Google Analytics Visitor Identification Explained

Manal Yousuf
February 17, 2023

Google Analytics is the most-used analytics tool in the world, in large part due to its standard version being free. The tool offers businesses ease in terms of usage, expense, and setup. But there have been growing concerns related to privacy and effectiveness about the way Google Analytics identifies users and stores their data.

Google Analytics’ logo

Here’s everything you need to know about visitor identification in Google Analytics.

Visitor identification in Google Analytics: How does it work?

It’s no secret that users on the internet want anonymity as they browse through websites. Analytics tools have to follow stringent laws and country-specific data protection acts. These laws prevent cybersecurity threats and illegal user tracking.

However, it is imperative for businesses to identify prospective clients. You can then understand gaps in the market and specific pain points in order to increase their consumer bases. So Google Analytics identifies users as “new” or “returning.” It can tell you the number of visitors your website receives. But it cannot let you know who your users are, since it isn’t equipped with de-anonymization features.

De-anonymization is a critical part of analytics and reporting. Tools like Factors use reverse IP lookup. This shows you which businesses have visited your website through matching IP addresses. For every visitor, Factors would be able to identify the company domain, company name and other relevant information. This includes number of employees, annual revenue, industry category, and company headquarters. And yes–it’s in full compliance with privacy regulations, since it uses data from your own website and publicly available company data.

Let’s say that you visit Factors’ website twice in the month of February 2023. For this time period, Google Analytics would classify you as both a new user from the first time you used it, and as a returning user for the second time. This can lead to confusion. But, Factors’ extensive database would allow your IP address to be identified. Each touchpoint would be recorded as a stage in your consumer journey.

Google Analytics client ID vs user ID: What’s the difference?

Say you’re using the standard version of Google Analytics and receive a website visitor. The tool stores a cookie containing a random ID number, which is the client ID. The client ID tracks the user across the website for the session. If the user uses the same device and IP address, they’ll be tracked with the same cookie and client ID.

How client IDs appear in Google Analytics.

However, if a returning user uses incognito mode, clears their cache, or uses a proxy or VPN to access your website, Google Analytics will classify them as a new user. This leads to a miscalculation in the number of unique visitors your website receives within a specified period of time. You are likely to think you have more visitors than you actually do. Unless a user logs into your website, you won’t be able to track the user; you’ll be tracking their session instead. A user ID can only be created if your website features a way of allowing clients to create an account and log in.

How user IDs appear in Google Analytics.

B2B companies using Google Analytics have to comply with the platform’s user protection policies. These policies require you to remove any personally identifiable information (PII) before the data is sent to Google. Even if visitors to your website enter any PII into forms themselves, this data cannot be stored in Google Analytics due to Google’s terms of service. PII includes social security numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers. Some PII is crucial to lead generation and nurturing. Your customer relationship management (CRM) software needs to store this information.

Imagine that your B2B marketing team obtains a high-value lead. You'd only be able to recognize this user by their email. To see their full journey, you need them to enter their email (say to login each time. Otherwise Google Analytics would show you a string of alphanumeric text. It would be difficult for a marketer to interpret and recognize this string as Marc.

B2B companies also need specialized analytics tools that integrate seamlessly with their CRM. This helps you get a comprehensive understanding of the buyer journey. Google Analytics does not offer CRM integration capabilities, which proves a drawback to a SaaS business. You won’t be able to integrate client data across email, social media platforms, and your website using Google Analytics.

Multi-touch attribution analysis helps marketers optimize their marketing investments. Solutions like Factors score over Google Analytics. They bring in spend data from ad platforms such as LinkedIn, Bing and Facebook. They also pull data from non-digital marketing activities such as webinars, e-books and field events. Google Analytics cannot provide the same level of analysis. Moreover, Factors automatically sorts through your CRM data. It provides you with the metrics you decide are important for your sales and marketing teams. These include monthly revenue growth, customer churn, retention rate, and customer lifetime value. You can form personalized sales and marketing strategies around these metrics. These measures will help you attract and retain more clients. Consider, for instance, you’re able to understand which stage of the funnel prospects usually churn at. You then have deeper insight into their pain points, and can develop solutions accordingly.

Google Analytics can offer your business a user-based view. But its privacy concerns, terms of service, and its limited integrations are a drawback. They render it incapable of offering you a holistic, account-based analytical overview. Since it doesn’t integrate with your CRM, you also won’t be able to gain insight into end-to-end customer journeys. These journeys are critical to understanding which website features lead to client satisfaction.

Google Analytics dashboard.

Account-based analytics and reporting are becoming increasingly important for SaaS businesses today. User identification at the initial stages is invaluable. It helps you map out each user’s journey through the sales funnel, as well as what causes prospects to churn. Account-based analytics pull data from your website, email, social media platforms, and interactions. They provide you with a full overview of each potential or current client’s unique journey.

You’ll also be able to make more accurate projections for your business with account-based analytics. These can provide you with insights such as how many touchpoints typically lead to a sale. Factors’ account-based analytics features include cohort analysis. You can segment prospects according to intent and priority. This enables you to personalize offers for priority prospects. You can then create sales and marketing strategies that drive more conversions.

Custom touchpoint parameters on

Google Analytics vs Factors comparison table

What are the challenges of visitor identification in Google Analytics?

Visitor identification is especially necessary in a B2B context. B2B software and solutions are highly specialized towards a particular segment of the industry. Thus, analytics tools need to offer B2B companies efficient and effective user identification. The following factors make visitor identification challenging with Google Analytics:

  • Ad blockers: Over a quarter of all internet users from the US use some form of ad blocker. Privacy concerns have led to Google Analytics being automatically or manually blocked through the use of ad blockers. B2B companies need analytics and attribution tools that can work around ad blockers. They also need to be compliant with the GDPR and other applicable regulations and laws. Factors offers custom domains. These work even with the use of ad blockers and prevent IP tracking while. They are also compliant with local and international data protection regulations.
  • Inadequate information. Google Analytics cannot provide B2B businesses with dedicated reporting on key metrics. This is due to its tracking and privacy limitations
  • User ID tracking: Google Analytics does not allow you to store any PII, making it difficult to recognize users.

But wait … isn’t Google Analytics illegal?

There are two types of cookies: first-party and third-party. First-party cookies are put in place by the domain of the website a user is looking through to track browsing activity across the site. But third-party cookies can track user activity across other websites as well. They are created by a different domain name than the user can see in their browser bar. Thus, users consider third-party cookies an infringement of privacy.

Although Google Analytics uses first-party cookies, it integrates with Google Ad Manager. The latter relies on third-party cookies for advertising. The use of multiple cookies makes Google Analytics a heavier script, leading to slower processing. Moreover, Google Analytics is banned in multiple European countries. France, Austria, and Italy have banned it due to its violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These bans came into being due to Google Analytics’ storing of unique user features–such as IP addresses–which is illegal under the GDPR. Google Analytics also uses third-party cookies in order to scrape referral data. Many websites using the tool also use third-party cookies to track user activity across the web. Businesses using Google Analytics are increasingly concerned about privacy regulations and obsoletion.

So, is Google Analytics not enough for visitor identification?

B2B businesses must know about their users and their needs so that they can target users with the right messaging at each stage of the funnel. The analytics tool you use is crucial in capturing this information for you. You can optimize your website according to which aspects of it drive conversions, and which hamper your chances of obtaining a new client. De-anonymization boosts marketing and sales efforts. You can create better pitches and optimize marketing with visitor identification.

But if you’re not looking for specific information about the companies that are visiting your website, Google Analytics can be a useful tool. New businesses often use Google Analytics’ free version to get valuable insights. You’ll also be able to understand what kind of content works for your audience, and view your website visitors in segments.

Get a complete picture of your users with Factors

Analytics and reporting tools for B2B companies enable automatic website visitor identification. Factors’ automated button tracking and custom domain tracking help you map out a website visitor’s journey. It also works around ad blockers and is compliant with data protection policies. Book a demo today and find out how Factors can help your business grow.


Why is it important to identify website visitors?

Identifying website visitors is integral to understanding potential clients’ unique journeys and needs. B2B businesses especially need this information to address prospects' pain points and optimize their strategies. You won’t be able to see which particular individual has visited your website. But with tools like Factors, you’ll know which company the IP address belongs to.

How do ad blockers affect tracking?

Ad blockers can block Google Analytics from tracking user activity across the websites they use. B2B analytics solutions like Factors use custom domains and reverse IP lookup to automate visitor tracking. They are also compliant with local and international regulations.

How do account-based analytics help businesses?

Account-based analytics can help you track overall metrics, as well as each client’s particular journey. These metrics enable you to create marketing and sales strategies that are more personalized and effective. Using account-based analytics can increase your ROI.

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