6 ways to geo target – Find out where your visitors are from

I spent quite some time researching geo targeting in the past. There are many reasons why you would want geo targeting on your website, for starters you can create custom content for certain countries. The main reason for me to look into it was be able to geo target ads. I put together a fairly extensive list of all options I found. If you know of any I missed please point it out to me in the comments.

What is Geo Targeting

Geo targeting is the art of finding out where your visitor is from.

Geo Target Options

I found a total of 6 different methods to get the user location, most are based on the user IP:

  • Query an online service with the visitor IP
  • Query a database with the visitor IP
  • Query a data file with the visitor IP
  • Ask user via browser to allow to retrieve current location
  •  just ask user where he is from (Not to be forgotten)
  • Connect with a social network (example Facebook)

Geo Target Option Advantages

Online Service

The main advantage is the ease of use. It is great to run some tests and experiment with it. One of the major downsides is that you don’t have any control over updates nor can you adjust wrong IP ranges. A further downside is that it is one of the slowest options and that there is possibly a limit for high traffic sites. If speed is not much of a concern and ease of use is important, this is probably your option.

Database

You have full control and maximum speed with this option. Control always comes at the price of having to maintain and update your database. On top of this comes that the higher of a precision you want, the more expensive the database gets. This option leads to high precision and is very fast but comes at a price.

Data file

I don’t recommend this option. It is in between an online service and having your own database, not really giving you any major advantage. However it can be useful as a backup or to cross check your IP findings.

Browser

You are probably familiar with the: Allow this site to know where you are from. The upside is that the precision is very high at no cost but you will only get longitude and latitude which means you have to do some reverse geo tracking to find cities and countries. This can be a viable option for mobile apps since people are used to seeing this request on mobile.

Ask user

Very high precision but most likely feels very intrusive to almost all type of websites. Just imaging you arrive at this blog and I ask you where you are from – unimaginable.

Social Media Connect

A fantastic alternative to using a visitors IP to geo target is to connect their social media profile to your website. A very popular option is Facebook connect. You will have to ask users explicitly to allow you to access their current city, but offers a more natural permission request than asking via browser. The accuracy of that information is very high and eliminates cases like people on holiday while all of it is available for free.

Geo Target Option List

You can find a rather extensive list below with additional info.

Link to live table: http://schurpf.com/custom/geo_target_table.html

Did I miss an option? Please let me know in the comments below.

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