Use Your Web Analytics To Track Your Children And Your Customers


February 2, 2006

Last week, I watched the CSI Miami team resolve a computer’s IP address to… an email address!

Now, there are often times that I, too, wish I could work this magic. Of course, I can’t, but I can come somewhat close. While IP addresses really can’t be mapped to email addresses, they can be resolved (mapped) to host names. Whether it’s a really helpful domain, like, or an ISP, like, is going to depend on how the user is connected, are they hosting the site themselves, etc.

In addition to resolving to the host name (helpful or not), most analytics packages also add other information. Usually, they tell you the computer operating system, the browser and the browser version. When you put all that information together (called a user agent, or a user agent string), you can distinguish between the various users who all have the same host name.

So last night, I looked at how users came to this blog by keyword, and found that one keyword phrase was “Robbin Steif blog.” I wondered who was interested in both my blog and me, so I drilled down one level to see where that was coming from. Lo and behold, the address it resolved to seemed to be me. It was my home’s host name. It was my home’s IP address. It was the same browser and browser version I use. But I use a PC, and it was a Mac operating system. This was the “Aha!” moment when I realized that my daughter, the proud new owner of an Apple laptop, actually cared enough to look at my blog.

So, this is how you keep track of your children, and of course, one of the ways that you learn about your other, non-related visitors.