” The targeting of users as per zip code, area code, city, DMA, state, and/or country is called as geographic targeting “.Geographic targeting is the practice of targeting ads to web users based on their physical location , e.g. If i want to show to Ad only to US citizen i can target the Geo only to US so no other user at different location can see the Ad.

Geographic targeting is not a new concept but a very common criteria coming from the time when web advertising was not there, the other means of advertising which was there before web advertising was newspaper, radio stations, billboards, TV which was automatically Geo(local) targeted and also covered the around places but it’s true not like the way it is targeted today.

The real Geographic targeting need came into need only when web advertising came into existence as generally, all the publishers were global, now to make this possible a geolocation service was required, a geolocation service is a service which provides real-world geographic location of an object, such as a radar, mobile phone or an Internet-connected computer terminal.


As we know Geographic targeting is the common criteria of every campaign in online advertising so all the ads to be served must have to pass this criteria before being rendered on a webpage and this criterion is taken care by the ad server including all the other criteria’s such as frequency capping, behavior targeting, end date, start date of campaign, impression goal, etc. All these checks are done by ad server and that too in milliseconds.

The process of selecting an ad by an ad server is called Ad selection or matching process, but this process does not satisfy in checking the Geographic targeting criteria as it runs for other features like ad size, impression goal, etc. The reason is clear as ad selection process works on predefined values given to an ad server but with Geographic targeting, it is not possible as every time the ad server gets a request a query is made which then gives the result like country, state, zip code. etc. Let’s know the proper working now.

WORKING: It’s all about IP’s!

In the real working of geographic targeting, it’s the IP address’s which plays the game. As mentioned there are no such predefined values set for geographic targeting criteria, it’s always through queries the ad server gets the live value. Geographic targeting works on mapping process, it completely depends on mapping/connecting a USER’s IP address with it’s a physical location. i.e. using the IP address of a user the location is tracked not exact but yes nearby like in which city, state or country depending upon our need. So now as we know IP address plays all the game in tracking there are a number of processes which are followed within to catch a single IP address after which the physical location is tracked.

The processes include:

These all process comes under geolocation services!

  • PINGS – Ping is a basic Internet program that allows a user to verify that a particular IP address exists and can accept requests.
  • TRACEROUTE – Traceroute is a process of recording network routing process of the ping services i.e. it’s a utility that records the route (the specific gateway computers at each hop) through the Internet between your computer and a specified destination computer. The routing of the ping can off-course lead to the last router which will send the information requested by the user and traceroute plays the main role by giving the IP address of the final router which will surely be geographically near to user.
  • REVERSE DNS – Reverse DNS is a method of resolving an IP address into a domain name, just as the DNS resolves domain names into associated IP addresses.

How the three processes helps Geo-Location Services to catch the Physical Location?

The ISP (user’s ISP) eventually moves the packet of information to a nearby network router to the user, which connects directly to the user. By using the traceroute utility, the geolocation service can know every system the information was passed through in order to get to its final destination. The final important piece of information the service gets from a traceroute process is the IP address of that final network router which will off-course be geographically nearest to the user, thus getting them around the location of the user. Now when we have the network router’s IP address in hand, the next process which is reverse DNS can be used to get the domain name or to identify who owns that network router which in that can be used to lock in on the physical location of the user. Example, if you are using an airtel broadband connection, using this service you will get to know the region from where the request is coming which indirectly solves our purpose.

Limitations of Geolocation:

This service has improved a lot in its accuracy but still, it’s not always accurate and has some limitations like:

  • If IP address is associated with the wrong location, everything goes wrong!
  • If the address is associated with a very broad geographic location area then it’s difficult to get the nearest location of the user.

Ad Server Role:

After the physical location has been tracked, the value passes to the ad server so that it renders right ad to the right user. There is again a mapping process followed to serve the right ad at the right location.

Step-wise process:

Ad Server Role


Tracking of IP address using the above processes.


Using the IP address the user physical location is tracked. (explained above)


Say the location of the user is Alabama (US)


The location value is passed to an ad server which then maps with its own Geographic database(a database maintained by ad server internally, each location is given a unique value).


MAPPING PROCESS – Say Alabama value stored in the Ad server geo database is 22, the physical location value maps with the value of the ad server database.


The flights or ads targeted to Alabama shows up the ad to the user surfing from Alabama.

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