IP Targeting: Understanding This Essential Marketing Tool

Contact AccuData today to learn about their IP targeting services.

There’s no denying that marketing is a competition– oftentimes, the biggest difference between a customer choosing your brand (or, your client’s brand) over a competitor’s is simply a strong marketing campaign. A campaign that reaches the right eyes, at the right time, with the right message.

Modern marketers have discovered the key to strong campaigns: personalization. Getting specific with which potential customers they’re contacting and how. We’ve seen this in data marketing overall, cookie-based marketing (something you’ll read more about in a bit) and more recently, IP targeting.

IP targeting provides a level of specificity previously unfound in marketing. Marketers are able to send the best possible advertisement, to their exact target customer, through that customer’s own tech devices.

This guide will explore the basics of IP targeting through the following points:

If you’re aware of where your knowledge gaps lie, feel free to jump down to a specific section using the navigation above. If not, continue reading for a comprehensive exploration into the basics of IP targeting. Let’s get started!

Learn the basics of IP targeting.


What is IP Targeting?

IP targeting is a method of digital marketing that involves targeting consumers using their IP address and delivering online advertisements accordingly. It’s a hyper-focused effort through which you can target the exact audience for your brand based on their physical address and put your advertisements directly in their line of sight.

It’s fully based on one small line of information that each device on an internet network is equipped with– an IP address. Put simply, IP targeting campaigns send digital advertisements to devices associated with that particular IP address. Whether a laptop, desktop, tablet, or mobile phone,  an IP targeting campaign allows you to send advertisements to each device that is connected to the WiFi network in mind.

These efforts can be used to target both businesses (for example, using the IP address of a business as a whole) and individual customers (for example, using the IP address associated with homes in a certain area).

What is an IP address in IP targeting?

What is an IP address in marketing?

An IP address, or Internet Protocol Address, is a unique numerical code that is associated with each unique device on an internet network.  It looks like a sequence of numbers separated by periods, and it identifies all of the devices accessing a certain network at any given time.

Without getting too in-depth, an IP address is used when your device (laptop, cellphone, etc.) access an internet network. Your computer follows a built-in set of protocols that determine how information is sent out and routed in the right direction. When that happens, your IP address is used as an “electronic return address” ensuring the information you requested from the internet is delivered back to your device.

This is what an IP address looks like.

In marketing, an IP address is used to target consumers on a specific internet network, by sending advertisements to the IP addresses accessing that network. Your advertisement can follow the “electronic return address” to deliver the exact ad you want, to devices at the exact location you’re trying to reach. It’s basically direct mail, delivered digitally!

Understand why your business should use IP targeting.

Why should you use IP targeting?

Put simply, IP targeting in marketing is one of the most targeted techniques you can employ to spread the word about yours, or your client’s, product or service.

Consider the following examples:

  • You’re trying to market a local event that will likely only be accessible to people in the locality in which it will take place. With IP targeting, you can send ads only to those in the general location of your event– increasing the likelihood your ads will result in ticket sales and reduced spend (you’re not paying for ads to unintended audiences).
  • You’re trying to increase foot traffic to a local business. Similarly, use IP targeting to send appetizing ads through networks in that locality. Just check out this type of hyper-local targeting at work, where hyper-specific social media ads increased online orders to regional restaurant Rib City!
  • You’re trying to increase business within a certain demographic. Say, for example, you’re trying to reach the college-aged demographic for your next marketing campaign. Sending your ads to IP addresses associated with college-wide WiFi is one way to do so!

More than likely, there’s a way to tie your next marketing initiative to a particular subset of IP addresses. When you do so, you’ll more effectively target consumers with your next campaign. You’ll be able to run fewer ads and experience higher success with the ads you run. The case for IP targeting builds itself!

Understand the basics of using IP targeting in your marketing strategy.

How do you incorporate IP targeting marketing into your strategy?

Depending on the marketing budget you’re working with, one of the best ways to incorporate IP targeting into your overall strategy is to add it to a full multichannel campaign.

For example, AccuData saw a regional bank drastically increase new client relationships using a campaign that targeted local consumers (within a two-mile radius of each branch location) by IP address, direct mail, and email. By identifying the ideal target market (in this case, homeowners within a certain age range, income, and interest in investment) and the mailing address, email address, and IP address of each person within that, the bank was able to put physical and digital ads into the hands of their exact desired audience.

In this example, the IP targeting refers to the digital ads that were served to devices of the target market. For your strategy, you can rely on IP targeting and digital ads as your main source of advertising– especially if you’re targeting a younger audience (like college students) less likely to be receptive to direct mail. Or, you can incorporate it into a larger marketing strategy as one aspect of your promotional efforts.

Explore a few frequently asked questions about IP targeting.

IP Targeting: Frequently Asked Questions

Is IP targeting legal?

Is IP targeting legal?

The level of specificity offered by IP targeting also comes with some controversy. While incredibly popular among digital marketing professionals, there have been questions around where IP addresses fall in light of data protection regulations. There are questions around whether these addresses are classified as personal data, and if so, whether they should be protected as private information.

Information declared personal often has to be stored and used according to strict regulations, but IP addresses represent a grey area in the definition of personal information.

IP addresses are individual to each internet router, so they can be followed back to the owner of the internet connection. However, IP addresses need to be public, in a sense, to work– they’re created to interact with public sources (like websites) after all. This has long been debated and is stricter in other countries than the U.S. In the U.S., the general consensus is that data targeting is not illegal as the information is inherently public.

That being said, it is a good idea to be mindful of regulations surrounding data targeting in more strict areas of the world, just in case.

Should you use cookie targeting or IP targeting?

Cookie Targeting versus IP Targeting: Which is better?

If you’ve spent any time surfing the internet, you’ve likely encountered cookie-based targeting— if you’ve ever “accepted” cookies, you fall into this group.

Put simply, cookie targeting is when you place a piece of Javascript code on a website (often called a “pixel”). When a visitor accesses the website, an anonymous code is dropped into their web browser making it “cookied.” When this visitor later leaves the website, that small bit of anonymous code alerts ad retargeting platforms to serve advertisements to that visitor corresponding to the pages they visited on the website.

At one point, cookie targeting was lauded as the powerhouse of digital marketing– but now, IP targeting takes the cake. There are a few reasons why this is true:

  • Each “pixel” is attached to a webpage and not your website overall. Adding this code to a wide variety of web pages can be time and effort-intensive.
  • Often, a relatively low volume of visitors are in a cookie targeting campaign at any point. It’s fully based on who visits your site, and which pages they visit– so pages that are low-traffic are doing nothing for this type of campaign.
  • Cookies are deleted as soon as a site visitor deletes their browser history.
  • It’s impossible to know who is accessing a web page from a particular browser. If someone that is not the owner of the device uses it to access the internet, you could end up targeting the wrong person (the device owner) with cookie-based retargeting later on.
  • Cookie targeting is susceptible to non-human visitors, such as web crawlers and click farms. This leads to wasted marketing dollars due to ad-targeting bots.

Explore the reasons why you should use IP targeting instead of cookie targeting.

There are many reasons why cookie targeting is a flawed practice, each of which IP targeting improves. The most important and timely reason, however, is that many browsers are beginning to recognize and block cookie-based ads. We’ve seen that Safari is defaulting to blocking all third-party cookies and that Google Chrome is on track to do the same within the next two years.

Think about it: with Apple products dominating the market and Google Chrome being the preferred browser for many, businesses and agencies relying on cookie-based ad retargeting are about to lose access to a huge population of potential consumers. Pivoting to IP targeting now not only improves your ad retargeting efforts in general, but also prepares you for a future when that’s the only option.

Continue reading for a few best practices when doing so.

Explore a few IP targeting best practices.

Best Practices for IP Targeting Campaigns

Understand your IP targeting criteria.

Clearly define your IP marketing criteria.Criteria are an essential component of IP targeting.

The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to holding an IP targeting campaign, so your best bet is to begin with an examination of what you’re hoping to achieve with the campaign. Which demographic are you hoping to reach, and where do you think that demographic will be accessing the internet?

This means the literal device your target consumer uses to access the internet and the physical location where that device is located. Consider the following criteria examples:

  • Geographic location. If you’re looking to draw more local consumers, associate your campaign with specific geographic parameters.
  • Household type (apartment, home, college campus). For example, you could tie a campaign targeting college-aged students to a campus Wifi network or you could target the same campaign to households with college-aged students.
  • Specific business. This is helpful if you’re looking to market to employees at a specific business or consumers of a specific business that may access its public WiFi network.
  • Specific industries. Criteria targeting trade shows and conference attendees is a powerful way to target professionals in a specific sector.
  • Consumer demographics. For example, age and gender can be great targeting criteria for some products.
  • Noted interests. This includes targeting the IP addresses of those with interests related to your product, such as an outdoor recreation company targeting IP addresses of individuals with known interest in national parks.

These very general criteria are a great place to start. You’ll likely want to narrow down these parameters even further, or even layer a few criteria to paint a picture of your perfect consumer. For example, a campaign targeting older college-aged students could narrow by geographic location as well as household type (ex: homes rented by college students located close to campus).

Avoid over-targeting in your IP targeting strategy.

Avoid over-targeting.Choose only a few criteria for your IP targeting campaign.

While IP targeting is lauded for its specificity, there’s always the chance your campaign can have too much of a good thing.

While we encourage narrowing down your criteria, it’s also important to avoid over-specifying to the point of exclusion. If your target criteria are too specific, you’ll cast a small net. Even if highly successful, you’ll likely have a lower conversion than you could with a wider-targeted campaign.

One good rule of thumb is to limit your IP targeting criteria to two or three parameters. As your campaign progresses, you can learn which targeting criteria have been most successful for your goals, and which haven’t. Then, you can adjust your strategy using different criteria going forward!

Let’s look at an example. In this campaign, AccuData’s goal was to quickly and efficiently increase banking relationships and new checking account holders for a regional bank. They did so by developing a multichannel campaign including IP targeting with the following criteria:

  • 10,000 homeowners living within a 2-mile radius of a branch location
  • Ages 28-64
  • Household income of $75K or more
  • Interest in investing

They could have chosen other, more specific criteria to tie this campaign to, such as choosing a tighter age range or tying the campaign to gender. However, the four criteria chosen were just enough to have massive success for the campaign.

Consider A/B testing your IP targeting campaign.

A/B test your IP targeting efforts.Use A/B testing in your IP targeting campaign.

One common practice in marketing overall is A/B testing, and that holds true for IP targeting.

A/B testing involves running two similar campaigns with slight variations, and examining which one has the highest success for your organization. Then, you refine your overall marketing efforts to align with the more successful campaign and launch the wide-scale effort.

In terms of IP targeting, marketers can refine their targeting criteria using A/B testing. Deploy the same campaign to two slightly different populations, each with different target parameters. We recommend making small changes to your target parameters, changing only one criteria at a time to truly isolate which aspects have an effect on your campaign.
Tying back to our previous banking example, some A/B test criteria could be:

  • Age range of 28-47 or 48-64 versus 28-64.
  • Household income of $100K or more versus $75K or more
  • Female audience versus male audience.

When you use A/B testing, it’s important to make incremental changes to your criteria. Making huge changes to the campaign will make it difficult to understand which criteria made a difference!

Effective ad copy is just as essential as IP targeting.

Employ effective ad copy.Perfect your ad copy for your IP targeting campaign.

You could have the most effectively targeted ads possible but if your ads themselves are less-than-stellar, the campaign isn’t going to work.

It’s easy to get caught up in the specifics of IP targeting and discovering your brand’s perfect audience. Ensure that you’re putting just as much effort into creating the ideal advertisements for that audience as you are into discovering them.

This is another area where A/B testing is helpful, as you can create advertisements and test them on two analogous segments of your consumer base to see which are most successful. The ads with the best response are the ones you should use when sending out IP-targeted communications.

After you’ve put in considerable effort toward the best possible way to get your ads in front of your desired consumer, it would be a let-down to lose that consumer due to sub-par messaging! Being mindful in your copy creation is key to preventing that.

Work with a data team experienced in IP targeting.

Pair with a team of IP targeting experts.AccuData can help your business with its IP targeting campaign.

IP targeting is a more advanced marketing maneuver than many marketing professionals have likely tackled on their own. It involves the coordination of internal business data and external third-party data– which can be overwhelming for even the most experienced of marketers.

Working with a team of dedicated IP targeting experts is one way to make sure your campaign stays on track. For example, AccuData’s IP targeting services include:

  • One-to-one digital marketing for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer campaigns.
  • The match of loyalty lists and prospect lists to IP addresses at a 90% or greater confidence level.
  • The generation of monthly reports with detailed information regarding the number of impressions and clicks for campaign success tracking.
  • Access to the best postal and email data, targeting options, and mapping capabilities so your brand can incorporate IP targeting into a larger multichannel strategy.

When you’re working with a new technology, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Bringing on a team of marketing experts is key to success in an IP targeting effort.

Check out AccuData’s product sheet on IP Targeting to learn more about our services.

IP targeting is a powerful tool in digital marketing, allowing businesses to send ad campaigns directly into their desired customer’s hands. When done correctly, these campaigns can have major success for brands looking to increase their reach– and these best practices are a great way to begin optimizing the process.

For more information on IP targeting, explore these additional resources:

Contact AccuData today to learn about their IP targeting services.


Written by Gabrielle Perham, MBA