Geo-targeting is becoming an integral tool in online marketing, offering advertisers the opportunity to target customers differently at country, region, and city level. The technology behind geo-targeting software checks a user’s IP address in real time to confirm location, before determining the content and ads which should be displayed. For the system to work effectively it must be possible to accurately pinpoint any IP address automatically; and this requires an extensive IP database.
A database contains IP address data collated from a number of sources which can be cross-referenced to determine geographical location. The primary source of information for most databases is the regional internet registries, which distributes IP addresses to organisations within each region. Other sources include data mining, information supplied by internet service providers, and user-submitted location data. The data is collected and filtered to provide a database with an accurate mapping of IP addresses globally.
There are several free and subscription databases on the market, currently offering varied levels of service at country, region and city level; but accuracy of the databases remains the key issue for IP intelligence providers. An IP address may be categorised differently in different databases, which can lead to discrepancies and inconsistencies in the correct analysis of location, but the technology driving geo-location databases continues to become more sophisticated, with some providers already claiming accuracy of 99% at country level, and 95% and city level.
The intelligent gathering of IP address data has also given advertisers the opportunity to gather other information about their customers, to further streamline advertising campaigns. Some databases can supply such information as the type and speed of the user’s connection, the internet service provider, the user domain name, and whether the IP address belongs to a home or business user. It is also possible to determine whether the user is on a mobile or WiFi connection, the time zone and language, and even phone area code and zip/post code. The ability to segregate the audience based on these other parameters as well as location, allows advertisers to target specific demographics.
Online advertising has always been unique in its ability to target specific groups of users, and geo-targeting brings that to a local level. IP databases are an essential tool of this technology, and as they become more refined, the system will become more effective.