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Differentiating between geolocation and geolocation by IP

When it comes to geolocation and geolocation by IP (also known as GeoIP), most people don’t know the difference. Learn the difference and how they work here.

When it comes to geolocation and geolocation by IP (also known as GeoIP), most people don’t know the difference. In fact, people use the terms interchangeably even though there is a difference between the two terminologies. In a time when geo-specific marketing is becoming even more important for businesses, it is important to have a solid idea about the fundamentals of geo-based marketing. This includes the differences between geolocation and geolocation by IP. In this blog post, we address the difference between the two terms and why it's important in marketing.

Geolocation and geolocation by IP - The key differences

Geolocation is a term encompassing all techniques that identify a user’s location. Geolocation reveals someone's location in terms of latitude and longitude coordinates, which can be obtained using different sources like time of day and networking protocols. Furthermore,  geolocation reveals local-specific data like a state or city, which can be invaluable to marketers. This is because the location is expressed in terms of latitude and longitude coordinates.

Geolocation is a stark contrast to GeoIP. While Geolocation uses different information sources to reveal a user's location, geolocation by IP relies specifically on the internet protocol address. There is also the difference in information revealed. Geolocation reveals local information, specific to the individual like state and city because it uses longitude and latitude coordinates. However, geolocation by IP does not have local information because it only uses the IP address information. However, this doesn’t mean that local-specific data cannot be obtained. ISP providers combine the address with customer details to reveal specific information like city and state.

Geolocation can be captured using both programming and hardware. On web browsers, geolocation is implemented through an API written in Javascript called a geolocation API. The geolocation APIs always work on the client-side of the application, like a web browser. Apart from APIs, users can find hardware devices that capture geolocation data, such as a GPS module found in smartphones. Furthermore, if the GPS module is not working, data is collected using other methods like cellular triangulation and Wi-Fi. This means that the data collected is very accurate because geolocation utilises multiple sources.

However, geolocation by IP can only be captured with programming. For example, GeoIP always operates on the web server that hosts the website, unlike with geolocation, which uses multiple mediums to capture data, revealing another difference between geolocation and geolocation IP: Geolocation is more accurate.  

While geolocation captures data using multiple touchpoints, GeoIP draws information from a single source. For example, when mobile tracking, GeoIP will draw the IP address from the cellphone tower the phone is connected to. If the phone changes tower, a different IP address is captured.

Why does the distinction matter?

The distinction between geolocation and GeoIP is important, especially for businesses trying to cater to their audience with region-specific content. Geo-based data is used for several purposes like filtering visitors to the appropriate region, refining marketing efforts and collecting data for analytics purposes. Given the importance of local data, it is important to know how geolocation by IP and geolocation data collection works so businesses can better account for weaknesses and design their processes appropriately. For example, can businesses rely on GeoIP from mobile visitors when the IP changes according to the cellphone tower? How many visitors choose not to share their geolocation information with the business? Understanding how geolocation and geolocation by IP work allows companies to better understand the weaknesses of each technique so they can better refine their processes.

How to get started - Selecting the right software

Businesses looking to build up their geolocation infrastructure should invest in the right software and hardware. Data accuracy is vital for future success. If data is not accurate, it hurts marketing efforts, denies consumers relevant content and prompts sub-optimal choices in host servers. Given the importance of accurate geolocation data, it is important to invest in top-tier infrastructure. The ideal software contains features that ease redirection and information analysis. The right software would ease geo redirection using features like easy script integration and optimise the collection and analysis of data using built-in analytics. Selecting the right geolocation and geolocation by IP mechanisms is crucial for global business operations.

21st January 2020
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