Master Geolocation for Free with IP Geolocation API

Understanding where your users are, can mean the difference between making a sale, attracting a new member, getting a push on social media, building a solid user experience, or bombing completely.

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Because where a person is, affects their schedule, their culture, their currency, their whole outlook on the world.

Sure, you might not be able to translate your entire site into their preferred language—who knows, maybe you can—but if they don’t speak the same language as you, you can at least acknowledge it. And okay, perhaps you can only accept payments in US dollars, but wouldn’t it be nice to let them know approximately how much you’re charging in Yen, or Dongs, or Euros. How about shipping costs, do you ship to Africa? And then there’s GDPR, wouldn’t it be great to be legally compliant in the EU without having to be compliant globally? You can even use an IP address’ longitude and latitude to identify the nearest real world store, if your company has more than one location.

You can do all of this and much much more with geolocation. Geolocation ties the web to the real world by taking an IP address, finding it in a huge database that identifies IP address locations, and then returning key details like country, currency, and continent.

The downside with geolocation is that it’s often expensive to implement, charging for the number of queries submitted to the database, making it beyond the budget of many small businesses.

The IP Geolocation API is different. Cutting down on the number of features, and the amount of data returned, means that you can get the same accurate location data, in a simple to use package, for free.

The Geolocation API returns data as a JSON object, and includes tons of information you can use to tailor your site.


Getting Started with IP Geolocation API

You can connect to the IP Geolocation API in any number of coding languages, the most common is JavaScript. However, because we want to customize the contents of the page, we don’t want to rely on a front-end technology. Instead we’re going to write the page before it gets to the user, with PHP.

The first thing you want to do is create a new file, name it “country.php” and save it to your dev environment, or open up your ftp client and upload it to a PHP enabled web space. Next we can edit the file’s code.

Open the PHP file:

Then we need to create a function to grab the location of the IP address we supply:

function grabIpInfo($ip)

Don’t worry if you’re not used to writing functions in PHP, all will become clear. (In simple terms, when we repeat that function’s name, passing an IP address to it, the code inside the brackets will run.)

Inside those brackets, we’re going to use PHP’s built-in cURL to get the data from the API:

This code initiates the cURL session. Next we need to set the options on the cURL session. The first is very important, it’s the URL to load, which will be and on the end we have to append the actual IP address we want to look up (remember we’re passing this into the function, so we just need to use the $ip parameter):

curl_setopt($curl, CURLOPT_URL, "" . $ip);

The next option tells cURL to return the data as a string, rather than just outputting it to the page:


Next we execute the cURL session, saving the data to a new variable that we can return from the function:

$returnData = curl_exec($curl);

Now we close the cURL session:

Lastly we return the data from the function:

Remember all of that code was inside the curly brackets of the function. Now, we can call the function as often as we like and access the data, from outside the function:

$ipInfo = grabIpInfo("");

Our $ipInfo variable now has a ton of great data returned about that IP address. If you’d like to see it, you just output the variable using PHP’s echo:

Finally, don’t forget to close the PHP:

Now you can run your file in a browser, you’ll see something like this:


It’s incredible that we can grab all of that data so easily, but it’s not actually all that useful. We need to be able to pick out parts of that code.

Go back and delete the line of code that begins with “echo”, and replace it with the following:

$ipJsonInfo = json_decode($ipInfo);

That line converts the JSON string into an object we can access.

Next echo the part of the data you want to. In this case, the name property gives us the country name:

Run your file again, and you’ll see the country name “Germany” in your browser.

That’s cool, but there’s one more thing we need to do before this code is really useful, and that’s find the IP address dynamically, so that we’re looking up the country name of whomever is accessing the page. IP Geolocation API will do that for you if you access it with JavaScript (you simply omit the IP address altogether). Unfortunately, we’re using PHP, but fortunately, PHP gives us a really simple way to access the current user’s IP address, $_SERVER[“REMOTE_ADDR”].

Replace the IP address in the function call with the dynamic version:

$ipInfo = grabIpInfo($_SERVER["REMOTE_ADDR"]);

When you now run the code you’ll get your own country output to the browser. (If you don’t see anything, you’re probably testing locally so you don’t have a detectable IP address, upload to your webspace to see the file working correctly.)

Here’s the full code:


function grabIpInfo($ip)

  $curl = curl_init();

  curl_setopt($curl, CURLOPT_URL, "" . $ip);
  curl_setopt($curl, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, TRUE);

  $returnData = curl_exec($curl);


  return $returnData;


$ipInfo = grabIpInfo($_SERVER["REMOTE_ADDR"]);
$ipJsonInfo = json_decode($ipInfo);

echo $ipJsonInfo->name;



Simple Geolocation

As you can see, accessing geolocation data with the IP Geolocation API is incredibly fast and simple. And being able to access this kind of data for free is an incredible resource for any developer.

IP Geolocation API’s data is all run from the MaxMind database—one of the most trusted sources—which means you’re getting reliable, and accurate data, from a premium provider, at zero cost.

IP Geolocation API is the perfect place to start experimenting with geolocation. Once you get started, it will become an essential part of every user experience you design.


[– Featured image via DepositPhotos –]

[– This is a sponsored post on behalf of IP Geolocation API –]

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