We hate to be the bearer of bad news.
Google confirmed a change today that might greatly impact your Google Analytics reports, campaigns, experiments and personalizations. If you use either the Google Analytics’ Service Provider or Network Domain dimensions to filter data or target campaigns, you need to read this post.
For starters, if you’re a marketer or data analyst, and you expect that users from your organization (a.k.a internal traffic) are either:
- Excluded from seeing your campaign ads, or
- Excluded from your main Google Analytics views
…this may no longer be happening if you use Service Provider or Network Domain to make this work.
We and many others globally noticed that on February 4, 2020, data for Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions started to be shown as (not set).
Google has now confirmed that they are “no longer able to report these dimensions in Google Analytics”. This means all data in these two dimensions will be shown as (not set) from now on.
Why?! At this time, we don’t have any additional information. This is not a temporary data processing bug.
Why is this a problem? If you see (not set) in your Service Provider and Network Domain dimensions, here are a few possible problems:
- If your organization is using either of these dimensions to exclude your staff or agency traffic from your Main Reporting or Master View:
- Your “Internal Traffic Only” view will have declined and flat lined at zero. Depending on your time zone, you will see declining traffic on February 4 and no traffic as of February 5. Consider using “IP address” to filter your internal traffic in the future instead of “ISP Organization” and “ISP Domain”
- Your Main Reporting View that previously excluded internal traffic may show higher traffic than before February 4, 2020
- Any campaign testing or content editing on your live site that should be only shown in your Internal traffic Views might no longer be there. This traffic will be in your Main Reporting View
- Your ads and personalization operations may not be working as you expect if you or your agency have created Google Analytics “Audiences” using Service Provider and/or Network Domain, and these audiences are being used in Google Ads or Display & Video 360 for re-marketing and ad targeting, or in Optimize 360 for personalization
- For ads budget management, these dimensions are typically used to suppress ad impressions from employees or other “insiders” such as agencies. If you don’t take action, you might see inflated impressions or lower clickthrough rates and conversions. You can try to exclude these audiences by another method, such as cookie/custom dimension behaviour methods
- Bot traffic may re-surface in your Main Reporting View, inflating traffic
- Consider only including traffic from just your known domains and subdomains, using the Hostname dimension
- Enable Bot Filtering in View Settings, by ticking the box for “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders”. This may not be selected in older Views, created before Bot Filtering was automatically enabled when a View is created
- Most bots won’t have a Screen Resolution – use a (not set) Screen Resolution to filter bots. Read more in our busting Ghost Spam blog post
- Split testing in Optimize, where the targeting or exposure criteria is controlled by either of these 2 dimensions
- This targeting will no longer work. Your experiment will be invalid as the conditions have changed
- Data Studio reports and any other data extracts that report on these two dimensions, or segment using these two dimensions, will not make sense
Using Google’s own Google Analytics Demo data from the Google Merchandise Store, here’s what we see for the Service Provider dimension:
Decline in data in the Service Provider dimension on February 4. All data went to (not set) as of 8 am Eastern Time on February 4.
Rise in (not set) data in the Service Provider data, starting on February 4.
The two reports above are Google Analytics Custom Reports.
If you want to use these reports with your GA data, click on these links to import the report shell into your own GA login:
- Trend sessions with Service Provider data available: http://bit.ly/2S42hfN
- Trend sessions with Service Provider data not available (i.e. Trends sessions with Service Provider (not set)): http://bit.ly/2UyxUQi
Once you’ve imported them, change the dimension in these custom reports to Network Domain to create the same reports using Network Domain instead of Service Provider.
Update February 21, 2020– Very brief note from Google about this change here
Deprecation of Network Domain and Service Provider Data Fields
Starting February 4, 2020, the Network Domain and Service Provider data fields are no longer populated. The fields will remain in the product for legacy usage, but will no longer be updated.
As we continue to evolve our product, we regularly review how we process and make data available, and this change was a result of this examination.
If you relied upon these fields for spam detection, be sure you have enabled Bot/Spider filtering in your View settings. Google Analytics is constantly working to ensure the cleanest and safest data environment for our users, and will continue this process…