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Hostnames. The Most Boring GA Report Ever. Or is it?

Each time a page is viewed on a website with GA implemented, one of the pieces of information that is passed back to Google is the domain of the site on which the page was viewed.

This seems pretty straight foward.

If visitors view http://lunametrics.com/index.html the hostname is lunametrics.com
If visitors view http://lunametrics.com/training.html the hostname is lunametrics.com
If visitors view http://lunametrics.com/blog.html the hostname is lunametrics.com
If visitors view http://lunametrics.com/sexytimes.html the hostname is lunametrics.com

See a pattern?

So a report that lists all the traffic to the lunametrics.com site should be pretty damn boring.

We might expect it to look something like this:

And that would be the end of this post.

Except that, in fact though, our hostnames report looks like this:


Okay, so let’s take a quick look at some of these other hostnames.

webcache.googleusercontent.com

This one is easy.  When Google crawls websites, they also save the pages in their own cache.  This is people who have viewed our LunaMetrics webpages from that cache instead of at LunaMetrics.

translate.googleusercontent.com

Also easy.  People who view our website through Google’s translate service.  Looks like we may have a few readers who don’t want to, or aren’t able to, read the english version.

Bonus Tip (from Jonathan Weber): If you look at the pages from translate.googleusercontent.com (using an Advanced Segment, for example), you can see which pages people translated, and the URLs also include a query parameter that tells you which language the page was translated into.

www.google.com

Not sure, maybe the cached pages sometimes come up as google.com instead of googleusercontent.com?  Something I’ll have to look into because now I’m curious.

web.com

This is a website hosting service.  Did someone post a copy of one of our webpages here?  Maybe someone at LunaMetrics was playing with their service?  I don’t know.

72.22.16.69

Our IP address, instead of  ‘lunametrics.com’

lunametrics.presslift.com

A press release service that hosts your press release.  Going here shows one of our Training pages.  Maybe someone here was trying out their service?

checkout.google.com

If you use Google Checkout, part of the process happens on checkout.google.com.  There’s an integration with GA that lets you measure visits to those pages directly to your GA account, allowing you to set up a complete funnel for your checkout goal.  This hostname is due to those pages.

mail.lunametrics.com

Our web-mail service.  Maybe someone emailed themselves one of our webpages?

2.hidemyass.com

This is a proxy service.  Looks like someone didn’t want their boss to know they were checking out our site!!

74.6.239.185

This is a Yahoo.com IP address.  Maybe used for Yahoo’s page caching.

cc.bingj.com

Bing’s page caching domain.

edit.optimizely.com

This is a Website Testing tool.  Looks like someone here uploaded some of our website content to optimizely to test out their service?

lunametrics.com

Usually, lunametrics.com gets re-written to www.lunametrics.com.  Looks like there is at least one case where it doesn’t get re-written correctly.

Besides seeing your domain without any prefix, you may also see your own subdomains listed here, such as blog.lunametrics.com or store.lunametrics.com.  This is a great guide to what subdomains you should doublecheck tracking for to make sure you have the same GA code on each subdomain.

web.archive.org

Another webpage caching service.

www.anon.me

Another proxy service like hidemyass.com

Well, that’s it.  That’s the hostnames report and some of the information you can get from it.

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2010/10/28/hostnames-boring-ga-report/

9 Responses to “Hostnames. The Most Boring GA Report Ever. Or is it?”

I agree, John, this report is insanely useful for debugging, audits, etc. I don’t know how many times I’ve found unusual pages show up in a report, and after checking the hostnames report, find a testing or staging site with GA code installed. It’s always one of the firsts reports I look at when auditing a client’s GA account.

C. Bagdon says:

I ran this report this morning and have a quick question.

The report returned 20 hostnames. 19 of the 20 are either our domain, our IP addresses, translated variations of the site, or web cached.

The one concern is the Nigerian site www(dot)mtnonline(dot)com.

My company doesn’t have business interests in Nigeria, but we do have operations in Africa.

Do you have any suggestions on what this might be or indicate?

B Weiss says:

One more great use for this report!…

If some website (either intentionally or unintentionally) grabbed some of your source and started using it on their site, and it happened to include your tracking tags, their data will now pollute your analytics. This report will help you to determine the source of the problem (the domain), and you’ll know who to go yell at!

Why don’t you have an exclude filter for your internal IPs?

I use this report quite often to see which companys are visiting our website and creating segments for the industry they work in. for instance if AstraZenaca was in the report I would add them to the “Pharma” segment. This gives us more customer insight.

John says:

Tyson: That is an excellent point that I didn’t specifically call out, when staging or dev servers show up.

C. Bagdon: The other site might be using your UA-number on their pages, or they might have your content, GA code and all. Check to see what pageviews are showing up for that hostname, do they look like your pages. Try doing a search on Google for just that site and see what type of content they have. You could also, carefully, visit the site and look for the pages that are generating hits.

What to do from there depends on the results. You can just filter out that data from your site, but if they are actually using your content you may want to take additional action.

B Weiss: Absolutely. That would show up in this report.

Ken: I think you are referring to the Network Locations report, which is a great report and does exactly what you describe. The Hostnames report shows only the hostnames for which your GA code was executing. The Hostnames report Should normally show mostly your domain.

Marissa says:

Additionally, if you do cross-domain tracking, it’s an easy, roll-up kind of way to see which sites have brought you the most traffic.

We’ve also used it in the past to help troubleshoot some mystery traffic.

Hyder says:

I’m new to your blog & thoroughly read & enjoyed your each & every post. Lately, I’ve created a new profile for one of my site as I’ve 4 to 5 designers they are working on the site due to which GA shows traffic from their IP. I’ve added only my server IP in GA Predefined Filter but I dont think its working. Have I done anything wrong?

Please reply.

John says:

The IP address that you need to use is the IP address of the Computer(s) that the designers are using.

If those designers visit the site “whatismyip.com” from their computers, it will display the IP address that they are seen as.

Anil Kapoor says:

Thanks!!!