Geolocation – Improving Navigation for Web Users Worldwide

  • 1
  • October 7, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

This is a guest post by Quova, geolocation experts. Click here for a 16 page whitepaper relating to the research they have carried out in this area.

Right now, there are more than 1.2 billion Internet users around the world, most of which speak a language other than English and most live outside of the United States. In a multilingual world, the odds are that Web users will get lost in the online space as it can be hard to control how people arrive at a Web site and ensure that, once they’ve arrived, they easily find where they need to go.

This research illustrates how companies are using geolocation to greatly improve the user experience across languages and borders – resulting in increased click-throughs and conversions – with the consumer being totally oblivious that, their online experience is being personalised for them. For example, if you have an ecommerce site, you could present prices in Euros instead of dollars without the user having to go through the pull-down menu process.

More than 12% of large multinational companies are currently using geolocation to improve global navigation, which is a 200% increase over a year before. Geolocation is rapidly becoming a mainstream application for companies across all major industries. Below is a selected list of identified companies that use geolocation to improve global navigation:

  • Adidas
  • Amazon
  • Bose
  • Google
  • Hertz
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • PayPal
  • Samsung
  • Skype
  • Yahoo!

To reach 90% of the world’s 1.2 billion Internet users, companies must support 20 or more languages, and an increasing number of companies are doing just that. Some statistics show that when local language is not presented, the drop-off rate can be as high as 50-70% of visitors. One company, a large US software outfit, reported recently that 70% of the visitors to its .com site were international. Unfortunately, this company also noticed that many of these international Web users were not able to find the country sites that had been developed for them. They were getting lost, resulting not only in missed opportunities – but lost revenues.

Geolocation combats this dilemma by acting as a form of global “air traffic control,” ensuring that everyone gets where they need to go and can see the content most relevant to them. The foundation for geolocation is the Internet protocol (IP) address – a numeric string assigned to every device attached to the Internet. When an individual surfs the Web, their computer sends out this IP address to every Web site visited. Geolocation service providers build massive databases that link each IP address to a specific location, and due to its fluidity, many providers update their databases on a daily or weekly basis, sometimes reporting a 5-10% change in IP addresses locations each week.

Geolocation can provide much more than a geographic location. Many providers supply up to 30 data fields for each IP address that can help to further determine if users really are where they say they are. These may include:

  • Country, region, state, city, ZIP code, area code
  • Latitude/longitude
  • Time zone

Equipped with this information, you may respond to the Web user with a wide range of localised content.

Other popular ways that companies are currently using geolocation include: localising products and services, local search and geo-targeted advertising, enhanced web analytics, preventing card-not-present and identity theft fraud and enforcing digital content and territory rights.

Further reading

Quova research paper
Guide to geotargeting for SEO