-level identifiers only. This is based on matching visitor IP addresses to companies and locations, often referred to as ‘reverse IP lookup’, ‘B2B IP tracking’, and similar terms.

    For example, with this class of website visitor identification tools, you can know that ‘ABC Widgets, Inc.’ in Chicago was on your site (and what pages they visited), but not that it was actually Joe Smith from ABC Widgets.

    Personal-Level Visitor Identification

    Some website visitor identification tools use proprietary technologies and databases to try to match actual people/individuals to the website session.

    In a B2B selling context, these tools can be incredibly powerful, but they also bring business ethics and personal privacy issues directly to the forefront.

    Extending the example above, these tools can tell you that it actually is Joe Smith from ABC Widgets in Chicago who is visiting your site.

    Due to privacy regulations (such as GDPR in the EU), the personal-level identification features may be restricted, e.g., only available for site visitors from the US.

    Related: For more on this topic, see this post on identifying people vs companies with B2B website visitor tracking.

    Website Personalization and Improving User Experience

    When you can reliably resolve anonymous website visitor identities at some level, either corporate or personal, you have an opportunity to customize website experiences for that individual or organization.

    For example, you may want to provide more customized website experiences based on some combination of:

    • The website visitor at the individual level
    • Company identifier
    • Industry sector
    • Geography or more precise location
    • Other ‘firmographic’ visitor details
    • Returning ‘known’ visitor vs a first-time new visitor
    • Etc.

    This is an area where website visitor identification tools can add more value for digital marketing teams, in addition to how they help B2B sales teams with website-based lead discovery and follow-up activities.

    Website Visitor ID and B2B Account-Based Marketing

    ABM Target Accounts and Your B2B Website

    When you’re ‘doing ABM’ in your B2B marketing and sales organization, you know that key named accounts are at the heart of your ABM program.

    After all, ABM is ‘account-based’ by definition.

    You want to see these target accounts visiting your website, consuming your content, engaging further, connecting with your sales team, and doing all the positive things that lead to new closed deals and revenue growth.

    Monitoring and Validating ABM Campaign Performance

    So, when ‘anonymous’ visitors land on your website, you naturally want to know if the visitor is actually one of your ABM target accounts.

    And if so, what did they do on your site while there? What content pieces did they consume, which embedded videos did they watch, etc. What ABM campaigns or other marketing efforts led them to your site?

    A decent website visitor identification and tracking tool can tell you these things, at least for a meaningful portion of your website visitors.

    identify anonymous website visitors to support b2b abm account based marketing
    The ability to identify anonymous website visitors directly supports digital ABM strategies in B2B.

    Identifying ABM ‘Lookalike’ Accounts

    For ABMers, website visitor trackers can also help you identify attractive ‘lookalike’ accounts that appear to fit your ideal customer profile (ICP).

    When a previously unknown company visits your website and sends decent buyer intent and lead scoring signals, they may be a great candidate for adding to your set of ABM target accounts.

    Tools that help identify (and track) anonymous website visitors help ABM teams in this way. ABM-specific platforms also provide these capabilities as part of their overall ABM feature sets.

    Account-Based Advertising

    Some website visitor ID and tracking tools for B2B also help with account-based advertising as part of an overall ABM outreach strategy.

    In contrast with ‘spray and pray’ advertising approaches, these platforms enable much more targeted advertising to specific IP addresses, companies, and target buyer roles.

    Anonymous Website Visitors and Privacy Laws

    Balancing Personal Privacy with B2B Sales & Marketing Objectives

    As mentioned above, the whole area of identifying anonymous website visitors intersects with issues of data privacy, regional regulations, and business culture and ethics.

    To perhaps oversimplify things a bit, the tools that identify only visiting companies (e.g., for B2B websites) have less to worry about here.

    Since they do not delve into personal-level identification, they are compliant with regulations such as GDPR in Europe.

    europe gdpr banner
    Regional regulations, such as GDPR in Europe, impact how anonymous website visitor ID and tracking tools can be used in these areas.

    On the other hand, website visitor tracking tools and platforms that resolve anonymous visitor identities at the personal/individual level bring other compliance issues into play and may not be usable in all locations worldwide and/or with specific target audiences.

    Related: Learn more here about how B2B website visitor tracking tools comply with GDPR. Also, see this post on B2B lead generation in Europe.

    Tools to Identify Anonymous Website Visitors for B2B

    Several Options for B2B Website Visitor Identity Resolution

    Depending on your specific needs, there are multiple tools and platforms available for your consideration.

    Company-Level, GDPR-Compliant Website Visitor Tracking

    There are dozens of vendor tools in this segment, aimed primarily at B2B marketing and sales use cases.

    One solution I recommend investigating further is Leadfeeder. They have combined with Echobot to form the Dealfront solution, which is an EU-native platform for winning B2B deals in Europe.

    Learn more about Leadfeeder and Dealfront here.

    leadfeeder free trial promotion
    Leadfeeder started as a classic B2B website visitor ID and tracking solution. It is now part of the Dealfront platform, which is especially interesting for EU-focused B2B revenue teams.

    Related: Learn more here about other B2B website visitor tracking solutions, plus some additional tools and approaches for web visitor identity resolution.

    Individual-Level Website Visitor Tracking

    As I discussed above, there are some tools that aim to resolve anonymous website visitor identities at the individual level.

    Two examples are Visual Visitor and Visitor InSites, both based in the US.

    For Visual Visitor, look at their +Person and +Employee features and capabilities.

    For Visitor InSites, see how they contrast their solution vs standard IP-based visitor resolution and tracking tools.

    Another option in this segment is UK-based ExactVisitor, which also has people-level visitor tracking in its overall toolkit.

    CRMs, Marketing Automation, and ABM Platforms

    Other B2B sales and martech platforms have various levels of website visitor identification and tracking capabilities.

    Check your current CRM platform to see what it may already offer in this area.

    Also, learn more here about website visitor tracking features in marketing automation tools.

    Many ABM-focused platforms and tools incorporate anonymous visitor identification features as well.

    Google Analytics (with Add-Ons)

    As covered earlier in this post, identifying website visitors in Google Analytics, when used by itself, is no longer possible. Not even at the visiting company level based on IP address info.

    However, with some add-on capabilities, it is possible to enrich standard Google Analytics data with useful visitor identification details (at the company or organization level).

    For example, the free Google Analytics add-on from IpMeta can help you here.

    Also, purpose-built B2B website visitor ID tools like Leadfeeder can enrich Google Analytics and other tools with helpful B2B visitor firmographic data. See their ‘Connectors’ options for more details on that.

    Related: Learn more about how B2B data enrichment works with Google Analytics to support marketing and sales teams.

    Identifying Anonymous Website Visitors — Closing Thoughts

    Many Angles and Issues Impact Anonymous Website Visitor ID

    The desire of website owners to understand who is visiting their sites is easy to understand.

    In some cases, website owners are just curious and it doesn’t go much further than that.

    In other cases (such as B2B), the insights and advantages gained by resolving anonymous web visitor identities can be business-critical, providing significant speed and sales intelligence advantages over competitors who aren’t doing it.

    There are several angles, issues, and considerations in play here. Many of them revolve around the distinction between company-level and actual person-level identification, along with data privacy rules such as GDPR for EU-based target audiences.

    Specifically for B2B operations, there are (fortunately) many vendor tool and platform options to consider.

    These range from relatively simple Google Analytics add-ons to classic IP-based website visitor mapping tools to comprehensive ABM platforms that enable full-scale account-based marketing campaigns.

    Questions or Comments?

    I hope this introduction to identifying anonymous website visitors has been helpful!

    I’ll leave you with a few questions to ponder:

    • Do you use any tools or techniques today to help resolve the identities of your website visitors (at any level of detail)?
    • If you’re a B2B company/website, how has this information impacted your sales and marketing operations?
    • How do you modify or adjust your website visitor ID approaches outside of the US? Do you have any related GDPR challenges in Europe?
    • Do you prefer ‘point-product’, purpose-built tools for identifying anonymous website visitors? Or do you use these features purely within a larger platform, such as CRM, marketing automation, or ABM solutions?

    Feel free to add more in the comments below with any thoughts, feedback, or related questions. Thanks also for any social shares on this post via the buttons below!

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    B2B Website Visitor Tracking Software

    Get My Complete Vendor Listing

    Hello and thanks for reading!

    I’ve built an Excel spreadsheet that captures key details on virtually all software products that focus on anonymous website visitor identification.

    (Many more vendors than I have room to include in this post!)

    It’s based on many hours of my vendor research… and I’m happy to share it as a helpful reference item for you.

    Just drop me your best email address below and I’ll send the link to the spreadsheet download page.

    Grab the current version now. I’ll send you future updates, too! 

    Website Visitor Identification Tools

    Get My Complete Vendor Listing

    Hello and thanks for reading!

    I’ve built an Excel spreadsheet that captures key details on virtually all software products that focus on anonymous website visitor identification.

    (Many more vendors than I have room to include in this post!)

    It’s based on many hours of my vendor research… and I’m happy to share it as a helpful reference item for you.

    Just drop me your best email address below and I’ll send the link to the spreadsheet download page.

    Grab the current version now. I’ll send you future updates, too!