Knowing a visitor's IP address is useful for many reasons. Once you know a user's location, you can use it to serve them localized content, show them ads that are relevant to them, authenticate them against your servers, and even prevent cyber attacks.
In this article, we'll look at how to use IP geolocation services to do IP geolocation for your website visitors. We'll also talk about how to integrate IP geolocation data into your WordPress site, and we'll cover a few best practices to keep in mind when building an IP geolocation feature.
Gathering IP geolocation data about your users is not difficult. These days, there are plenty of online IP location websites and IP geolocation APIs. Let's take a look at how to use one online IP geolocation API to translate your user's IP addresses into geographic location information.
API stands for Application Programming Interface. An API is simply a set of rules that allow different applications to integrate with each other. An IP Geolocation API provides endpoints that allow you to get IP geolocation data from the service into your app.
Step 1: Choose an IP Geolocation Service Provider
The first step is choosing an IP geolocation API. There are many free and paid services out there. Here are a few of the top IP geolocation database and API options:
In this tutorial, we'll use AbstractAPI's Free IP Geolocation API to help with mapping IP addresses to geographic location data.
Step 2: Sign up for An Account and Obtain an API Key
In order to use the AbstractAPI Geolocation API, you'll need to sign up for a free account and get an API key. The account is always free, and there are no ads or mailing lists to join. You can use the free account to make up to 20,000 requests 1 request per second.
Go to the API homepage and click "Get Started."
You'll be asked to input your email address and create a password. Once you've done that, you'll be taken to the API dashboard, where you'll see links to pricing, documentation, and support, as well as a testing sandbox and your API key.
Step 3: Integrate the API Into Your Website's Code
This block of code sends a GET request to the API endpoint, with your API key included in the URL as a query parameter. That's all that's needed to get IP geolocation information from the API.
If no IP address is provided in the request, the API will automatically pull the IP address of the machine that sent the request from the request metadata. Alternatively, you can include a particular IP address in the query parameters, and the API will look up the geographical location for that IP address instead.
Once the API receives the request, it looks up the location information for that address and returns the data to you as a JSON object. Let's take a look at what the API sends back.
Please note that some identifying information has been redacted from this output.
Here, we can see that the API returns an object with pretty detailed information about the user's location: city name, state, region, country code, and area code, as well as information about their internet service provider, timezone, currency, and even an emoji for their country flag.
To use this information, simply pull the relevant fields off the JSON object and use them in your code. You can use string interpolation to display location data to the user or use the latitude and longitude values to render the user's location on a map.
Note: IP geolocation cannot return a user's exact location. You can't get a street address or any other identifying information about a user from it. IP-based geolocation returns a radius, within which your user is likely to be.
Step 4: Test the API and Ensure It's Working Properly
In order to test the API, you can simply click the "Test" button in the sandbox interface on the API dashboard. You could also copy and paste the test code into your application and run the request yourself.
Let's add a console.log statement to the file to log the output of the API response to the console and check that it looks correct:
Next, open up a Terminal and double-check that you have Node installed by running
If you don't have Node installed, you can download and install it from here: https://nodejs.org/en/download/.
Once you have it up and running, run the following command to run your script and send the request:
You should see the JSON output printed to your console.
How to Add IP Geolocation to a WordPress Site
The easiest way to do IP-based geolocation on a WordPress site is to use one of the many plugins available. There are plenty of IP geolocation databases and API plugins to help you. Let's take a look at a few of the most popular ones.
WPForms is the most powerful form builder for WordPress, and it includes built-in geolocation data. You can use the drag-and-drop builder to include two separate IP location services in your forms: address autocomplete, and address autodetection.
These services let your users see where they are on a map as they input an address, and will also autocomplete an address for them, based on their current location.
Monster Insights is a powerful analytical plug-in for WordPress that tracks all kinds of information about your users, including their location data. It can be hooked up to Google Analytics to retrieve detailed information about your users' demographics.
You can use Monster's geolocation data to do geotargeting and optimize your website for users in different locations.
Geotargeting Pro helps with content personalization and localization. It lets you show different content to your users based on their location. It determines location both through IP addresses and also via GPS and can help you manage geolocation redirects, content blocking, location-sensitive links, and more.
Geotargeting Pro uses Sucuri and Cloudflare to detect users' IP addresses, and it is compatible with Maxmind, IP2Location, GeoIP2, and Kinsta GeoIP.
When working with sensitive information like user location, it's important to adhere to best practices and treat your users' geographic data respectfully. Most IP geolocation APIs are fully compliant with GDPR standards, however, you should always double-check that the service you choose to perform IP geolocation is following best standards and practices.
Next, always inform your users about your data-collecting practices, and provide them with an opt-out if they do not want their location disclosed. Your website or app should include a privacy notice that details all the user information you gather and track.
Finally, be aware that many users these days use proxy servers and VPNs to give themselves more privacy and obscure their actual location. You may not get an accurate IP address from a user's metadata.
Most IP-based geolocation services can detect when a user is using a proxy server or VPN. You may not want to show users content tailored to their geographical location if this is the case, because that could result in a sub-par user experience.
Benefits of IP Geolocation
There are many benefits to IP geolocation. Primarily, it is useful for serving users localized content, including prices in their own currency, language translations, and real-time suggestions for local solutions to their needs.
But did you know IP geolocation can also be used to prevent fraud and enhance cyber security?
For example, if a banking website detects that a user is logging in from an unexpected location, they could prevent the login and email the user to let them know that strange activity was detected on their account.
Additionally, geographical location data can be used to block DDoS attacks. Since the majority of DDoS attacks come from a few known locations, by looking at the IP addresses of incoming requests and blocking those originating from locations with known ties to DDoS attacks, a company can mitigate these attacks.
IP geolocation is a powerful tool for providing a great, customized experience for your users. It can also be used for fraud detection and to prevent cyber crimes like DDoS attacks. If you're not already utilizing IP geolocation in your website or app, consider adding it through an IP-based geolocation API.
If you're interested in adding IP geolocation to your site, take a look at some of the following resources to get you up and running:
- Why IP Geolocation Can Go Wrong (Causes and Fixes)
- How to Use IP Geolocation in React
- Determining Geolocations and IP Addresses in Google Maps
- Using Cloudflare IP Geolocation to Detect a Users Country
What is IP geolocation, and why would I want to add it to my website?
IP geolocation is the process of determining where a user is by looking at their IP address. Every machine connected to the internet has a unique IP address, which contains information about their city, state, region, country, and more.
IP geolocation is useful for serving localized content like language translations and local currency information. It can also be used in fraud detection and preventing DDoS attacks.
How do I add IP geolocation to my website?
There are many ways to add IP-based geolocation to your app or website. Online IP Geolocation APIs provide detailed information about user locations via simple REST API endpoints. If you have a custom WordPress site there are many plugins available to do IP-based geolocation tasks like auto-completing addresses, showing users their location on a map, and more.
What are some best practices for using IP geolocation on my website?
Are there any legal considerations I should be aware of when implementing IP geolocation?
Many countries and regions have legislation in place that governs how and why geolocation data can be collected and used. These rules vary, so make sure to read up on the laws for your particular state and country before implementing IP geolocation for your website.
For example, in the United States, California has strict privacy policies in place, under the California Consumer Privacy Act and the California Privacy Rights Act. You will need to make sure that any website visitors in California are handled differently from other states.
What are some benefits of IP geolocation for website owners?
IP geolocation can be used for website localization, price and currency conversion, fraud prevention, authentication, ad-targeting, DDoS blocking, and more.