In this article, we will explain how IP-based geolocation works, the types of information you can get, the accuracy of IP-based geolocation…
What is an IP address?
Let’s start with some basics. An IP address is a unique identifier for each computer or phone connected to the Internet. A standard IP address consists of several numbers, separated by periods.
IP address :
IP addresses allow electronic devices to connect and share data with each other. Although each computer or device connected to the Internet has its own IP address (“local IP addresses”), these are rarely accessible to the outside world.
Most of the work is done through routers. Routers connect to individual computers and then connect to the Internet using their own IP address, also known as “external IP addresses”. The external IP address is provided by the user’s ISP, and is the one that is actually used when browsing a website or doing anything else on the internet.
If you don’t want to be geolocated by your IP address, you can use a VPN.
What is IP-based geolocation?
IP-based geolocation is a way to locate a computer or mobile device connected to the Internet.
To get started, all you need is your target’s IP address, which you can obtain using a simple PHP script, and a geolocation search tool. The geolocation tool then queries public databases to determine the coordinates and registration information for the requested IP address.
With an online tool, you can track an IP address and trace it back to the exact location of a person, if they are communicating with you via the Internet… and if you want to know where they actually are. We’ll see that there are several reasons for wanting to access this information.
If you can get their IP address, you’ll be able to find out the location of the device, to within a few miles. In fact, you will get the following information:
- Zip code
- Longitude and latitude
Some sites go as far as pointing a “pin” on a map, with a radius within which the desired device is located.
Sites to geolocate an IP address
Need proof? Let’s see where you are, in real time, right now. The tools listed below can all geolocate you. Some of them also allow to test another IP address than yours.
How does it work?
IP addresses are distributed by IANA (a department of ICANN), which allocates them to a Regional Internet Registry. The Regional Registries then allocate these addresses to our Internet Service Providers (Free, Orange, Bouygues Telecom, etc).
All the addresses thus distributed are stored in huge databases. It is these databases that are queried by the tools mentioned above and that make it possible to know the region in which an IP address has been allocated.
What is the purpose of geolocation of an IP address?
There are many uses for IP-based geolocation. Here are some common examples:
Presenting different content to certain users
IP-based geolocation can be used to showcase a different product to users based on their location.
For example, users in a location close to a yoga teacher may get a physical service, while other users (connected from a more remote location that would prevent them from attending a class) may be offered a book or an online course.
Creating a sense of proximity
Geolocation can display the name of a specific city or region in the title of a web page, to give a sense of proximity, and better capture the user’s attention.
Translate the site directly into the user’s language
You can take advantage of IP geolocation to deliver content based on the user’s language. Many very large websites have this feature, it is not only for the rich and can be implemented quite easily.
Know your users better
You want to better understand your main target, maybe you want to create Personas to improve your marketing? You can use the location of your visitors to know if you reach a country more than another, an urban audience or not, etc.!
Customer knowledge, personalization of offers, automatic language selection, selection of the nearest stores… The marketing possibilities offered by the geolocation of your site visitors are numerous.