How Reverse-IP Address Reveal Work for B2B Marketers
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How Reverse-IP Address Reveal Work for B2B Marketers

Savvy B2B marketers should start paying attention to the potential of IPs while still respecting the barriers.
Primer team
Updated on
March 20, 2024
Published on
December 27, 2023
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IP addresses usually don't grab the attention of marketers. But with all the privacy restrictions on tracking, these web traffic ID numbers have gained importance. IPs help identify visitors and devices even without cookies.

So, let's dive into how IP addresses work and the visibility they provide. We'll also explore some creative ways that brands can use IP targeting to their advantage, especially in the absence of cookies. Savvy B2B marketers should start paying attention to the potential of IPs while still respecting the barriers to anonymous personalization.

Understanding What IP Addresses Uncover

First up – what are IP addresses anyway? They are coded number strings that internet providers assign to any device that connects to the web - you know, phones, laptops, smart speakers, all that good stuff. Each device gets its special address to route traffic.

When someone visits your website, the server logs capture this alphanumeric code called the IP address. Now, for regular folks like us, our home IPs might change every once in a while. But big companies often buy "IP ranges" that stay the same to improve security and connections. These special IPs make it easier to track them down.

Now, here's the thing - IPs alone can't pinpoint individuals perfectly. But if you cross-reference other details like the type of device, browser, and when they visited, you can begin to understand who's behind that IP address. It's not foolproof, but it does give marketers some potential to connect the dots and understand persistent users over multiple visits.

There's marketing potential with IP addresses, but it's not the complete picture. You have to supplement it with other data to make sense of it all.

How Companies Try Using IP Addresses

The most basic way brands try capitalizing on IP addresses is through reverse IP lookup. Tools exist that search public databases to find out which companies own the IP addresses of the people visiting their websites. This helps them attribute the traffic sources to specific businesses.

Now, the way reverse IP lookup works is by checking registry records that list who registered each IP address block. Big companies like Microsoft and IBM pay for special IP ranges that are listed under their official business names. So when their employees browse websites using their corporate internet connection, these companies can easily be identified by their reserved IPs. However, only ~10% of companies purchase IP ranges.

Smaller companies don't have IP blocks. They use IPs from regular internet service providers, and these IPs rotate fairly frequently. So, trying to link each random IP visiting your website to individual small businesses becomes pretty unreliable.

While reverse IP lookup does a good job of spotting website traffic from big brand IPs, connecting every visitor back to their company is a bit tricky. It requires cooperation from businesses to register their IPs under their names. That's why some other methods, like matching IPs to email form submissions, help fill in the visibility gaps, although they provide mixed individual transparency.

In the end, while there are risks with directly connecting people's identities to IPs when applied ethically and in aggregate at the company level, IP intelligence gives marketers valuable insights, and targeting is not provided by fading third-party cookies. It's like a unique clue that adds depth to understanding your website visitors and their interests.

Tying Identified Email Domains to IP Addresses

Some platforms try to connect company IP addresses to email domains through site partnerships or embedded forms. This helps them figure out which businesses are visiting their websites, even when reverse IP lookups to public registries don't work. Companies like Clearbit and 6sense ask website owners to install their tracking tools, and when visitors enter their work email to access exclusive content, the platform records their email domain (like @marketo.com) and their current IP address.

Over time, patterns start to emerge that link company email addresses to the IP addresses of their employees' browsing activities. So when those IPs visit other sites, they can be matched back to the original companies with more confidence through this domain connection.

But here's the catch: it's not always easy to reveal individual identities beyond IP and domain connections. People who browse from personal devices often have block tracking in small (not hitting “accept-all” on cookie consents) and big ways (e.g., iOS apps “do not track”). It gets even trickier when household members share the same IP address for both work and personal use.

However, there are some extra techniques like timestamps, locations, and device fingerprints that can help identify persistent individuals behind shared IPs. The platforms have to be careful about securing proper consent, though. But despite all these challenges, durable IP connections still exist and offer marketers some helpful clues for targeting.

Use Cases for IP Targeting

So, how can mapped business IP addresses help B2B marketing efforts? Well, it all depends on the scale and market. But some cool opportunities pop up:

Audience Analytics - You can identify site traffic from specific companies and categorize visitors by industry and business models for better insight reports. IP intelligence goes beyond just basic geography.

Contact Profiling - When you recognize visitors from important stakeholders, you can add more details to their contact records and figure out their unofficial roles in the buying process based on their content interests (with their permission, of course). Such intelligence can inform the development of precise ICP.

Targeted Advertising - By delivering relevant messages to IPs, you can reach a captive business audience without wasting money on ads that won't resonate with them.

Account Insights - If you see an increase in visits from IP ranges belonging to your target companies, it could mean they're doing some research. It's a great way for your outbound teams to find conversation entry points. Over time, patterns tell stories.

Now, it's worth mentioning that not everyone is comfortable with direct one-to-one IP matching, especially when it comes to privacy. But if you ethically use IP intelligence, focusing on accounts rather than individuals without their permission, it can give marketers valuable context that fading cookies and mobile ad IDs can't provide anymore.

Limitations Hampering IP-Based Marketing

Despite the cool things you can do with IP-based targeting, there are still some hurdles that marketers face:

  1. Dynamic Consumer IPs: Household internet IP addresses change frequently, which makes it harder to track individual users. This raises privacy concerns when trying to combine data from multiple sources.
  2. Small Business Identifiability: Most companies use consumer ISP addresses that aren't specifically registered, making it more challenging to identify them on a large scale.
  3. Incomplete Organization Visibility: IP signals can often be disjointed, making it difficult to pinpoint where within an organization there is interest. “Someone from IBM is visiting my website. Great, but who??”
  4. Resource Prioritization: Marketing stacks usually prioritize more familiar methods like mobile, email, and browser fingerprinting. IP adoption falls behind in the queue as a result.
  5. Concerns Over Tracking Sources: Consumers are becoming more wary of their data being aggregated across various types, which adds to the hesitancy around IP matching. Transparency and consent expectations also hinder adoption.

While IP-based targeting may not get as much attention as other flashy methods, it does offer unique benefits in a privacy-focused landscape. Companies should seize the opportunities while respecting consumer transparency expectations.

By using IP data ethically and in the aggregate to attribute traffic and target accounts rather than individuals without permission, marketers can gain crucial behavioral insights that were once provided by cookies. However, IP intelligence still requires supplemental signals that meet consent standards to create a complete picture. It serves as a valuable anchor channel for ethically bridging data tracking gaps.

Savvy B2B brands can tap into the potential of IP targeting by innovating thoughtfully and aligning the benefits of durable identifiers with responsible transparency commitments. This way, they can satisfy both marketing goals and user controls. IP placeholders may hold untapped potential, and there's ample room for sustainable innovation in this space.

As online monitoring shifts towards prioritizing user value over intrusion, strategic adoption strategies that leverage IP strengths while advancing individual protections can unlock long-lasting identifier capabilities. The integration roadmap is waiting for creative marketers to explore. 

Enrich IP-Tied Customer Data with Primer for Laser-Focused Targeting

Primer multiplies your chances of reaching the IP-tracked accounts via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Ads by appending the missing ad network identifiers to existing records. It pulls together company and contact-level data from multiple B2B data providers, matches them with corresponding records, and merges them into rich data sets. Eventually, you achieve unparalleled match rates across multiple ad channels and bring in high-quality leads en masse.

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