Not All Data is Created Equal: What You Need to Know About Public vs. Private IP Data

Posted by Andy Golden on June 11, 2019

IP address data is vast, consisting of thousands of sources and various methods to access account level information from an IP address. However, when it comes to reverse IP lookups (IP address intelligence to the savvy marketer), where and how you find IP address information makes a huge difference. The main options for gathering useful company data consist of public data sources and private data sources.

OK buckle up, a couple of nerdy definitions coming at you but stay with me.

Public Data Sources – Sources such as Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) contain self-reported information from companies that lease large portions of IP addresses, such as Internet service providers (ISPs) and large enterprise companies like Cisco, Apple, and IBM.

Public Data Aggregators – A database of IP address information collected from various public data sources.

Private Data Sources – These are companies that collect IP address information using proprietary methods and manage their databases by devoting vast resources of data specialists, algorithms, and other systems to the end goal of having the most accurate, normalized, and complete data set.

Public IP address data is generally free to access, but as we will see later, there are numerous issues that arise when using this data. Private data, on the other hand, requires an investment from organizations but is much more robust, accurate, and up-to-date compared to the data stored in a public record.

 

Public IP Data is a Train Wreck, Here’s Why:

Bad data, leads to bad decisions – Using public data sources to gather firmographic information is like trying to hunt in the dark or fish without a pole – a lot of the time you won’t get much, and what you do get won’t be what you want. The information stored in public registries is generally self-reported by the companies who lease the IP addresses themselves and published without any review, leading to numerous mistakes in the public record. With no incentive or penalty programs in place to ensure data accuracy in these records, they are often riddled with inaccuracies.

The consequences of bad dataThe cost of basing your sales or marketing efforts on incorrect information could be the difference between closing a sale and losing all credibility.

Think about it  if you were on a first date with someone and you called them the wrong name, things might not go so smoothly.                                                                                                              We like our cars vintage, but not our data – In our experience 7-10% of IP addresses change ownership each month, but public data sources aren't updated regularly – meaning the information available on a public registry could be months or even years old. On the other hand, premier private data sources are updated in real-time, giving you access to the most up-to-date information possible.

ISPs are useless (for marketers) - If you’ve ever tried to figure out who's on your website by doing a basic reverse IP address lookup and it returned an ISP you know how frustrating this can be. This happens when the companies that lease IP addresses fail to provide their information to an ISP or the ISP themselves do not provide the information to an internet registry. These are a dead end for B2B marketers and the registry might as well just say “we don’t know who it is."

Public sources leave a lot to be desired – If you are lucky enough to find an accurate and up-to-date entry in a public database, you will only have access to a small fraction of the company’s firmographic data.

Public Sources:   Private Sources:    
Company Name   Company Name Website NAICS Description
Visitor Location   Visitor Location City NAICS Code
Visitor City Postal Code   Company Postal Code Telephone Number Latitude/Longitude
Visitor City Latitude/Longitude   Company Address Employee Count Stock Symbol
Region Abbr.   Region Abbr. Revenue Social Media URLs
Region   Region  SIC Group ISP/WiFi Filter
Country Abbr.   Country Abbr. SIC Description Confidence Score
Country   Country SIC Code Trade Name
         

Not only do private data sources give you the same firmographic information that public data sources do, they also provide a vast amount of additional information that can be used to enhance sales and marketing efforts.

 

If Public IP Data is a Train Wreck, Private IP Data is a New Ferrari: 

At this point, you’re probably thinking “OK I get it, public data is garbage". Good, you’re on the right track. But what makes private data so much better? And what should you do about it?

Private data companies devote massive amounts of time and money into building and maintaining their IP address databases. Because private data often requires an investment from a business, these data companies are constantly in competition with one another to provide the best and most accurate data. 

If (when) you do move forward with a private data provider, make sure your budget dollars are going to the right place. Here are some tips when evaluating private data solutions:

  • Ask for a data test - If you’re serious about your intent to get the best solution, most companies would be happy to allow you to test their data in order to determine its quality. We suggest checking accuracy, match rate, completion of the data record, normalization, and how often the data is refreshed.
  • Try before you buy - This goes along with the last point. Companies will often offer free trials or sandbox environments to allow you to determine if their data is right for your business needs.
  • Get your hands dirty - Dig deep into the company's methodologies. Make sure they aren’t just regurgitating the same information that’s on an internet registry. Focus on how the data is sourced, managed, and updated to ensure you’re getting only the highest quality data.
Moving beyond public IP address data and elevating your business intelligence can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns and increase revenue generation at all stages of the funnel. If your sales and marketing teams enjoy working with accurate data (and let's be honest, who doesn't?), private data might be well worth the investment.

If you want to learn more about IP address intelligence solutions, check out our guide.