FAQs for Beginners
This post answers some of the common questions people have about website visitor identification and tracking tools, capabilities, and options.
Includes insights, tips, leading software vendors to consider, and links to other helpful posts.
Last Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Common Questions about Identifying Website Visitors
Update Note (Feb 2020)
Please note! Google Analytics removed the Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions in early February of 2020. They’ve become “deprecated” and are no longer available. 🙁
As a result, the discussion directly below about using GA’s Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions is no longer relevant other than for historical reference. I’ll leave it here for that reason.
But also note that there may be a good workaround to restore this functionality through a 3rd-party tool. See IpMeta for that. If this works as expected, then the section below becomes mostly relevant again and I’ll probably just rewrite it for the IpMeta approach.
The other option is to use 3rd-party software tools for B2B IP tracking and visitor identification, as discussed deeper within this post.
Can Google Analytics identify my website visitors?
Google Analytics can identify some of your website visitors at a corporate or organizational level. It has very basic ‘reverse IP lookup’ or ‘IP tracking’ functionality that allows it to match a website visitor’s IP address to a company identifier.
The Google Analytics dimensions that are most useful here are the Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions, both available in the Audience >> Technology >> Network reporting path in GA.
Set the primary dimension to Service Provider (the default), and add a secondary dimension of Network Domain.
Read more here to learn more about how and when to use Google Analytics for basic IP tracking.
Can Google Analytics tell me what people are visiting my website?
Google Analytics can not tell you who – by person or name – was on your website. As described above, GA can sometimes identify the companies or organizations that visit your website, but not typically the actual persons involved.
Also worth noting: Google Analytics also restricts its users from storing personally identifiable information (PII) within its database. It is against their stated terms and conditions for using the product. See this GA help document for more details.
The company-only visitor identification is the main reason why GA and 3rd-party website visitor identification tools are GDPR compliant.
Read this post to learn more about GDPR compliance when using these tools.
How do website visitor tracking tools work?
Website visitor tracking tools work by matching a visitor’s IP address to an actual company name and location. They keep a history of these visits over time, building up a visitor profile that can be used by B2B salespeople for prospect outreach.
The tools also have filtering, flagging, alerting, lead scoring, and reporting features designed specifically to aid and support B2B sales teams. They also connect to CRMs and other marketing and sales tech tools.
See this post for a more complete description of website visitor tracking and several of the leading vendors in this space.
Note that the terms website visitor tracking and website visitor identification are often used interchangeably. Other terms include B2B IP tracking, IP lead tracking, B2B IP lookup, etc.
Is website visitor identification the same as visitor tracking?
They’re definitely related, but not always the exact same idea.
In B2B marketing contexts, the initial emphasis is on visitor identification as a way to provide useful sales leads based on website traffic. Software tools that focus on this task are very useful, in addition to Google Analytics or similar web analytics tools.
And in some contexts, the use of website visitor tracking may be more about just tracking the activity of website users or a specific subset of users (e.g., a custom segment defined inside GA).
In these cases, there may be no need or desire to try to identify the actual visiting companies. This is the more common situation when Google Analytics is the only web analytics package used.
But as noted in the previous answer, these two terms are often used to mean the same thing, with at least company-level visitor identification as a core feature.
Can website visitor tracking tools identify all of my website visitors?
No, they can’t.
No matter what the software vendors’ marketing messages may seem to imply, these tools simply can’t unmask 100% of your anonymous website visitors.
That’s because they can’t in many cases match the visitor’s IP address to a useful company identifier. Instead, they’ll match it to an IP address of an internet service provider (ISP)… the one that provides the internet connection to the actual end user.
The best figures I’ve seen so far for meaningful match rates when doing IP-to-Company lookups?
About 30% max.
But that’s still pretty good if your sales team can turn even a few of those discovered website prospects into closed new business. For many B2B companies, it just doesn’t take a huge win rate to deliver the financial ROI needed to justify the monthly subscription costs of these software tools.
What is ISP filtering?
ISP filtering is an essential aspect of website visitor tracking / identification tools.
This is the process of identifying any specific visitor as ‘just an ISP’… and then silently discarding them as a viable prospect.
ISP filtering helps to ‘keep the data clean’ by only flagging and forwarding useful companies for B2B sales follow-up.
Which software vendors provide website visitor tracking tools?
There are dozens of companies worldwide who provide these tools as stand-alone software products, or built into other B2B marketing and sales software suites.
For example, marketing automation vendors such as HubSpot, SharpSpring, and Act-On have these features built in.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) vendors such as Demandbase also have tools in these areas.
And then there are the ‘point product’ vendors that package a rich set of sales-focused tools into one product specifically for website visitor tracking.
(Reader Tip: These links all open new tabs on another post. You can alternatively just start with Clickback to view that entire section and vendors in sequence.)
For a more complete and global listing in spreadsheet format, click the red button below to request access. It’s free, by the way. 🙂
What is the best website visitor tracking tool?
This answer depends on many factors, since ‘best’ will vary from one user to another.
To get to the right answer, I’d ask a few more questions, including:
- How will website visitor tracking fit into your current B2B sales process? Will it be an essential component or just a nice-to-have add-on?
- What is your monthly budget for these tools?
- Do you already have marketing automation or ABM tools in place that can provide this function?
- How skilled is your organization at using Google Analytics?
- What CRM and email marketing platforms do you use today?
- How do you handle ‘lead scoring’ today, and what is the current process for moving leads from marketing into sales?
- How many users will need regular access to the website visitor tracking software?
- How many websites do you need to track?
- What are your monthly website traffic volumes? (unique users, sessions, etc.)
Fortunately, all of the mainstream vendors in this area provide free software trials, so judging the benefits of one or several tools is pretty easy.
Read this post for more about managing free trials of website visitor tracking tools.
Is website visitor tracking compliant with data privacy laws?
The short answer here is yes, these tools are compliant with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR for European target audiences, since they do not identify website visitors at a personal level.
See this post for more on GDPR compliance and website visitor tracking.
How do B2B companies use website visitor tracking tools?
B2B firms use website visitor tracking / identification tools to uncover new sales prospects (organizations) from the stream of traffic that visits their website(s) each day. Their main goal is to drive more revenue, and faster, than they would be able to without these tools in place.
For B2B firms that can use these tools effectively, the software quickly becomes an integral part of their sales and marketing ‘technology stack’.
Is it difficult to install and use website visitor tracking software?
No, it’s pretty easy and painless.
It’s easy for a webmaster to simply add the tracking code snippet to each page.
Some vendors provide plugins for WordPress and other CMS platforms to make this even easier.
Please leave your feedback, questions, and any suggestions for improvements in the comments area below.
And feel free to share via the buttons below… Thanks! 🙂
B2B Sales and Marketing Teams: Have you used or evaluated these B2B website lead identification software tools already? What do you like or dislike about them?
B2B Software Vendors: What are the most common customer questions and/or misconceptions you deal with? Any key takeaways or tips to help future users?
Anything important missing from my discussion above?