If you're looking for a way to geo-target a campaign, the IP CITY property may be luring you to mine it for marketing gold. The property looks like it would be a good indicator of your users' locations, but in reality, it can be fools gold thanks to multi-server platforms, API protocols, and VPN access.
Case in point? Let’s look at Ashburn, Virginia.
What is so special about Ashburn? I came a cross one portal that listed Ashburn as the IP CITY on nealy 96,000 contacts records. Pretty strange when you consider that Wikipedia lists the population at just over 46k. What gives?
What we we know
We know that the IP CITY gets populated on a contact record when contact submits a form or clicks on an email link. We also know that the IP CITY is not necessarily the actual physical location of the contact, but instead the physical location of the server the contact is connected to (maybe you didn’t know that, but now you do). And, thanks to Wikipedia, we know that Ashburn is not quite the cosmopolitan metropolis that this portal's submission data would indicate.
So, why the big number?
In this case, the customer was using the Forms API to pass information from an external form to HubSpot. While the Forms API is great developers tool allowing you to build custom forms outside the HubSpot infrastructure, the API will only send information it is programmed to send. If the IP CITY data is not explicitly included in the post to the forms API, the IP of the submission will default to the IP CITY that the post request comes from.
Andwould't you know it? Ashburn VA, besides being a lovely little hamlet full of cookie cutter outdoor shopping centers and homes 30 miles outside of our nation’s capital, is also the home of an Amazon Web Services server farm, hosting thousands of websites around the world.
The bottom line? In this case the HubSpot user created forms using the Forms API and neglected to add submission IP CITY data, so Ashburn VA became the home region of nearly one-third of their contacts.
Why? Why? Why?
So, why should it matter that the IP CITY info might not be the most accurate indicator of a prospect’s location? In this case the customer (a b-to-c company) created a geo-targeted marketing campaign. Since they didn’t grab accurate location data on each of their 300,000+ contacts at the point of conversion, they decided to use IP CITY as a list segmentation filter. (Pro tip: don’t make this mistake!)
Ashburn can pop up at other places in the HubSpot universe. We’ve seen many cases of HubSpot traffic spikes from Ashburn VA (or Northern Virginia, or Washington DC metro area) in Google analytics. These are simply the different crawler and tracker bots that HubSpot pings off a site to record metrics and analytics. Not much you can do to prevent this. If the traffic skews your data, its best to create a new view in Google Analytics and exclude the bot traffic.
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