IP geolocation is a critical component of the internet world. It can improve user experience and assist businesses in optimizing their marketing tactics. Geolocation can be quite useful in making your online journeys more convenient.
You’ve almost certainly visited an international web retailer at least once. That website may have determined your location and displayed product prices in your local currency. That is only one of the many applications for IP geolocation.
Many individuals use geolocation services to find out what their IP addresses are. But what lies beneath your regular Google Search for “what is my IP?” And that’s what we are going to answer today. Let’s have a look at IP geolocation, how it works, and how you can use it to your advantage.
- IP Geolocation, in a nutshell
- How can you use IP Geolocation?
- How does IP Geolocation work?
- IP databases
- Using APIs for IP Geolocation
- The main reasons why IP Geolocation is not always 100% accurate
- Can you prevent your location from being tracked?
- How can IP geolocation benefit businesses?
- Better personalization and region-customized content
- Optimizing marketing strategies
- Making sites load faster
- Improving security
IP Geolocation, in a nutshell
When you use geolocation, you effectively map a device’s IP address to its physical, geographical location. This is easily done by using a dedicated tool or website. Such programs provide comprehensive information on a user’s IP address. Because the IP is geographically mapped, you may discover things like:
- Country, state, and city;
- Postal code;
- Latitude and longitude
- Area code;
- Internet service provider (ISP).
With all this data at hand, you might think these tools are very accurate. However, IP geolocation is not as exact as, say, GPS. What it does, instead, is give you precise location information and display an estimated position of the device that is using that IP address.
How can you use IP Geolocation?
To access the internet, each device must have its own unique IP address. And since it’s tied to a real, physical location, this address can show detailed information when you type it into an IP geolocation lookup tool.
These tools are mostly free or paid websites you can use to get information about a specific IP address. A few examples of IP geolocation lookup sites include:
Once you go to any of these websites, you can either get information about your own IP (the site automatically detects it) or type a specific address. Aside from what we saw above, such websites can also offer additional information, like:
- Domain name;
- IDD country code;
- Area code;
- Weather station data;
- Mobile network codes (MNC);
- Mobile country codes (MCC);
- Mobile carrier;
- Usage type;
- Address type;
- Advertising category;
Even if it’s not 100% precise, IP geolocation is accurate enough for different use cases. Depending on the tool you are using, free IP geolocation websites can be less accurate than paid services, hence the reason why companies prefer the latter option.
How does IP Geolocation work?
In general, geolocation is done by using one or more geolocation data types (for example, device or server-oriented databases). When it comes to IP-based geolocation, there are two ways of doing it:
You either get information from a downloaded IP database or use an API for IP geolocation. Let’s see what each one does.
An address by itself is not that rich in information. Because of that, IP databases can give us extra details about things like country, state, or region, but also about time zones. Such databases are assembled and managed by dedicated services or companies. In turn, some companies even provide free or paid IP databases.
Websites like IP2Location and BigDataCloud use various sources to give details in their IP geolocation databases. However, these are not necessarily always updated, which might provide less actual information.
These sources can be:
- Data offered by ISPs and RIRs (Regional Internet Registries);
- User data;
- Routing information;
- WHOIS databases.
Using APIs for IP Geolocation
The IP geolocation API (Application Programming Interface) provides data about specific website visitors. This is a RESTful API that returns geolocation information based on an IP address.
RESTful APIs are based on the more flexible and efficient REST (representational state transfer) concept. This is why websites and apps may quickly obtain IP-based information. In essence, if you agree for the website you are visiting to collect data using IP geolocation APIs, services and apps will be able to give you more personalized content.
The main reasons why IP Geolocation is not always 100% accurate
IP geolocation will be less precise in areas with fewer residents and services. It is influenced by how many people in a specific area are using devices and GPS apps. So, in regions with higher density, geolocation will be more accurate.
In addition, accuracy also varies from one third-party provider to another. So, businesses relying on such databases to get geolocation information might encounter limitations.
Information provided by ISPs, for example, is as accurate and actual as the ISP updates it. If the database is outdated, the business will not get the necessary information. This is often even less accurate than using a dedicated API.
On top of that, difficulties might pop up during downloading and setting up an IP database. This leaves us with the most reliable source of information – the users themselves. But this raises the issue of consent and privacy. Many people are reluctant to let apps and services collect information about their location.
Can you prevent your location from being tracked?
There are different methods of maintaining online privacy. For consolidating security and avoiding location tracking, companies can protect their networks with VPNs.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your online traffic so you stay anonymous while browsing the web. In addition, it also changes your IP address, which can bring multiple benefits. It makes you look as if you’re accessing the Internet from a different region and it also helps you access geo-restricted content.
Another popular method of avoiding IP tracking is the use of proxies. Proxies can be viewed as a gateway between you, the user, and the websites and apps you are accessing. As long as you acquire proxies from legitimate sources (for example, leasing IPs through a dedicated marketplace like IPWAY), you will benefit from reliable security and flexibility.
Proxies can act as an extra layer of security. They can filter malicious content that might infect your computer when you go to a website. They also help you access location-restricted websites and services and hide your ”real” IP address.
How can IP geolocation benefit businesses?
Geolocation is extremely useful for different companies and organizations. Without it, businesses would not have much success with their campaigns, and users would not enjoy the content that fits their needs.
So, an IP address not only allows you to connect to the Internet, but it also provides details companies can use to improve your online experience. Let’s have a look at a couple of common scenarios that value IP geolocation.
Better personalization and region-customized content
Based on IP geolocation information, websites can personalize the content they offer and thus provide users with better services. Using IP geolocation for web personalization means you can:
- Have your site autofill location-based fields in the checkout window. All of this while noting the shipping fee and taxes;
- Show location-based offers and advertisements. This results in more ad interaction and increased conversion rates;
- Implement currency localization. So, companies can display the prices of their products in the currency of the region a user visits the site from.
Optimizing marketing strategies
If you know your audience, you will know what they want. This is very important not only in maintaining a tight relationship with your customers but also in growing your audience.
- Companies can study where their customers come from and come up with marketing strategies tailored to those regions;
- Geolocation can help translate important details on a website or service. Customers can get the content translated into their native language, coupled with time zone conversion, among others;
- Marketers can target users based on location-specific needs, such as weather or local news, and events.
Making sites load faster
The first impression always matters, so it’s not a good idea to keep the visitors waiting. If your website is taking too long to load, users might lose interest.
In this respect, geolocation can help you identify visitors that connect with IPs from ISPs with lower speeds and adjust your site’s performance.
Geolocation is an important tool in consolidating the security of a company’s network. IP-based geolocation can help detect suspicious users and pinpoint potentially threatening IPs.
Using geolocation to strengthen your network can help you:
- Block anonymous users and detect VPNs through IP type and ASN;
- Limit login attempts and secure online forms;
- Detect sources of malware and cyber-attacks;
- Inform customers when their accounts have been accessed from an unfamiliar location;
- Limit web crawling attempts;
- Stop malicious users from creating multiple accounts on the same IP;
- Block access to sensitive areas of your website based on IP information;
- Blocking traffic from high-risk locations or networks.
By now, you should have gotten the answer to the ”what is IP geolocation?” question. Mapping the IP address of a device to its physical location is a fairly easy thing to do.
IP geolocation is instrumental in many businesses and has diverse practical applications. Geolocation can be used for things such as content personalization, data collection, and security. Even if it’s not fully accurate, geolocation gives companies valuable insights into their customer base and helps them design better strategies.
While it’s true that users can be concerned about their online privacy, companies can still get IP-based information. Basically, simply ‘’asking’’ online visitors to share their location information.