Applications of Hostnames Report in Google Analytics

The Hostnames Report in Google Analytics usually does not get much attention from an average Google Analytics user. In this article, I will shed some light on the functions and uses of the Hostname Report.

About the Hostnames Report in Google Analytics

In Google Analytics, the Hostnames report can be found under Visitors –> Network Properties –> Hostnames. Let’s assume that you have two different domain names (e.g. mysite.com and mysite.net). Both domain names bring your online visitors to the same website essentially displaying the same content.

The Hostnames Report will display the data associated with traffic coming from each of the different domain names and the respective engagement associated with it. In a nutshell, the Hostnames Report in Google Analytics shows the list of domain names that cause your tracking code to execute.

The Hostnames Reports shows your different domain aliases, thus if you have setup a redirect from mysite.com to mysite.net, then you will only see mysite.net in this report.

Application of the Hostnames Report

Resolving Identity Crisis

A participant from our Google Analytics training program had an interesting application of the Hostnames Report. A year ago, her organization changed their name and thus they had to change their domain name. The organization invested in marketing to promote the new brand name and the new website. Her organization was interested in understanding statistics associated with the usage of the old domain name vs. the new domain name.

The Hostname Report was able to provide her with an insight into this matter. We found out that despite  a substantial amount of marketing, most of her visitors were still using the old domain name. By applying sub-dimensions we further discovered the respective mediums (channels) that sent traffic to each of the domain names. This allowed us to determine which channel needed more attention in order to increase the brand awareness. In nutshell, if your website has two many identities, and if your website is facing an identity crisis, then the Hostnames Report is a great place to find answers.

Hostnames Report as Internal Watchdog

Recently, I came across an interesting question on LinkedIn regarding the Hostnames Report. Someone asked, “if you see a competitor name in the Hostnames Reports, should you be concerned?”

As explained above, the Hostnames report in Google Analytics shows a list of domain names that are causing your tracking code to execute. Your Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) can be viewed by anyone by simply using the View Source Code feature available in a web browser. It is possible that someone can install the same tracking code on a different website, which will muddle your data.

The Hostnames Reports will show if any other websites are causing your code to execute. In this case, the first thing you want to do is apply a profile level filter to block the traffic coming from that particular domain name.

If you are unfamiliar with using sub-dimensions or applying profile level filters in Google Analytics, then our Google Analytics Training may be of interest to you.

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