A few months into my new role as Digital Marketing Manager at Rewind, I was digging through our Google Analytics account to prepare some reports.
I review some standard signals shortly after month-ends to see if there are any unexpected trends forming that I might have missed during ongoing daily or weekly analysis.
Are most visitors still using the same browser? Was there a rise in referral traffic from an unexpected source? Is mobile or tablet traffic increasing?
Earlier that month, our CEO Mike Potter spoke at a local meetup for Shopify Merchants to help them prepare for the upcoming Black Friday/ Cyber Monday (BFCM) madness. I wanted to see if there’d been a spike in visits or sign-ups in Ottawa, our hometown.
When I headed over to the Audience Overview area of GA, I saw some familiar city names among the top ten results; New York, Sydney, Dublin.
Ottawa checked in at fifth – at least a few spots higher than it normally is. Sweet!
But then I noticed the city listed in the top spot and did a double take.
Why was Rewind’s Shopify app listing getting a ton of traffic from a city I’d never heard of?
I put on a fresh pot and dove in…
Where is Coffeyville?
It’s in the United States, but it’s not a nickname for Seattle, nor a Starbucks production city in California, as a few Rewind teammates guessed.
Coffeyville is a small town of about 10,000 residents in South East Kansas.
Why is Rewind (or your site) so popular in Coffeyville?
Well, it’s probably not.
Turns out, this isn’t a unique occurrence.
Back in 2006, Wired wrote an article titled: All Google’s Roads Lead to Kansas. It’s an interesting recap that reads like something from an investigative podcast (thinking of you, Reply All) and provides a lot of clues about that unexpected visitor count we saw above.
It’s got something to do with Kansas’ relative location within the United States.
So here’s why Google Analytics is showing that we’re getting tons of traffic from Coffeyville.
Google actually outsources a lot of its geolocation information. As a result, the mystery of Coffeyville seems to be caused by some inaccurate source data.
Per Google, if a third-party location provider can’t accurately define a visitor’s location: “Google Analytics displays a (not set) entry.”
However, it seems likely that at least one third-party data source is not passing those “not set” entries along to Google as expected – and Coffeyville is appearing in GA dashboards around the world.
But why Coffeyville, of all places?
Coffeyville just happens to be in a unique spot that’s not far from the geographic center of the lower 48 United States. When some location services can’t determine a visitor’s specific location within the United States, they drop an anchor right around the latitude/longitude midpoint of the country – in Coffeyville. ☕️
What’s the consequence for my GA data if I’m also seeing a lot of traffic from Coffeyville? Is there anything I can or should do?
As a digital marketer, Shopify merchant, or any other title that has you looking into Google Analytics, this is a fun fact to share with your marketing friends – but no immediate action is required on your part. If you feel that Coffeyville data is skewing your reports, you can look into filters that would remove it from certain views.
The biggest impact caused by this error affects one unlucky couple who lives near Coffeyville. Their farmhouse IP address has often been used when a true geolocation cannot be found, leading to numerous hijinks with over 600 million IP addresses pointing to their residence.
Case closed on Coffeyville.