Use of VPN in Middle East and Country Level Filters In Google Analytics

If you've looked at any Middle East based site report in your preferred analytics tool, you're quite likely to see traffic from US/UK. While not everyone uses it but several reports suggest 20-30% of online users in the Middle East are in fact, using VPN for various reasons (anonymity, access to content).

VPN Traffic presents a small challenge in Analytics - how do you know the actual country where the traffic came from...? You can't. Now add a layer of complexity where you need to setup country level views in Google Analytics. If you were to choose a custom filter where the (RegEx) filter pattern matches say, United Arab Emirates, you'd miss out on the VPN traffic from users accessing the site.

Working around the country level filter works best if you have a multi-country website, have a generic TLD with sub-folders for each country, say www.example.com/ae for UAE and www.example.com/sa for Saudi Arabia.

The RegEx pattern here is the /countrycode that is being picked up as the Request URI in your browser (Request URI would be the relative URL of a web page. So www.example.com/sa/products would become /sa/products.

The major advantage with using the Request URI approach is that even if a VPN user country shows as US, s/he would still want to access the local country page, say /AE. So, regardless of your country, you're looking at the pages browsed. The drawback is that this will also include traffic from other countries. e.g. If users in Oman do not have their own sub-folder, they would either be redirected to another store based on IP or would choose a specific country website to access.

To complete the Request URI approach, the steps required are:

  1. Create a new filter
  2. Choose Custom
  3. Include
  4. Request URI
  5. /countrycode

and voila! you're done.