Geo-targeting in geomarketing and internet marketing is the method of determining the geo-location of a website visitor and delivering different content to that visitor based on their location, such as country, region/state, city, post/zip code, organization, IP address, ISP or other criteria.

A common usage of geo-targeting is found in online advertising, as well as internet television with sites such as iPlayer and Hulu restricting content to those geo-located in specific countries (also known as digital rights management). Use of proxy servers and virtual private networks may give a false location.

Geographical information provided by the visitor

In geo-targeting with geolocation software, the geolocation is based on geographical and other personal information that is provided by the visitor or others.

Different content by choice

A typical example for different content by choice in geo-targeting is the UPS website where users have the choice to select their country location first and are then presented with different site or article content depending on their selection.

Automated different content

In internet marketing and geomarketing, the delivery of different content based on the geographical geolocation and other personal information is automated. A good example is the Ace Hardware website at The company utilizes geolocation software to power the “My Local Ace” section of its website. Based on a site visitor’s location, the website's online locator service can show the visitor how many stores are in their area, as well as a city-level locator map to help the customer find the store closest to their address.

IP spidering

The automated discovery of user person/organization/city-level geolocation information based on IP addresses by traceroute, pings, and a combination of other tools and methods is far more advanced.

It is dependent on the pre-analysis of the entire IP address space. There are more than four billion possible IP addresses, and detailed analysis of each of them is a Herculean task, especially in light of the fact that IP addresses are constantly being assigned, allocated, reallocated, moved and changed due to routers being moved, enterprises being assigned IP addresses or moving, and networks being built, expanded or changed. In order to keep up with these changes, complex algorithms, bandwidth measurement, mapping technology, and finely tuned delivery mechanisms are necessary. Once all of the IP space is analyzed, each address must be periodically updated to reflect changes in the IP address information, without invading a user's privacy. This process is similar in scale to the task of Web spidering.

IP delivery in SEO

IP delivery for search engine optimization (SEO) is the method of delivering different content to search engine spiders (also known as robots and crawlers) than to human visitors. The determination of whether the visitor is a known search engine spider is done based on the IP address. SEOs compare the visitor's IP address with their list of IP addresses, which are known to be servers that are owned by a search engine and used to run their crawler applications (spiders). The delivery of different content to search engine spiders than to human visitors is called “cloaking” and is against most search engines' webmaster guidelines.

Although search engine guidelines might seem to imply that any type of cloaking is bad, there are cases where cloaking might be legitimate. The subject is very controversial and SEO experts continue to debate about when cloaking might be acceptable and when not.

"Cloaking" via IP delivery works differently from cloaking via "user agent". While IP address spoofing is harder than user-agent spoofing and more reliable, it is also harder to keep the list of IP addresses used by search engines for their crawlers up-to-date. An outdated list with active crawler IP addresses missing enables the search engines to detect the cloaking and may result in a removal of the site from the search engine's index.

Common uses

  • Content localization for webmasters who want to serve local content on a global domain.
  • Copyright owners and delivery networks who want to restrict streams based on geographical information.
  • Pay per click advertisements to have ads appear only to users who live in selected locations.
  • Display advertisements where banner or other multimedia ads are selected to be displayed based on visitor location.
  • The use of connection speed data correlated to IP address to tailor content.
  • Online analytics to identify live the correlation of city-level geography, connection speed data and certain demographic data to IP addresses.
  • Enhanced performance networks provide superior customer targeting to advertisers.
  • Fraud prevention identifies suspicious payment transactions live by correlations between IP address and additional information (billing records, email header).
  • City advertising on web sites with extensive content related to particular cities. Such web sites can connect large city audiences with products/services for sale in those cities. Surfers searching for information about particular cities find adverts at such web sites as a result of city name related searches rather than product/service keyword searches. In this way businesses, e.g. shops, restaurants, can advertise and reach out to consumers located in the real-world localities of their product/service offerings.
  • Content based on local time using IP geolocation.