Google Analytics Deprecating ‘Network Domain’ and ‘Service Provider’

If you're already aware of these 2 metrics being deprecated, and you're looking for ways to combat it in your reporting, read my newest blog post (published March 2020) to review three solutions we've identified to help those impacted instead!

This post is for any users of Google Analytics -- note that Google is ending the collection of data for Network Domain and Service Provider -- two dimensions that were very useful for uncovering spam or other anomalies in your data.

No replacement or other new functionality has been mentioned -- they’re simply ending support.

Bye-Bye ISP Data 👋

When Google starts deprecating dimensions within Google Analytics, they are typically generous about giving plenty of advance notice. In the past, some dimensions have hung around for several months or even years after Google announced they were going to retire them. Service Provider and Network Domain were not so lucky.

As of February 4, 2020:

Service Provider Deprecation

Shortly after Google added the above alert to the hover tip within the Google Analytics interface, data in reports stopped reporting the information.

Moving forward (and unless Google reverses course on this decision in the coming days), you’re going to start seeing (not set) under the Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions. See below example:

Screen Shot 2020 02 06 at 12.34.59 PM

How This Will Impact Your Reporting

This is a fairly significant change to Google Analytics for two main reasons:

  • Reason #1: Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions were an excellent way of ferreting out spam and bot traffic from your reports. For example, I would often browse through and look for impossibly high (or low) Bounce Rates, % New Sessions, or Pages/Session. Now, looking at the two lines from the screenshot below ... which Service Provider do you think is more likely to be a legitimate source of user engagement vs which is more likely to be bot and/or spam traffic?

Screen Shot 2020 02 05 at 4.54.32 PM

It was previously easy to uncover and filter out bot/spam traffic in Google Analytics. Not anymore.

  • Reason #2: Many larger corporations use these dimensions as an easy way to filter out their internal company traffic from their reporting views. As two common view filter fields are ISP Organization and ISP Domain (which are analogous to the report-facing dimensions of Service Provider and Network Domain). Our early internal testing shows that this change has eliminated their filtering ability, as well.

As a result, if you are filtering your Google Analytics views by ISPs -- you may start seeing internal traffic showing up in your reports (depending on your internal traffic volume). This influx might not be immediately apparent because it's blended in with the rest of your site visitors -- unless you specifically look at the data in isolation:

Beginning on February 4th, one way to identify this traffic would be to look for sudden increases in sessions from the specific city where your organization is located to check for influxes.

Important Note: Although 'IP' is just one letter shy of 'ISP', there’s no indication that any change has been made to IP-based filtering. So if you are excluding your internal traffic based on 'IP Address' ranges, that is still functioning.

Screen Shot 2020 02 06 at 12.52.53 PM

As of today, there has not been any public acknowledgement of the change from Google. Simo Ahava highlighted this on Twitter and others are chiming in to voice their frustration over this removal.

💡 If you don’t have any view filters set up to filter traffic based on ISP Organization, you won’t see any immediate increase in new traffic in your reports. You will, however, lose the ability to use Service Provider and Network Domain as tools to identify and prevent spam traffic moving forward.💡 

The Game Plan

It would be wise for everyone to check their Google Analytics view filters to see whether or not they are using the ISP Organization or ISP Domain filters. Seriously, go check them now. We’ll wait!

Screen Shot 2020 02 06 at 12.43.15 PM

Screen Shot 2020 02 06 at 12.45.18 PM

If you find that you are excluding internal traffic by ISPs, you’ll want to switch those over to filtering based on IP ranges as soon as possible. For more information about that, see this post.

Now What?

  • For some users of Google Analytics, this change will be insignificant and go unnoticed.
  • For those who used those dimensions to uncover spam and to filter traffic in their views, this will have a major and immediate negative impact.

We are continuing to monitor these changes and will update this post if new information becomes available. Many of us here are hoping that Google will listen to the outcry and either reverse this decision or add comparable new dimensions to circumvent their removal.

In the meantime, you can sign up for our newsletter to be kept informed of the latest industry news.


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