Improve performance, get user intel with GeoIP | Fastly

Your business is thriving — you have stores in multiple states across the country as well as an online presence. To increase your reach, you’ve put a lot of resources into studying your target customer; you need to make sure your inventory is tailored to what they’re interested in purchasing and that their experience with your brand meets expectations.

This approach isn’t just for brick-and-mortars; if you run any online business, you need visibility into where your online shoppers are located so that you can attract new customers, personalize their shopping experience with your brand, leverage analytics to manage inventory levels, and mitigate attacks on your site or application — all without sacrificing performance.

In a previous post, I discussed the benefits of Fastly edge modules. Among those listed is GeoIP / Geography Detection, which is useful for any company (especially those in ecommerce, hospitality/travel, and media) that needs to segment content delivery based on geographic location.

Here are some of the innovative ways you can use this edge module:

Optimize performance for your site and application

You can direct traffic to specific origin servers to optimize site performance. This is especially useful with user requests like credit card transactions, which must go to the origin and can’t be served from the cache for security reasons.

For instance, if you have origin servers in both the UK and the US, you can use GeoIP / Geography Detection to perform logic (the part of programming that defines how data is created, changed, displayed, and stored) on Fastly that directs US user requests to your US origin server and UK traffic to your UK origin server.

Another way to optimize performance when using GeoIP / Geography Detection is to cache all geo-specific versions of your content (such as pages in different languages) at the edge. If you’re serving GeoIP-based custom languages without a CDN in place, all requests would have to go back to your origin, resulting in a performance drop. But Fastly can do GeoIP / Geography Detection for you at the edge, and you can incorporate it into your secondary cache keys. This lets you serve localized, translated content to users based on their country or region without sacrificing performance. Being able to serve content in different languages will help expand your customer base and grow your brand.

According to the Common Sense Advisory, global brands wanting to reach 80% of people worldwide need to have content in 14 languages; to reach 95% of users, you need 20 languages. By detecting where users are from and anticipating in which language they’d like to view your content, you can provide a user experience that caters to your entire, global user base.

Support omnichannel retail with better analytics

For companies that manage brick-and-mortar retail store as well as ecommerce sites, a big challenge is figuring out where to put marketing spend — especially when it comes to determining whether or not online marketing (emails, promos, ads, and social media) translates into in-store sales. Shopping experiences are becoming increasingly fragmented; a customer might see ads for your brand online, get an email about a promotion, look at some items on your website, and then go into the store in-person to shop.

With Fastly’s GeoIP / Geography Detection, you can compare pageviews of a specific item and show correlation between researching online and buying in-store. For example, you can geo-fence for 75 miles around the store and look at pageviews analytics for a specific item. Then, you can compare and contrast the in-store sales to that of the pageviews online to determine if there's a correlation between viewing online and purchasing in stores, and coordinate your marketing efforts accordingly.

Direct shoppers to the most relevant online store

If you have a global ecommerce presence, you’ll need to redirect customers to the version of your site that’s most relevant to their location. Using GeoIP / Geography Detection, you can detect where visitors are originating from and direct them to the corresponding version of your site.

For example, an ecommerce giant in the UK uses this feature to help shoppers find the right version of their site. Visitors from outside the UK are met with a landing page with other versions of their site, helping them direct shoppers to the site they'd like to access.

Enter new markets

Being able to tailor your content to users in specific regions empowers you to expand the global reach of your brand. Fastly customer the Guardian uses GeoIP to serve one of its three editions — US, UK, or Australian — depending on where readers are coming from. This ability to serve content specific to a region has allowed them to offer readers more relevant news. It’s also enabled them to grow their audience in places like the US (where traffic has grown 55% year-over-year) and Australia.

Further personalizing and localizing the ecommerce experience

Serving localized content to users based on region helps tailor the experience for individual visitors to your site. Using GeoIP / Geography Detection, you can personalize the shopping experience based on location, such as showing local reviews of a product (which has been shown to increase buyer confidence) or product availability by region.

Fastly customer Lonely Planet serves shoppers pages in their own country’s currency, making it easy for them to make purchases. Because they can cache all versions of those pages on Fastly’s global network, there’s no loss in performance.

Alternatively, if you’re a company that sells tickets to shows, you can use GeoIP / Geography Detection to provide concert venues and showtimes based on where users are located. For example, you could designate a section of your website as “concerts in your area” — users clicking this section would be directed to a list of concerts happening nearby. This will give your customers an opportunity to see a band they might otherwise have missed while helping you sell tickets.

Using GeoIP / Geography Detection, stores could also participate in disaster relief efforts. Imagine that a hurricane has devastated the coastal region of the US. Nearby online stores could target shoppers in affected areas with discounted emergency items, such as dry goods, flashlights, tarps, and medical supplies. In this way, shoppers gain immediate awareness of available supplies where they most need them.

Geo-blocking during targeted attacks

Since Fastly lets you monitor where traffic spikes are coming from, we can help you identify where security threats originate. You can sort out legitimate traffic from suspicious traffic if your site comes under a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, and then block all traffic from where the attacks are coming from. And because Fastly is built on Varnish, you can update your configuration instantly, responding to attacks as they happen.

As 1stdibs CTO Ross Paul notes, “Fastly’s technology allows us to handle attacks better than anything else while still giving us control.” With GeoIP / Geography Detection, they can quickly identify and block malicious IP addresses during DDoS attacks.

How GeoIP / Geography Detection works

Fastly’s Custom Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) enables you to identify the location of user requests by a number of geographic variables. In your Varnish configuration, you can set custom HTTP headers based on the variables available. These variables are pulled from the IP addresses of your site’s visitors, allowing you to create location-based tagging to direct visitors or serve specific content as you see fit.

You can determine where a user request originates by latitude, longitude, city, town, country, continent, postal code, area code, and/or metro code. (A complete list of the geographic variables can be found here.) Once you have that information, you can serve specific cached content to users who fit designated variables.

Learn more about Fastly’s GeoIP / Geography Detection here.

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Anna MacLachlan
Content Marketing Manager

6 min read

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Anna MacLachlan
Content Marketing Manager

Anna MacLachlan is Fastly’s Content Marketing Manager, where she talks to brands and partners to tell stories about scale, security, and performance. She received her MA in Comparative Literature from NYU and loves megafauna and mountains.

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