IP stands for Internet Protocol, and is the most common type of location targeting on desktop devices. It was also one of the first types of location targeting available. If you’ve ever run a digital ad campaign and targeted ads at the country, state, or zip code level its likely that you were using IP targeting, even if you didn’t outright know it.

To understand how this works we need to first understand what an IP Address is.

To start, every device that connects to the internet needs their own unique identifier. An IP is a unique identifier that looks something like this: 192.168.1.34. If you’ve ever setup a wireless router you may have had to interact with a number like that in order to connect to your ISP (Internet Service Provider).

The ISP are the ones who will assign an IP address to each device on their network. These can change over time due to changes the ISP implements, or from something like getting a new wireless router. Regardless, the ISP knows which IP’s are connected to which accounts, and assigns unique numbers to reach.

For example, If you’re a Comcast/Xfinity customer, the router provided by your ISP assigns addresses in this range: 10.0.0.0 – 10.255.255.255.

Since the IP is provided by the ISP, the ISP knows where they all are located. They organize the network into regional and local hubs, and know where each of these hubs are located. A local hub could serve a single suburban street, which connects to a regional hub for that town, which connects to a larger hub for the city, and so on. Thus by targeting IPs you can select only IPs in certain areas. Depending on where a device is located, you can get more or less precise.

While an IP address will never tell you the exact home address of the device, you can find out what city, state, and zip code the IP is located in. For many advertisers, this is enough.

Want to look up your IP and see for yourself? Check out What Is My IP Address. This site will find your IP and tell you where it’s located and what your ISP is.

You may find that your location is slightly off. Maybe the city is right, but the zip code is slightly off. Or maybe the city is completely wrong. This can happen due to a number of factors, such as being on a large network like a business account that is routed to a provider outside of where you’re physically located, your IP address being outdated to a past location, or demand causing the ISP to reroute your service to another area with lower demand. All of these factors are commonplace with IP targeting meaning they aren’t completely accurate when being used for location targeting.

I cover this in more detail in Digital Advertising & Marketing 201, as well as on my YouTube channel.

Next Section: GPS (Global Positioning System) Targeting