When someone fills out a web form on your website to get access to your product or service, or perhaps just for extra information, there is a decent chance the information they provided is not legitimate. Or sometimes part of it is legitimate, but there seems to be a mismatch between their address provided and the area code of the phone number. Luckily for you, there is one additional data point you either are already collecting – or definitely should be – that can corroborate the identity of the user: their IP Address.
Collecting IP address information from your website visitors is an additional key to verifying the requestor’s identity, and can help you prevent bad or fraudulent form submissions from entering your system. Moreover, collecting IP addresses from all submitters can give you a better sense of where your website visitors are coming from, allowing you to better target your product or service to that specific area.
Quick break down of an IP address
IP stands for Internet Protocol. An Internet Protocol address, or IP address, is an online unique identifier. This online unique identifier acts as an address, in the sense that your unique number is linked to all the online activity that you do—somewhat like a return address, except that all this communication happens in milliseconds. Every machine that touches the internet has an IP address, including your computer, the cellphone in your pocket, and the smart oven in your kitchen. Your Internet Service Provider assigns you a single IP address known as an external IP, and then your router shares it amongst all the connected devices in your home, which have addresses known as an internal IP.
The IP address of a machine does not share a user’s exact location but does show a general location that is provided by the local router. Even so, the location of a user’s network is enough information to give a little bit of insight into who that person is and what kind of activity they get into on the world wide web.
Collecting IP from a website visitor
Generally, web servers are already storing details of users in log files, including information such as IP address, time of visit, referral URL, and so on. So it is totally acceptable, and often times even encouraged, for a website owner to store and analyze this information based on the need.
There are lots of tools and methods out there to collect IP addresses from either the web form submitter or even visitors to your site. Google Analytics can provide a solution for tracking IP, as well as other insights and details about user activity. Open Tracker is another web analytics solution that records each unique user and their IP address and offers an API that can be integrated into your website’s JS that collects lots of IP-related info.
If you want to avoid third-party IP collection tools or fees, you can also code your own solution, and there are plenty of solutions online based on your website needs.
What collecting IP can do for you
As already mentioned, collecting IP addresses can help verify a user’s identity and/or internet activity. This helps identify users on both ends of the spectrum: those who are genuinely interested in your product and service, where all the information they provide lines up, and those who have malicious IPs and pose a security risk to your website.
In the case where you have a form submission that looks legitimate, cross-verifying IP address can be the last piece of the puzzle to push that user’s information to your system. For example, say visitor John Doe has an area code in Chicago, IL but an address in Santa Barbara, CA, a geographic location derived from the IP of either of these locations can help confirm that yes, this seems to be a legitimate user.
Further, setting up a policy filter can help block spam coming from a range of IP addresses. Spammers can send spam starting from certain IP addresses, and move all the way up to the next IP within the same range and again bombard you with another set of spam. First collecting IP addresses and then identifying those that participate in safe online behavior from the ones that don’t can help protect you and your website from unwanted visitors and security risks.
Interested? Check out our IP address validation tools
Service Objects’ DOTS IP Address Validation service is designed to check for each of these issues, and provide additional metadata from that IP address such as latitude/longitude coordinates, the network owner, hostname, and more.
To validate multiple data points collected on a web form, Service Objects’ DOTS Lead Validation product is designed to evaluate and score each individual component of a lead, and cross-compare data including but not limited to IP address, name, email, phone number, address, and other data points that you could already be collecting on your website.
Collecting IP in conjunction with an IP address validation tool can not only help increase your understanding of your web visitors but also be used in other different ways to improve your company’s workflow.