Google Analytics is a great tool that provides basic analytics on website visitor activity, but it can often provide red herrings when it comes to Location reporting.
Location analysis in Google Analytics is based on IP Address lookup which is highly inaccurate, especially in the age of mobile shopping. GA often uses an arbitrary IP Address from a cell tower or data center to run the lookup, so it is common that a brand sees a high percentage or even the majority of their website users from all around the country. It is even common to see a high percentage of shoppers from Coffeyville, KS, since it’s the direct geographic center of the continental US.
This is especially common in recent years as mobile devices have eclipsed desktop in volume of web traffic. Mobile devices not connected to wifi are assigned an essentially random IP Address from cell towers that can also change as a user moves from one tower to the next.
This misrepresentation is also compounded for clickable media referrals in GA:
- Users on a VPN or proxy server when they’re served an ad
- Google Analytics not filtering out test/authentication test traffic from non-Google adservers
- Other obfuscations of the IP address
Users can test this themselves by turning off wifi on their phone and using an IP Lookup website.
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