IP Geolocation Blog & How To Guides to Obtain IP Geolocation Data

Posted on March 18, 2019

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The IP Geolocation API Guide: Why Tracking Web Users’ Whereabouts Matters

The IP Geolocation API Guide: Why Tracking Web Users’ Whereabouts Matters

Where are our customers? This is one of the questions businesses keep asking because when they know the answer, it is easier to plan out strategic and tactical operations — e.g., reaching out to target audiences, setting up offices and stores, promoting new products, and gaining momentum.

Location is also a crucial element of interacting with clients, and it should not only be taken into consideration by brick-and-mortar organizations but also by online stores whose buyers are scattered all over the Web.

So how can businesses get their hands on such critical information? That’s simple: They can leverage the power behind the IP addresses of their customers with IP geolocation, a technology that enables organizations to obtain location-based data quickly and, as a result, find out where their consumers are.

In this whitepaper, let’s see how employing IP Geolocation API can benefit companies and what its most prominent use cases across industries are.

Table of contents

IP Geolocation Briefly Explained

IP Geolocation Briefly Explained

What is IP geolocation?

‘Geolocation’ is the practice of estimating or identifying the physical location of devices and their users anywhere on the planet. These devices couls come in the form of a mobile phone, computer, or a radar source. The technology has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until the rise of smartphones and applications like Google Maps that we realized just how powerful this data can be.


What is an IP address?

An IP address is the unique combination of numbers assigned to each device for facilitating the identification and communication of thousands and millions of such devices over a network.


What is IP geolocation data?

IP geolocation data is the information that could be used to identify the physical location of electronic devices. It includes the country, region, city, postal code, latitude, longitude, and time zone of the devices being tracked.


What is an IP geolocation database?

An IP geolocation database is a massive repository of IP geolocation data. It’s frequently built by third-party providers who consistently retrieve anonymous IP data from various ISPs by legal agreements, as well as other numerous sources. This allows putting together or updating hundreds of thousands of records and make them available for download in different formats.


Are there other methods similar to locate people and their devices?

Although there are no “direct” alternatives to IP geolocation, hotspot databases do keep track of Wi-Fi hotspot users and their street addresses. However, they only contain the network names (SSID) of access points and not their actual IP addresses.

It’s also possible to obtain the Global Positioning System (GPS) location of network routers, including wireless access points at home, and, therefore, residential street addresses. This service is being used by some messaging applications that provide geolocation features but isn’t widely accessible to the public.


How can I access IP geolocation data?

Users can find both paid and free services in the market. Free services come at no cost but are less accurate than their paid counterparts which also provide customer support and much stable APIs with higher uptime.

Myth Myth Myth
Obtaining IP geolocation information is illegal or immoral. IP geolocation information lacks useful details. IP geolocation allows targeting users only when they opt in.
Reality Reality Reality
IP address geolocation data doesn’t reveal users’ personally identifiable information and is thus an ethical way to get insights on consumers. On the contrary, it provides information — i.e., coordinates, zip code, time zone, region, and more — that can be leveraged for various applications. No, IP geolocation is also capable of working with WiFi-based traffic. This enables the targeting of both PC and mobile users.

IP Geolocation: Challenges and Tips

Some obstacles can hinder the benefits of IP geolocation. In particular, obtaining accurate IP geolocation data can be tricky, as there isn’t always a way to double-check whether IP addresses are “verified” location-wise.

Invalidated registry data, for example, is a concern that opens the door to inconsistencies and incorrect information. What’s more, some people use VPNs and proxies to hide their real IP addresses in order to access content intended for another country or for malicious purposes.

Consequences of inaccurate IP geolocation data Explanation
Inability to access content Inaccurate IP geolocation data may restrict subscribers’ access to geography-specific content despite being in the correct physical location.
Inferior user experience Incorrect assumptions based on flawed IP geolocation details could be the reason for non-relevant offerings or the wrong display of default language or currency.
Poorly targeted marketing efforts Offers that are pushed to the wrong people as a result of inaccurate IP geolocation details can lead to wasted marketing resources and lost conversion opportunities.
Bad decision making Some organizations work with IP geolocation data to decide where they should put up their server infrastructure or which providers to use. Unreliable information may cause bad decision-making, which then results in substandard performance.
Erroneous attribution Services that keep track of events on the Web may fail to correctly attribute the location of users, resulting in misleading assumptions and observations.

In light of these consequences, you should, therefore:


1. Pay attention to accuracy claims

Accuracy varies between IP geolocation API providers and databases, so it’s critical to check on claims made and see how services compare at a country, state, or city level. As a rule of thumb, the accuracy on the city level is usually lower than the accuracy on the state or country level since the former requires much higher precision.


2. Pay attention to coverage

It’s also important to look at the IP address space for a given location and check the percentage of routable addresses covered by different providers.


3. Pay attention to default locations

Many leading IP geolocation service providers use GPS coordinates which work by mapping out a general location in the target geography. This approach may not allow tracing the exact whereabouts of a device, and thus lead to confusion and inaccuracies.

How IP Geolocation Data Is Collected

How IP Geolocation Data Is Collected

The collection of IP geolocation data is often done with the help of software programs retrieving information from various sources, among which are:


Regional internet registries (RIR)

RIRs are in charge of allocating significant pools of IP addresses to internet service providers (ISPs) and managing records. These nonprofit organizations include the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).


Internet service providers (ISPs)

These are the providers of Internet access in a specific region, generally offering their services to companies and individuals.


City code interpretations

These are the naming conventions usually assigned to cities and airports — providing clues about where connected devices can be found.


Domain data

Domain data is used to keep track of the owner of a selected range of IP addresses along with their postal address. The information can be gathered as part of IP netblocks and a WHOIS database download service that contains contact and registration details for a target domain name and its IP addresses.


Browser geolocation

This category of data is gathered when users accept to share their location while browsing the web in order to receive more targeted digital content.

Who Can Benefit from IP Geolocation API?

Who Can Benefit from IP Geolocation API?

Now that we have established the fundamentals of IP geolocation, let’s review the types of organizations and users who can benefit from implementing IP geolocation API in their operations and the reasons why.

Personalized User Experience

The Internet is now a go-to place for selling all kinds of goods and services, and access to reliable and accurate insights is crucial to online enterprises and brick-and-mortar companies alike in order to succeed. Engagement is a top priority. Therefore, businesses need to get hold of appropriate user data, so they can provide relevant and personalized communications promptly.

Travel retailers, for example, can use geolocation to provide target consumers with the most relevant offers based on where they are — i.e., discounts when within walking distance of an attraction, premium taxi-booking services when arriving at the airport, etc. Meanwhile, outdoor brands may choose to promote their products based on the detected weather and location of the visitor.

Besides, companies that have different stores or websites can automatically redirect users to location-specific landing pages with the right preselected currency and language to optimize the shopping experience.

For traditional brick-and-mortar stores, IP geolocation makes shopping experience more human and personal based on whether customers are new (e.g., with welcome offers), loyal (e.g., offering advantages for repeat purchases, or disengaged (e.g., giving them a reason to come back to the premises).

Either way, these changes can pave the way to enriching experience for users that keep them interested and engaged.


What are the benefits of IP geolocation for online companies?

First off, business owners can start creating local strategies based on IP geolocation data with tailored messages based on their potential customers’ whereabouts.

Also, IP geolocation databases can be used to optimize pricing structures and become more competitive in the marketplace.

Use case How IP geolocation can help
Content personalization
  • Online businesses can use IP geolocation data to create region-specific landing pages.
  • Companies can put out relevant offers to customers in certain locations.
  • Websites can be configured so that buyers can easily choose the nearest store to them for convenient pickup.
  • Online retailers can set the pricing of their products and services regionally.
Acceleration and simplification of the checkout process
  • The checkout process is made easier for customers by pre-populating checkout fields based on geolocation data.
  • Shipping and tax fees can be automatically charged to users without having to re-enter zip codes.
Experience optimization
  • Information gained from users’ IP addresses can provide businesses with details of their shopper’s Internet connectivity.
  • Subsequently, this permits business owners to optimize their site experience and their online stores based on users’ detected connection type.
The right currency and language
  • Websites can be set to detect visitors’ browser language automatically and switch websites accordingly.
  • Sites can display the visitor’s currency depending on their location.

Reinforced Cybersecurity Measures

Cybercrime continues to rise with damages predicted to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021. How so? Well, spammers and hackers’ techniques are getting more sophisticated with their attacks becoming harder to detect and track. Every bit of information can help in standing up to them, particularly, regarding their location.


What are the benefits of IP geolocation for cybersecurity?

IP geolocation can be used to verify the location of servers and assure that you are dealing with legitimate entities and real visitors. This is especially important nowadays, as large-scale cybercriminal activities like nation-state hacking may be executed from infrastructure set up in risky areas which you might want to block as a preventive measure.

Furthermore, confirming identities is essential for managing sensitive transactions and avoiding impersonation — an attempt by a cybercriminal to pretend that they are a trusted company or individual. This can take the form of a forged website or Business Email Compromise (BEC), also known as CEO fraud, where the impostor acts as a senior executive to fool his victims.

These attacks can be hard for anyone to identify and one of the reasons could be missing the necessary tools to double-check IP origination. With IP geolocation, users can collect a variety of location-based information about malicious suspected IP addresses and see if the IP address accompanying an email is legitimate or not.

The technology is also capable of mapping out threat sources and giving cybersecurity teams enough insights into vulnerabilities in their systems. This can help strengthen the company’s existing networks while minimizing the damage that threats can cause.

Use case How IP geolocation can help
Spot suspicious users entering the network
  • The location of a web user is identified and verified as part of authentication processes.
  • Visitors from selected countries can be restricted from accessing a website.
Track and counter-attack known threats
  • IP geolocation data gives access to the physical locations of suspects, allowing professionals to perform successful counter-attacks.
  • Specialists can use IP geolocation data to correlate known intrusions with actual traffic.
Stay protected from spam, suspicious, and disturbing mail
  • IP geolocation information allows tracking potentially harmful IP addresses and protecting employees.
  • With the technology, it becomes possible to reduce spam by geo-blocking IP addresses from locations considered dangerous.
Prevent online fraud and identity theft
  • Identity theft can be prevented as buyers’ IP addresses are compared to existing credit card billing information, and any mismatch flagged for manual review.
  • IP geolocation can be leveraged to automatically reject orders coming from questionable locations.

Enhanced Intellectual Property Management

It’s in every business’ interest to maintain control over their intellectual property and how their content is distributed online. However, many companies have a hard time protecting their IP rights.

Internet piracy, for example, has been a global scourge for decades now, and piracy websites receive billions of visits every year. Additionally, producers find it difficult to protect their content against plagiarism and ensure that their digital rights aren’t violated. Manufacturers and distributors, on the other hand, must avoid the illegal selling of their physical products overseas.


What are the benefits of IP geolocation for intellectual property management?

IP geolocation gives clarity to organizations in such a rough landscape. With the technology, businesses are able to manage and restrict their audience from consuming content not intended for them — therefore easing digital content distribution, compliance with licensing agreements and regulations, and market research and analysis.

Use case How IP geolocation can help
Access blocking
  • Companies can control who gets to access their content depending on the location of visitors and their country’s licensing agreements.
Digital rights management
  • Companies can use IP geolocation details to respond to new rules in the distribution and management of content.
  • Businesses can enforce licensing rights and copyright agreements to minimize content abuse.
  • Content downloads can be granted or restricted depending on the region.

Marketing Departments with Understanding of Online Users

Targeted marketing is a must do for companies seeking to drive engagement and retention. So not surprisingly, businesses are ramping up their investments — e.g., targeted mobile ad spending is predicted to exceed $32 billion by 2021 — so they can learn more about their customers and deliver appropriate content based on their online behaviors and, of course, location.


What are the benefits of IP geolocation for marketing purposes?

With IP geolocation data, businesses can learn if their buyers are more inclined to use mobile devices or prefer to purchase at certain locations for a series of items. This can be very helpful in creating strategies and plans which in turn optimizes real-time marketing efforts.

Use case How IP geolocation can help
Insights into the marketplace
  • Leveraging customer location allows targeting ads at a particular area based on demographic data.
  • IP geolocation data can be combined with access data from web server logs and analytics tools to gain more insights on customers.
Enhanced customer experience
  • Messages can be customized according to the location of visitors.
  • Marketing ads and offers automatically switch to the right language.
  • Predictive algorithms can be used to mine historical IP geolocation details and send out just-in-time offers.
Accurate digital advertising
  • Targeting consumers based on obtained demographic information can enhance the relevance of offers and ads.
  • Advertisements can be displayed to certain regions at the most relevant times.
Conduct market research and identify trends
  • Companies can understand user needs better by keeping track of their locations and total purchases in a region, contributing to building more diverse customer profiles.

Digital Advertising Management at Scale

Businesses around the globe have recognized the power of digital advertising — with worldwide investments in this area expected to reach almost 50% of the total media ad spending by 2021. By leveraging the fast evolution of the medium and its continuous development, companies can use IP geolocation to grab consumers’ attention by showing them highly engaging and relevant ads.


What are the benefits of IP geolocation for digital advertising?

IP geolocation data can give marketers insights into their potential consumers, including their current location details and estimated future location. This information may lead to opportunities and set the path for relevant purchases while boosting ROI — e.g., by sending customized messages to customers only when they are near a business location that might be of interest to them.

Use case How IP geolocation can help
Targeted display advertising and PPC campaigns
  • IP geolocation data can be combined with other local information such as the weather.
  • For instance, companies can promote warm clothing outfits or affordable beach vacation when it gets cold at home locations.

Streamlined Tracking and Surveillance for Law Enforcement

As cybercrime is becoming more serious, several countries, like the UK, have started to establish special courts dedicated to such cases. But despite these measures, the prosecution of cybercriminals remains difficult, and law enforcement agencies must go deeper into analytics and work with unconventional tools to counteract threats.


What are the benefits of IP geolocation for law enforcement professionals?

IP geolocation technology can be used by law enforcement agencies to identify and track down malicious entities — e.g., for gathering a list of suspicious IP addresses which they can analyze to discover who these cybercriminals are and where they are operating from. Also, agents can monitor individuals susceptible to conduct attacks and, if necessary, take actions to catch perpetrators.

Use case How IP geolocation can help
Prevent phishing attacks
  • Professionals can use geolocation data and compare it with other claimed details from a questionable website or email sender to intercept phishing attempts.
Combat copyright infringement
  • Users that share copyrighted digital materials online can be identified with the cooperation of local ISPs.
Combat and prevent criminal activities
  • Agencies can monitor illegal activities and learn more about criminals’ whereabouts.
  • Illegitimate online financial transactions can be tracked down to stop money laundering schemes.
  • Agents can gather insights related to a fraudulent entity’s country, city, and domain name and apprehend dangerous individuals and organizations.

Give IP Geolocation API a Try

Bearing in mind the use cases for IP geolocation data, let’s take a look at why IP Geolocation API could be the right fit for your organization.

Rather than being an all-purpose tool, the API was specifically designed to provide users with IP geolocation services — covering more than 8 million IP blocks and locations, 250 countries, and 99% of IP addresses on the web.

With such features and precision, you may access insights about your target market’s demographics — i.e., region, zip code, browser type, and coordinates — that could lead to the discovery of new opportunities and trends, though without invading the privacy of the individual online user.

Curious to see how this might look in practice? Let’s take a closer look at an IP geolocation query step by step.


Step 1: Perform an IP geolocation lookup

Enter an IP address in the field and click the Check IP Address button next to it. Results should look something like this:

Perform an IP geolocation lookup

Step 2: Select the most relevant format for your results

As shown below, the results of your IP address check can be displayed in different formats including XML and JSON.

Select the most relevant format for your results

Step 3: Study the results

The information that will be displayed here includes the country, region, city, latitude, longitude, postal code, time zone, and domains as well as ISP-related information — i.e., autonomous system number, name, route, and domain.

Study the results

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see, IP geolocation offers a lot of benefits for companies in different industries. The power behind IP addresses can be used to accomplish various goals.

Websites can create tailor-made content based on where their users are located. Marketers will be able to gain deeper insights into their strategies. Threat sources and vulnerabilities in the network can be identified quicker by cybersecurity teams. The tracking of malicious entities will be easier for law enforcement authorities. Brand professionals will be able safeguard their intellectual property assets better and protect themselves from piracy. And all of these use cases are made possible with IP geolocation.

If we’ve piqued your curiosity and you would like to know more about our API, contact us today at general@whoisxmlapi.com. You can also give our product a quick test: Go to our website and scroll down until you see the ‘Give the API a Try’ header.

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