What IP Address Stability Reveals About Your Audience

When Digital Element introduced its geotargeting technology in 1999, the most in-demand data point we gleaned from the IP address was a device’s geographic location. With the explosion of the Internet and ecommerce, numerous people, from digital marketers and advertisers, to cybersecurity professionals needed an accurate way to target messages based on location.

Over the decades, we introduced many new, non-geographic-based targeting parameters such as connection speed, domain name, language and ISP. This “IP Intelligence” encapsulated so much more than location, opening up new insights for organizations that they can use as a strategic advantage. IP stability is one of the highly strategic intelligence data points Digital Element can now offer clients.

Knowing the stability of an IP address can enhance numerous business use cases, such as protecting digital assets, enhancing digital analytics, and detecting and preventing online fraud.

What is IP Stability?

First let’s start with the basics: what is IP stability? The stability of an IP address refers to the period of time an IP address is observed in a specific geolocation. Some IP addresses are highly stable, meaning they’re associated with the same geolocation for months or years at a time. Others range in stability, as in stable to a given city for a given period of time, to  highly unstable mobile addresses that are associated with a different geolocation daily, or even hourly.

Types of IP Addresses

There are multiple types of IP addresses, which means there are also levels of IP stability. When speaking of IP stability, knowing the range of IP address type is essential. Let’s review:

Private IP address These are IP addresses that can only be used by devices (aka “hosts”) on the same network, such as a corporate network. These are non-Internet routable, and are clearly defined in RFC6761. The Request For Comment is the main standards setting body for the Internet.
Public IP address (aka internet routable addresses) These are IP addresses that are internet routable, meaning they can be reached from any device/machine in the world, and are clearly defined RFC1366, aka “Guidelines for Management of IP Space.” 
Fixed IP address These are IP addresses that are routed via cable, DSL or fiber infrastructure for internet connectivity, assigned to non-mobile devices. Fixed IP addresses can be both static and dynamic (see below).
Mobile IP address These are IP addresses that are routed via cell tower infrastructure for internet connectivity assigned to mobile devices. Mobile IP addresses are always dynamic IP addresses.
Static IP address These are IP addresses that have a consistent geolocation, meaning at the time it is analyzed, its geolocation is the same as previously identified. Static IP addresses are likely tied to the same building(s) if within an ISP block — i.e. the range of consecutive IP addresses that are grouped together for administrative or routing purposes.
Dynamic IP address These are addresses whose geolocations change frequently. They’re dynamic because they can service different end users at any given moment. Dynamic IP addresses are common in ISP, mobile carrier and proxy blocks because end users fluctuate within a given area. 

Naturally, we expect to see a higher degree of stability in the static IP presence, and low stability in both the dynamic and mobile presence. Therein lies many useful insights, as we’ll see below.

ISPs are the Decision Makers

Who decides if fixed locations will be assigned a static, rather than a dynamic, IP address? The answer is the ISPs themselves. Some ISPs will assign highly static IP addresses for their customers, while others opt to assign dynamic ones. 

For instance, Charter, an ISP that provides connectivity in the South, has very stable IP addresses, and some of its customers have had the same IP address for years. Across the pond, however, British Telecom will change the IP address of its residential customers on a daily basis. 

Mobile IP addresses have low stability. Digital Element has observed the same mobile IP addresses in dozens of locations over a brief period of time.

How Digital Element Assesses IP Stability

Digital Element’s IP Intelligence data can distinguish between static and dynamic IP addresses. We can also track the length of time a static IP address is tied to a specific geolocation, aka, its stability. We further break stability down into buckets of longevity:

Stability Bucket Number of Weeks Stable
No Stability 0
Very Short Term 1 – 4 weeks (1 month)
Short Term 5 – 16 weeks (4 months)
Medium Term 17 – 36 weeks (9 months)
Long Term 37 – 52 weeks (12 months)
Very Long Term 53 + weeks (more than 1 year)

Going further, Digital Element can look at the stability of IP addresses of each ISP within the fixed space (i.e. internet connectivity provided to residential homes or commercial spaces). This allows us to see their composition of static vs. dynamic. 

Finally, Digital Element tracks which ISPs have a high percentage of static IP addresses and which don’t. This, in turn, allows Digital Element clients to apply this insight for important business use cases, including eliminating waste in digital ad campaigns.

Digital Advertising and IP Stability

Storytelling is an important concept in digital advertising. Rather than target the same user with the same message over and over again, marketers want to display a progression of messages that take the user on a journey. For instance, let’s say a user clicks on an auto manufacturer’s ad for a new car model. In this scenario, the user has shown an interest in the auto brand that the marketer will want to nurture by providing information about additional benefits, such as state-of-the-art safety features or fuel efficiency. To prompt the user along the journey the campaign will aim to target that same user with sequential messages.

Now let’s say the campaign fails to perform as expected, the brand manager may conclude that something was off with regards to the channels, creatives or messages chosen for the campaign. But is there another factor at play?

IP addresses are a standard method for targeting consumers within specific geographic regions. Optimum is an ISP that services the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. As such, Optimum is responsible for assigning the IP address for its customers. Here’s where things get tricky: Digital Element’s IP Intelligence data reveals a single IP address assigned by Optimum was seen from 109 devices across 44 cities and 59 postal codes. What’s more, the average distance between users was 27 miles. This is a fixed — not a mobile — IP address, meaning it is an IP address that is assigned to a residence or a commercial establishment.

Now, let’s say the marketer has targeted a storytelling campaign at IP addresses assigned by Optimum. The marketer will have no way of knowing if the same consumer saw any or all campaign messages, even though the campaign targeted fixed IP addresses.

If, however, that same campaign targeted IP addresses assigned by Charter to residential customers, the marketer can have a high degree of confidence that the same device was targeted for the sequential messaging campaign. 

IP Stability and Campaign Planning

IP Intelligence data allows marketers to apply a level of granularity to campaigns:

  • Target users with highly stable IP addresses with sequential messaging
  • Target users with less stable or dynamic IP addresses with more general campaign message

In short, IP stability insight helps marketers drive efficiency in media spend by suppressing sequential messaging for unstable or dynamic IP addresses. This is incredibly relevant, as media agencies tend to bid higher for impressions when they believe a user has been exposed to the initial messages in the sequence.

The stability of an IP address can also help marketers determine whether or not a specific user has visited a brand’s website. Let’s say a user clicks on an ad and visits the brand’s site. Now let’s say a device with the same IP address arrives on the site two months later. If the stability of that IP address is short term or above, we can assume it’s a repeat visit — insight that can initiate a set of actions, such as offering an incentive to convert. If that IP address is dynamic and has very short term stability, it’s unlikely to be the same user who clicked on the ad or visited the website previously. 

Learn More

The availability of IP stability data allows digital marketers to make informed decisions in their campaigns, leveraging IP Intelligence’s granular data and vital context to reduce wastage, drive better outcomes, and ultimately deliver these benefits.

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