How IP Targeting Works

Determining the exact geographic location of an IP address is quite complex. Learn more about the IP targeting process by reading below.

In the world of advertising and marketing, it is no secret that location plays a vital role in the success of a campaign. In traditional advertising, where you place a billboard or on which page of a newspaper or magazine to put an advertisement takes careful consideration to ensure that your ad is seen by the most number of people, thus guaranteeing that your marketing dollars are maximized. The same is true in online advertising especially in an increasingly mobile world. With the help of IP targeting, companies are now able to provide geo targeted ads based on the user’s IP address.

It’s easy to see the benefits derived from IP targeting; large enterprises and small businesses can place particular ads and messages directly in front of a particular audience in a particular part of the world. This is why this method of targeted online advertising has been increasing in popularity with advertisers.

So, how exactly does IP targeting work? Let’s start with the basics.

ip targeting

What is an IP Address?

An IP address is a numerical label assigned to devices (such as computers, mobile devices, and printers) within a computer network that allows them to communicate with one another on the World Wide Web using the Internet Protocol. Most, if not all, Internet users connect to it through a local Internet Service Provider or ISP, so their IP address will be able to provide general information in terms of the user’s geographic location.

Targeting Users on the Web

This can sound deceptively simple; however a lot of things happen behind the scenes when it comes to actually targeting users based on their IP address. This is because there are no obvious patterns in the way IP addresses are assigned, unlike with telephone area codes.

Advertisers usually outsource geolocation service providers who, in turn, employ various methods in order to geographically locate IP addresses of users. One of these methods is to utilize the five Regional Internet Registries which manage the allocation and registration of Internet number sources (IP addresses and autonomous system numbers) within a particular region in the world. Each RIR maintains allotted ranges of IP addresses in the region and ensures that no same IP address is used more than once.

There are three technical methods used in geolocation:

  • Ping – a network utility program that tests network connections. Basically, it is used to determine how fast you get a response after you send out a request.
  • Traceroute – a network diagnostic tool that determines the path or route through the Internet between your computer and a destination computer. It also measures the amount of time it takes between each step. Information travels through the Internet by moving through a sequence of networks, until it reaches the ISP that provides Internet to the Internet user, and eventually to the final network router that is physically nearest to the user. The IP address of that final network router is what the geolocation service aims to obtain.
  • Reverse DNS Lookup – is used to determine the domain name associated with an IP address, which helps to identify who owns the IP address. This usually points to the ISP in the case of home computers, and the company’s domain in the case of businesses.

In essence a geolocation service provider, with the help of their own network of servers, can send out pings, look at the traceroute which will help them identify the nearest router based on the IP to the user, then use a reverse DNS lookup to find out which ISP owns the router. Using this process, geolocation services are able to triangulate the location of the IP address. With enough data, the service will be able to triangulate any IP address on the Internet.