Here we are building a “hyperlocal” website and we notice this weird thing in our Google Analytics data. Why are we getting so much traffic from Sky Lake?
In the image above you can see that our traffic is pretty concentrated in the Boca Raton area, but there are a couple of obvious outliers. The top arrow points to a concentration in Sky Lake, a place we did not recognize, a three hour drive away near Orlando, with a population of only 6000 people. The lower arrow points to Hialeah, which is larger and closer (about an hour drive), but still doesn’t make a lot of sense for reading news about what’s happening in West Boca Raton.
When you look at our top ten cities (below) there’s a third one that doesn’t quite fit – Davie. It’s closer but still odd.
For readers unfamiliar with our area, five of the other seven “cities” are in Boca Raton. Parkland is just south of us, and Delray Beach is just to the north. Many people in those communities work in or frequently visit Boca Raton. So they still fit our natural audience.
After spending some time looking through our Analytics data, we figured out what’s going on. At first we obsessed about Sky Lake and noticed that a company named Omniture has significant operations there. Since they’re in online marketing and web analytics, we thought maybe they were running bots onto our site. We checked to see who the service provider was and we saw another thing that confused us:
What the heck is “service provider corporation?” We’re used to seeing cell phone company names or cable providers. Jeffalytics describes it as a “United States based provider of IP Addresses to various phone providers.”
Phone providers? That led us to the answer, or at least a partial answer. We looked at “device category” as the secondary dimension while looking at the Sky Lake in Google Analytics.
Aha! 97% of the users from Sky Lake are on mobile, 2.5% on tablets, and only 0.23% are on desktop. Overall 60% of our site users are on mobile, 10% on tablets and 30% on desktop, so this is a huge difference. Sky Lake is apparently a hub for some unknown group of mobile device users.
We found somewhat similar numbers for Hialeah and Davie:
Davie is close enough that some people there probably do commute into Boca for work, and/or some Boca residents may work there. That would explain why their desktop numbers are a little higher.
Boca Raton is in Palm Beach County and our area code is 561. A lot of people in Boca Raton have cell phone numbers with area codes from Broward County (954 and 754) or Miami-Dade County (305 and 786). They may have lived in those counties in the past, and some may live there but work in Boca. Davie is in Broward and might be a common city used by cell phone companies for phone lines that were set up in Broward. Similarly Hialeah is in Miami-Dade and the same logic would apply.
Sky Lake still seems odd. What might explain it is that Palm Beach County used to be in the 407 area code. The 561 area code was created in 1996. So it’s possible that a significant number of Boca Raton residents somehow retained phones with 407 area codes. That explanation doesn’t feel right because we encounter very few people with 407 area codes. But we don’t have a better explanation for it.
This detail creates a problem for those of us trying to build hyperlocal websites. Part of the business model is to sell local advertisers on how well targeted our website is to the very local audience they want to reach. When we show them analytics data (whether from Google Analytics or other tools) these odd cities weaken our pitch. Hopefully this article will help other hyperlocal webmasters explain the data, and if you are looking to get certified in Google Analytics, you might want to take a google analytics certification practice test first.