Good news for online advertisers: Geo-targeting is set to get a lot smarter

A bugbear of Pay Per Click advertisers across the globe is how inaccurate geo-targeting can be. The thought of being able to display adverts to internet users in a tightly set location is ideal for local businesses but the unfortunate reality is that platforms like Google AdWords haven’t been able to accurately serve adverts a lot of the time.

Geo-targeting to date has mainly been based on the location of a users’ Internet Service Provider. This can often be very different to where that user actually is. Take us as an example - Liberty has had three offices, all based in Cardiff, but Google believed the first was in Birmingham, the second in London and the current one in Essex, due to the ISP we have used at each location. Very frustrating for advertisers and surely very frustrating for Google, knowing they’d spend more if this could be improved.

It looks like this may soon happen as, according to New Scientist, technologies are being developed that can accurately track internet users to within 690 metres of their physical location. The article says “The new method zooms in through three stages to locate a target computer. The first stage measures the time it takes to send a data packet to the target and converts it into a distance – a common geolocation technique that narrows the target's possible location to a radius of around 200 kilometres.

...they then send data packets to known Google Maps landmark servers in this large area to find which routers they pass through. When a landmark machine and the target computer have shared a router, the researchers can compare how long a packet takes to reach each machine from the router; converted into an estimate of distance, this time difference narrows the search down further.

Finally, they repeat the landmark search at this more fine-grained level: comparing delay times once more, they establish which landmark server is closest to the target. The result can never be entirely accurate, but it's much better than trying to determine a location by converting the initial delay into a distance or the next best IP-based method. On average their method gets to within 690 metres of the target and can be as close as 100 metres – good enough to identify the target computer's location to within a few streets”

If/when this rolls out, we can't wait to see the impact it has on Pay Per Click!

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