IP address intelligence is one of the most powerful sales and marketing technologies available today - providing valuable first-party data that can indicate buying intent or power countless account-based sales and marketing applications. When it comes to choosing an IP vendor, picking the right one can mean the difference between success and failure. 

So here’s a list of 10 questions you should ask when considering IP vendors. 

1) How Many Identifiable Companies are in Their Database? 

Not every website visitor's IP address matches to a company. In fact, the percentage of IP traffic from companies can vary widely based on a number of factors, like your specific industry, product or service, etc. However, a good question to ask the vendor is how many identifiable companies they have in their database. This will give you an idea of how robust their data is and how many companies they can possibly identify. 

2) Do They Have Data on IPv4 and IPv6 Addresses? 

Thanks to the explosion of internet-enabled devices in the past decade, there are over 340 undecillion IP addresses between IPv4 and IPv6 in existence. If you’re only seeing data on one address space, you’re missing a major part of the picture. Finding a vendor that has data on both IP address spaces will ensure you get all the IP data out there. 

3) Do They Offer ISP and WiFi Filtering? 

If you’re running an account-based marketing campaign, it’s useless to see that AT&T or Comcast visited your site 1,500 times last month (I hate to burst your bubble, but they didn’t). These are small or medium-sized companies that are leasing IP addresses from these Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and without the proper technology in place, the trail ends here. The same goes for filtering out public WiFi – a form fill from a Starbucks WiFi is not valuable.  

However, good IP intelligence companies can identify when an IP address belongs to an ISP or public WiFi and filter them out. With these filters in place, you can be sure you’re working with actionable business intelligence to power your account-based strategies.

4) How Often Do They Update Their Data?

We have a saying around our office: “We like our cars vintage, not our data.” IP addresses are constantly changing last-mile ownership, 7-10% every month to be exact, so how often database records are updated makes a huge difference. Ideally, you should look for a company that updates their records in real-time to ensure that when you make a data call, you get the most up-to-date information possible.

5) Are They Relying Solely on Public IP Address Data? 

For reasons too numerous to mention here, public data sources (like Regional Internet Registries) are often riddled with inaccurate, outdated, and missing information. So when selecting an IP vendor, asking where and how they source their IP information will potentially save you a lot of headaches and bad information. Ideally, an IP vendor should have multiple data sources and methodologies behind their data to ensure that you’re getting the most accurate information possible. 

6) Do They Source Their IP Data Ethically?

As we’ve seen in recent years, web browsers, Congress, and society as a whole are all moving in the direction of placing individual privacy above all else. This means the days of collecting personal data through cookies are numbered. Here are two more in-depth resources for reference: General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Processing Agreement. 

An important question to raise when selecting an IP data vendor is how they gather, process, and store their data. If you want to ensure your data will be reliable, accurate, and (most importantly) legally compliant, selecting a vendor that specializes in purely IP-based data will give you peace of mind as the landscape of data privacy evolves. 

7) Do They Deliver Firmographic Data Associated With IPs? 

Ask the vendor if they offer a unique identifier such as a domain name to pair firmographic information with an IP address. If not, you’ll need to find another data source to match those domains to company firmographics. However, a good IP data vendor will be able to provide detailed company information associated with the IP addresses as well. 

If they do offer firmographic data, this would also be an excellent opportunity to go in-depth and find out what specific information they offer. Company data such as industry, revenue, employee count, location, etc. will give your organization the information to take your account-based sales and marketing campaigns to the next level. 

8) Do They Play Well With Others (Do They Integrate With Your Existing Technology Stack)? 

You don’t want to have to learn a new platform; you have enough on your plate. A vendor that seamlessly integrates into your existing technology stack will deliver the information you need while eliminating the learning curve associated with adopting a new platform. 

9) How Do They Deliver Their Data?

In the search for the perfect IP data vendor, good data is paramount, but the way it’s delivered to you is also crucial in choosing the vendor that is right for your business needs. Here are some ways IP address information can be presented:

  • Tag – This is a small piece of JavaScript code placed on your site that collects unique account-level information about your website visitors – feeding you information about your website traffic that can be used in a variety of sales and marketing applications. 
  • API – An application programming interface (API) is a very common way in which systems communicate with one another. In essence, an API would allow your existing marketing technologies to input IP address data directly into their systems automatically.

10) How Robust is Their API?

Assuming you’re going to use an API to inject IP data directly into your technology stack, it’s important to determine how well it performs as this will be directly linked to the success of many account-based efforts. 

Some points to consider when evaluating an API are: 

  • Speed/Response Time - The round-trip time it takes for your system to query the vendor’s database and return IP address information. If your use case includes real-time website content personalization, then you should look for companies with response times that are sub 100 milliseconds (round trip).
  • Cost - Ask about the cost per query or cost per mille (cost for every thousand queries) against their database. This will vary based on your website traffic, but it will give you some idea of how much it will ultimately cost.  
  • Network Uptime - This is the time that their servers are online and active month over month, which should be highly consistent. You should expect to see somewhere close to 100% uptime (and by that we mean at least 99.5%). But don’t just take their word for it, ask for third-party validation of uptime statistics. Any credible company will have an outside source monitoring their network uptime and be able to share that data with you. Services like Pingdom monitor and report on things like network uptime, speed, etc. that can provide you insights about the quality of the network. 
  • Scalability - If you decide to invest in an IP data vendor, you should look for one that can grow with you. If all goes well and your website traffic increases, you want to make sure that the vendor you choose can handle the increased query volume without sacrificing the speed or quality of their data. 

Bonus Question: Will They Let You Test Their Data?

This one really shouldn’t be a bonus question, but we wanted to keep the list even at 10. 

Any company worth their salt should be able to offer you a data test, which would involve resolving a list of IP addresses, so you can identify their match rate. They should provide you with ALL their data, not just a percentage of match rates. If you’re using an API, don’t hesitate to ask for an API sandbox account for testing. 

Now, this list is not an end all be all. There are many questions you have to ask yourself when adopting any new technology within your organization. These questions are meant to get the conversation started and give you some insight into things you might want to consider asking when shopping around for IP data vendors. If you do decide to take the leap and unleash the power of IP address intelligence into your sales and marketing stack, you won’t be disappointed.