Hostnames. The Most Boring GA Report Ever. Or Is It?

October 28, 2010
By John Henson

Each time a page is viewed on a website with GA implemented, one of the pieces of information that is passed back to Google is the domain of the site on which the page was viewed.

This seems pretty straight foward.

If visitors view https://bounteous.com/index.html the hostname is www.lunametrics.com
If visitors view http://training.bounteous.com/training.html the hostname is www.lunametrics.com
If visitors view https://bounteous.com/insights.html the hostname is www.lunametrics.com
If visitors view https://bounteous.com/sexytimes.html the hostname is www.lunametrics.com

See a pattern?

So a report that lists all the traffic to the www.lunametrics.com site should be pretty damn boring.

We might expect it to look something like this:

And that would be the end of this post.

Except that, in fact though, our hostnames report looks like this:


Okay, so let’s take a quick look at some of these other hostnames.

webcache.googleusercontent.com

This one is easy.  When Google crawls websites, they also save the pages in their own cache.  This is people who have viewed our LunaMetrics webpages from that cache instead of at LunaMetrics.

translate.googleusercontent.com

Also easy.  People who view our website through Google’s translate service.  Looks like we may have a few readers who don’t want to, or aren’t able to, read the english version.

Bonus Tip (from Jonathan Weber): If you look at the pages from translate.googleusercontent.com (using an Advanced Segment, for example), you can see which pages people translated, and the URLs also include a query parameter that tells you which language the page was translated into.

www.google.com

Not sure, maybe the cached pages sometimes come up as google.com instead of googleusercontent.com?  Something I’ll have to look into because now I’m curious.

web.com

This is a website hosting service.  Did someone post a copy of one of our webpages here?  Maybe someone at LunaMetrics was playing with their service?  I don’t know.

72.22.16.69

Our IP address, instead of  ‘www.lunametrics.com’

lunametrics.presslift.com

A press release service that hosts your press release.  Going here shows one of our Training pages.  Maybe someone here was trying out their service?

checkout.google.com

If you use Google Checkout, part of the process happens on checkout.google.com.  There’s an integration with GA that lets you measure visits to those pages directly to your GA account, allowing you to set up a complete funnel for your checkout goal.  This hostname is due to those pages.

mail.www.lunametrics.com

Our web-mail service.  Maybe someone emailed themselves one of our webpages?

2.hidemyass.com

This is a proxy service.  Looks like someone didn’t want their boss to know they were checking out our site!!

74.6.239.185

This is a Yahoo.com IP address.  Maybe used for Yahoo’s page caching.

cc.bingj.com

Bing’s page caching domain.

edit.optimizely.com

This is a Website Testing tool.  Looks like someone here uploaded some of our website content to optimizely to test out their service?

www.lunametrics.com

Usually, www.lunametrics.com gets re-written to www.lunametrics.com.  Looks like there is at least one case where it doesn’t get re-written correctly.

Besides seeing your domain without any prefix, you may also see your own subdomains listed here, such as blog.www.lunametrics.com or store.www.lunametrics.com.  This is a great guide to what subdomains you should doublecheck tracking for to make sure you have the same GA code on each subdomain.

web.archive.org

Another webpage caching service.

www.anon.me

Another proxy service like hidemyass.com

Well, that’s it.  That’s the hostnames report and some of the information you can get from it.