On subscriber snapshot pages, Worldview reports, and in subscriber notification emails you can often see a location associated with individual subscribers.
For example, here's a subscriber notification email showing where this new subscriber was when they signed up:
The location feature works by checking the IP address of the subscriber against an IP-to-location database. This also happens every time a subscriber opens or clicks a link in an HTML campaign you've sent them.
How accurate the location is can vary quite widely. For highly populated areas, where records in the database are extensive, you can get pinpoint accuracy, but in other cases only quite broad areas are associated with a particular IP address.
Tip: You can use this geolocation data to segment subscriber lists by location.
If you see a location that looks inaccurate, or you know for sure it's just plain wrong, there are a few possible reasons, as explained below.
If the recipient is connected through a VPN, the IP address of the VPN server will be used rather than the IP address of the user's physical location. So, for example, if a recipient is in London connected to their office via a VPN in New York, we will show New York as their location.
Dynamic IP addresses
Some ISPs use dynamic IP addresses, which means the same person can have two different IPs on different days. IPs are also re-allocated, so an IP that was today given to a person in London might tomorrow be allocated to a person in Edinburgh.
We update the locations of IP addresses regularly but it may be out of date at times.
Some anti-virus or spam filtering software pre-checks emails before they are delivered to the inbox by 'clicking' links and scanning images. In those cases, the IP address we record is that of the software's server instead of the recipient's physical location.
If a subscriber forwards their copy of the email to other people, we record the IP address of those who opened the email, which may be associated with a different location.
We don't have any way to know that it's a different person so the location shown for clicks and opens will be changed in your reports.
Using the forward to a friend function helps, as people who open emails forwarded to them in that way will not affect the location recorded for the original subscriber.
Gmail image proxying
Since Gmail started displaying images by default, subscribers using Gmail as their email client (via webmail, iOS or Android) may have no location recorded (and in some older cases have their location recorded as Mountain View, California) instead of their physical location.
This is because Gmail is now caching and serving email images via Google's proxy servers in Mountain View, instead of serving images directly from the original host servers. If a subscriber uses Gmail but also views your campaigns in other email clients, you will see their last non-gmail open location instead.
Note: The accuracy of the IP-to-location database will increase over time as more and more data is gathered. While you can't, for now, rely on the absolute accuracy of location records it is a great way to get an overview of where your subscribers are.