The Locations Report in Google Analytics

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March 19, 2013

As a followup to my post on interpreting Language data in Google Analytics, here’s some insight into locations as well.

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You can find the Locations report under Demographics in the Audience section. Google Analytics determines locations from a visitor’s IP addresses and where internet service providers assign those ranges. (If you remember the dark old days of web analytics when you could look at a report like this and you saw that 80% of US web traffic came from Virginia — because that’s where AOL was located — you can rejoice that these reports are much more accurate.)

Data at the country level is pretty accurate worldwide; Google says that mobile devices may show inaccurate cities. Also keep in mind that a VPN can fool this sort of tracking (if you’re connecting back through the office mothership when you’re elsewhere, your location looks like the office).

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You get a number of choices for levels of detail. At a high level, theres Continents (kind of overly broad), Sub-Continent Regions (much better), Country/Territory (the default). Within some countries, you can also see Regions. These are the states in the US, provinces in Canada, etc. Some countries have internal region data in Google Analytics, others don’t.

Worldwide, you can also see City data. Within the US only, you also have the option of “Metros”, which are basically Designated Marketing Areas (DMAs). This is a useful level of detail between states and cities.

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Location data can be useful for targeting your marketing and advertising and understanding who you are reaching. What level of detail is of interest to you depends on your organization: maybe you care about an audience all across the world, maybe in specific countries where you do business, or maybe only in a handful of cities where you have bricks-and-mortar locations.

Lastly, what does it mean when a location is (not set)? As in any field in Google Analytics, (not set) means the information wasn’t captured for some reason. In this instance, GA could not determine where someone was located from their IP address. We looked at a large set of data from a recent 30-day period for a large site with worldwide reach, and we found about 4% of visits had a location that couldn’t be determined. More than half of these were from mobile devices, which isn’t surprising. Many of those were due to usage of Opera Mini as the browser, which actually fetches web pages to an Opera server and then sends a compressed version on to the mobile device (in which case your website never has a direct connection with the device to determine its IP address).

Jonathan Weber is our Data Evangelist, focusing on bringing the strategic value of data analysis to our customers. He spreads the principles of analytics through our training seminars and is currently writing a book on Google Analytics & Tag Manager. Before he caught the analytics bug, he worked in information architecture. Away from the computer you can find him as a flower farmer and plant geek.

  • Craig Bailey

    Thank you! Was wondering what the (not set) in my location reports was due to. I didn’t have the same mobile trend as you, although the 4% figure is about right – but interestingly I’ve noticed the (not set) traffic really fall off in the last month. Prior to that it was increasing each month.

  • Ellen

    In our clients’ demographics, the city New York is at the top. Is there any way to break this data out into more actionable data?

    Our guess is New York means New York City, but is there any way to verify that or expound upon that?

  • Tyler

    – Ellen

    If you look into the secondary dimension – Metro – in the visitors section when you have selected ‘New York’ it will give you the nearest metro area.

    ie: Buffalo, Ithaca, or New York City.

    Hope that helps!

  • David Orloff

    How many countries are counted in Google Analytics? In other words if a website was accessed by every country in the world, how many would Google show?

  • Karla Madison

    Is there a way to tell on what day where each of the hits/states/cities are coming from? Thank you.

  • David Hosei

    Hi David, I’m showing 206 countries on my Google Analytics account that have traffic. I’m showing the following with no traffic:

    1. Country/Territory of EH
    2. Country/Territory of TD
    3. Country/Territory of CF
    4. Country/Territory of CG
    5. Country/Territory of GL

    So if you add them together – I’m showing 211 for Google Analytics.

    Hope that helps!

    I’m actually trying to figure out the number of cities/towns that have Internet access. Any help figuring that out would be greatly appreciated…:)

  • Stacey

    How does this relate to mobile devices. For example. If I use my cellphone. Does it show the tower that my signal is coming from? does the city show as my home city set with the provider?

  • Arron Chapman

    The Opera browser makes sense.
    Are other browsers reporting (not set) for a very similar reason as well?
    For instance- Android, chrome, IE, Blackberry, (and a collection on versions) all show large amounts of (not set) in my mobile report.

  • Jason

    I’m interested in running a locations report for just a subset of pages within my website. Is there a way to run a cross-tabs between location and content?

  • Jonathan Weber

    Jason — sure, a couple of ways to go about that. The easiest way is probably to create an Advanced Segment that shows only visitors who viewed certain pages, and apply that to the Locations report. You can also create a custom report (the map type is available in custom reports), and filter for a certain pattern of page URLs.

  • Debu Shah

    In my location-city tab, majority of traffic showing (not set ) why we cannot track such important attribute?

  • Stephen G.

    It appears that bots also cause the country to be “not set.”

    We’ve seen an increase of the country “not set” since July. In June “not set” accounted for .23% of traffic, rising to 6.5% in October. It looks like 97% of that traffic is by Firefox on Linux OS and the traffic is daily.

    This appears to be constant daily bot/spider traffic from network domain 100% of the visits are new, the bounce rate is 99%, the pages/visit is only 1, and the average visit duration is less than a second.

    Interestingly, I applied a smart bot filter (^(microsoft corp|inktomi corporation|yahoo! inc.|google inc.|stumbleupon inc.)$|gomez) and still see this traffic.

    Has anyone else seen bots like this?


    BTW, I found this blog post by searching for “not set country in google analytics.”

  • Rachit

    My GA location report shows 40% visits from a (not set) location. The number is visitors under this category is 150k+.
    Can you please suggest what might be happening here?

  • Ronnie Jones

    Thank you, I was looking all over for it even though it was right in front of me

  • bhawin

    hello , i want to know whether we can fetch data from google analytics on the basis of the country code eg -> i have ‘AU’ for australia , so can i use ‘AU’ to get the data from cities of australia

  • Rakesh Shah

    Hi Jonathen,

    I hav doubts which is already asked in your comments section asked by stacey and Debu and i am bit satisfy with answer too given by Arron and Stephen.


  • bd info

    Thanks a lot for your informative post. Can you please tell me how to determine my website ranking in the search engine against a particular keywords that audience applied to visit my site.

  • CTW, LLC

    Thanks, this info really helps and is better than what’s on the GA site.

  • Deeva

    Question for you: one of my client’s sites is for scholarships offered in the local area. They have recently seen an increase in hits from Brazil and France and are wondering why? Any ideas? This started happening a couple of months ago. Their main concern is the possibility of hackers. Thank you for your article and your input.

    • Jon Meck

      Hi Deeva,

      “Hackers” isn’t really the right word to use here. There are “spammers” that are sending in false data to people’s Analytics accounts, and this is most likely the issue. We call these Ghost Referrals, and they’ve been targeting Google Analytics accounts. Check out the following post:

      You’ll also find a lot of articles recently online talking about them.

      Your first step should be making sure you have a valid Include Hostname filter for your client’s sites so that you’re only receiving traffic to that specific hostname. Then, if you need to, you can implement a more complicated solution like the one that I linked to above.


  • Skumarsinha

    from last month I am watching my google analytic panel. Don’t know why Not Set location is increasing day by day. Is there any problem with my client website or should I update the analytic code to the website. Is there any one can clear my confusion.

    • Jon Meck

      Hi Skumarsinha,

      Chances are this is due to the increase in Ghost Referrals that have been targeting Google Analytics accounts. Check out the following post:

      You’ll also find a lot of articles recently online talking about them.

      Your first step should be making sure you have a valid Include Hostname filter for your client’s sites so that you’re only receiving traffic to that specific hostname. Then, if you need to, you can implement a more complicated solution like the one that I linked to above.


      • Skumarsinha

        Hi Jon,
        Many thanks for your reply. As I am seeing my analytics- When I make filter on country dimension the not set location is showing is very few. most of the traffic coming from United states. And when I check with city filter that not set becomes very high. In not set location the bounce rate is 70-80%. Should I add cookies as I have seen on your post.

        If I ll not taking any action against it. How much possibility that google can penalize my client website?

        • Jon Meck

          Google won’t penalize you for anything like this, it is just merely bad data that is being sent to Google. You might not need to use the cookie method, but you could at least add a hostname include filter to help keep some of the spam away.

          • Skumarsinha

            Hey Jon,
            Thanks for helping me out. I don’t know how to add hostname to my website. Can you please provide me the any reference for it.

  • sara b

    My question is regarding tracking of mobile device locations. They don’t have static IP addresses, right, so any GQ locations (especially cities!) reports would be based on where the mobile device was at the time, where it was searching from?

  • Frank Thierie

    Hi, I’m from Belgium and i’m certain many of the visits on my website is coming from Begium, but google analytics reports no single visit from Belgium. What is going wrong?

  • Alberto Sassoon

    Hi Jonathan,

    After a few months, came back to check geographical information and I noticed that (at least) two countries where I had a significant number of visits do not show any visits (Argentina among others). Also, that started to appeared “Not Set” location. I can see the No Set explanation, but despite I use all available historic data, visits from Argentina (example) just disappeared. Can I fix this?

    Many thanks

  • ThePrudentNinja

    I’ve almost been pulling out my hair recently trying to stop the spam referrals/visits to my blog. The data got so corrupted from the spam I finally just created a new Analytics for my blog and implemented the valid hostname filter and a .htaccess based filter from the start. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m about to be hit with more spam as despite such I’m beginning to get a lot of “not set” hits. Time will tell. Since the blog is new, it’s of no use to me to see hundreds of fake hits (which flood out the genuine hits). You would THINK that Google would attempt to stop this massive amount of spam in their product. It would be a lot easier for everyone if Google just spent a little time fixing Analytics.

  • Hiresh Roy

    Recently I was analyzing user behaviour and noticed that few users’ hit are recorded by GA from multiple location. We have implemented cookie ID to be attached and we could pull more hit level data for analysis and I was surprised to see the same cookie id is appearing from two different city for the same user (One from India and other it was from Canada). Since we were checking with known ID, I was very sure this data is wrong, but I assume GA capture them based on IP address and it is misleading for analysis.

  • Penny Algarin

    excellent post

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