Quova recently announced  that they were awarded a patent for various methods which improve geotargeting accuracy and capability. My understanding is that Quova has been using these methods for quite some time already, prior to receiving the patent.
Here’s Quova’s description of the innovations:
“Quova’s newly added patent describes a method for determining the geographic location of an Internet user based upon combining trace routes, user registration information, host names with textual patterns that reveal geolocation information and Internet Service Provider (ISP) service area information. These trace routes describe the pathways by which data moves through the Internet. Each node or ‘hop’ in the trace route is identified by an IP address. These interconnected nodes can be used to recreate the topology of the Internet. Each geolocation can then be assigned to these IP addresses in order to determine the location of each node, up to and including the end user’s IP address and the geolocation of that end user.”
I previously have written about Quova in my extensive article, “Geolocation: Core To The Local Space & Key to Click-Fraud Detection “. My earlier description of them reads practically as an endorsement – something I very rarely do at all. But, I think what I wrote is pretty accurate, overall. Quova is considered pretty much best-in-class of the companies providing geolocation data mapping, because of their greater variety of geo data sources, their more sophisticated mapping methods, and because they actually submit to a third-party audit for data accuracy.
As I’ve described previously, there are quite a number of providers out there which try to associate endusers’ IP addresses with geographic location coordinates, but I’ve always been a really huge skeptic of the overall error rates associated with this type of data. In the past there were estimates that geolocation error rates could be anywhere from 50% to 85%! For marketers attempting to precisely target ads and content to geographically cohesive groups, such high error rates were far too high to be acceptable from my P.O.V. five years ago.
For all geolocation data companies, error rates increase as the geotargeting level becomes more precisely granular. In other words, most of these companies likely have very high accuracy for country-level geolocation capability, lesser for regional targeting such as state or province level, less than that precision for city-level, and lowest accuracy for ZIP-code or postal-code level targeting.
I’ve also been highly skeptical in the past because there’s a low ability to actually test how accurate a given company’s data may be — most testing is based on sample sets which I’ve suspected may be highly skewed towards more accurate geolocations. Anecdotal stories of erroneous geotargeting have come up repeatedly throughout the industry, while there are few ways of calculating actual error, and geolocation data companies reiterate unverifiable claims of accuracy rates.
However, innovations such as found in this patent awarded to Quova help in improving the stature of the whole industry, and really help to reassure marketers and security administrators that the data is solid. I can critique testing methodologies for auditing the data, but I get less strident about it when I can see that the methods by which the data was arrived at are improving and are far less prone to error rates.
Since increasing amounts of advertising targeting are being based upon geotargeting, and since so much of our security screening of PPC ads’ click-through results are being based upon geolocation data as a major component of analysis, I think it behooves companies to use very high-quality data. Quova’s historically high price tags have caused some to look for cheap and easy alternatives, but people should be very careful about the methods used by those other companies. In many, many cases, the cheaper alternatives equate with far less sophisticated methodologies, which also equate with higher error rates. And, auditing undoubtedly also adds overhead to the pricetag, but using data that has zero third-party checks will open companies to greater liability.
Most of the cheap companies are using only ARIN network data which has a lower accuracy level than if it was further enhanced by data from major ISPs and network tracerouting.
Except for the simplest applications which do not involve security and fraud analysis, I think that Quova’s industry-leading patents in geolocation make it so that other geodata companies’ products cannot realistically compete in this arena.