Google is getting rid of Universal Analytics in July 2023. Here's what that means for you. (Spoiler alert: It's a good thing.)
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly who was visiting your website?
“Tom Jones from ABC, Inc., is looking at the page about content creation. Here’s his email address and phone number. Sales, give him a ring!”
Maybe you could even export a spreadsheet of exactly who read every page, regardless of whether you’d ever been in touch with them or not. Wouldn’t an Excel file like this be gold?
There’s just one problem: You can’t see exactly who visits your website.
There are plenty of software solutions that say they can show you the exact identity of your website visitors. They promise to tell you what terms anonymous users searched to get to the site, what pages they saw, and even how to get in touch with them.
That’s a fantasy.
The reality is that there is no way to reliably identify and contact every anonymous visitor to your B2C or B2B website.
Think about how valuable that information would be.
If a system existed to get that data, wouldn’t you be getting hundreds of phone calls and emails a day from salespeople who knew exactly what you’d been reading?
Would the folks selling visitor identification software be spending their time prospecting? Or would they be in their amazing houses drinking amazing Champagne?
Now, it’s not hopeless. There are ways for you to see who visits your website. But it’s not going to be a list of every anonymous visitor, what they did and their contact information.
Ways to Track Website Visits & Identify Website Visitors
There are a few different ways to see who visits your website. Some will even get you contact information! Here’s a list, with the pros and cons of each.
Visitor Identification Software
There are tons of website visitor ID software products on the market. Most of them work by identifying the IP address of the visitor, then trying to match that to a database of companies or individuals.
These can provide pretty good results, depending on the quality of the data set they use. But they’re definitely not going to give you a list of everyone who visits your site.
What you should expect to see is a list of some of the big companies that hit your site, along with a fair amount of internet service providers for smaller firms. Depending on the service, you might get some individual contacts, but it’s nowhere near comprehensive.
Is visitor identification software worth it? Sure. If you have an active sales team and you can afford the cost (figure $50-$500, depending on what you’re looking at), this kind of IP-based visitor identification is great. But don’t think it’s going to give you a list of every user.
Google Analytics does not give you a list of every user on your site. It can’t – and it won’t. If you could just turn on the “identify all visitors” feature in GA, wouldn’t you have done it already?
What Google Analytics will give you is aggregate demographic information. You can find this under the “Audience” tab in the left-hand “Reports” bar:
With Google Analytics, you can see a fair bit about your users – just not on the individual level. You get access to:
- Demographic information, including age and gender
- Their interests, including affinity categories and in-market segments
- User’s locations and languages
- Their behavior, like whether they return to the site and how likely they are to convert
- The devices and browsers they use to visit your site
- Where they came from, like whether they found you via organic search or a display ad
Again, Google Analytics provides aggregate data. You won’t get a list of every user on your site, nor every IP address that visited you.
Marketing Automation Software
To identify a user and show you his or her behavior, a marketing automation platform needs a record from that user.
In other words, Pardot isn’t going to give you a popup saying “Tim is on your site! Here’s his phone number!” You need to capture that information on your own.
This is a big reason why there are so many forms offering newsletter signups, guide downloads, white papers
Such “lead magnets” are probably the most consistent way of telling who’s on your website and what they’re doing. You’ll only capture 1-2% of users, but you’ll have rock-solid data on who they are and what they’re interested in.
Here’s an example:
- Sue is reading a page about, say, B2B marketing strategy
- She sees a form to download a marketing strategy checklist
- She fills out the form and gets her checklist
Before the form, we had no idea who she was. We knew someone in her location had read the page, but not who. The download turned Sue from an anonymous, unidentifiable user into a named prospect in your automation system.
You know the data is good, since she needed to enter a real email address to get what she wanted. And you know with certainty what she wanted.
In other words, offering downloads tied to marketing automation systems is a great way to see who visits your website.
Conclusion: Can You See Who’s Visiting Your Website?
No, you’re not going to be able to see exactly who’s visiting your website if you haven’t had contact with the past. Tracking website visitors isn’t easy. You’re definitely not going to get their email addresses automatically.
Sorry, but that’s the reality.
That said, there are ways to see some of who’s visiting your site. Visitor identification software, Google Analytics and marketing automation tools can all give you good data. Put together, you can get a good understanding of your visitors, what they do and how to convert them into leads.