Geocoding and Why it’s Important

The impact that transforming an address can have

Table of contents

What is geocoding? To start, a geocode represents a location: an address, a geographic feature like a mountain, infrastructures such as a stadium or freeway, or any other physical entities. Because a location exists anywhere and everywhere on our planet, it will have coordinates.

Geocoding is the process of converting an address (like "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW") into geographic coordinates (e.g., 38.8811111,-77.036871). This can be helpful for many things, including:

  • Recognizing geographical patterns
  • Analyzing customer data
  • Verifying customer addresses
  • Planning retail locations
  • Mapping the best routes

What is geocoding?

Geocoding is a computational process of transforming a description of a location, such as an address or place name, into geographic coordinates. It can be used to find the location of an address, or it could be used to find out where an individual is located at any given time. It can also be used to track the movement of people and goods, as well as analyze data about them.

What is forward geocoding?

Forward geocoding converts addresses, such as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20500, into geographic coordinates (i.e., latitude and longitude).

Customers use forward geocoding to analyze and visualize address data. For example, a rideshare company would use forward geocoding to enable the user to search for his or her destination (as a human-readable address), then visualize that address on a map (using geographic coordinates).

What is reverse geocoding?

Reverse geocoding, as the name suggests, is the process by which geographic coordinates are converted into a physical address. While underused compared to geocoding, reverse geocoding is most helpful in identifying addresses from a given geographic point on a map. This can be used to find the nearest store, restaurant, or other location to a given address. It can also be used to find the address of a location (i.e., "what's the closest city?").

Customers use reverse geocoding to determine the physical address of vehicles, packages, and people. For example, the same rideshare company noted above would use reverse geocoding to display the user’s current location on the map.

What is a geocode?

Put simply, a geocode is a term used instead of latitude/longitude that specifies the coordinates of a particular location. It is physical coordinates that are the unique identifier for places and addresses across the entire world. Geocoding is then the process of identifying the best available geocodes for addresses and locations.

Why geocoding?

Geocoding is more than just obtaining a long list of coordinates. It is valuable data that allows businesses across various industries and verticals to uncover opportunities for growth. Relevant location information can’t be obtained from just addresses. Addresses are pieces of text and can change over time, but coordinates will always be the same. Geocoding converts location information into numbers so that it is structured and ready to be integrated for analysis.  

Geocoding vs. Geolocation

Geocoding transforms a description of a location into geographic coordinates, whereas geolocation is the process of determining the location of a device, such as a mobile phone or tablet computer, using its geographical coordinates.

Geocoding may be used for many applications, including search engines, mapping software, geotagging images and videos online, and data analysis. In contrast to geocoding which requires only textual information about an address, geolocation needs more precise information such as latitude and longitude values that define its position relative to other places around the world.

Why do we use geocoding?

Turning addresses into coordinates and places on a map is beneficial for your business as it leads to better targeting, more strategic planning, and thus, revenue growth. Not only will you have the proper information for visualization, but you can easily reach your intended audience,  improve customer satisfaction, and streamline delivery logistics. 

Recognize Patterns

By geocoding enough addresses in certain areas and plotting them you can start to identify patterns based on the data. Recognizing clusters in certain areas can shape marketing and retail strategies.

Validate Addresses

Address validation, also known as address verification, is determining if the address of your customer is correct and deliverable. Problems with address accuracy can lead to annoyed customers, loss of sales, and a lack of faith in your online platform. Instead, handle unstructured or misspelled addresses through validation of the geocoded coordinates. Improve the accuracy of your customer data, avoid the risk of shipping to incorrect addresses, and increase customer experience with a streamlined process. 

Attack address accuracy problems head-on and avoid delivery issues by validating addresses using an address autofill solution. 

Map Routes

Use geographic coordinates to pinpoint delivery locations and ensure the fastest, most efficient route to an arrival point. Deliver on time, save on fuel, and increase customer satisfaction with route optimization. Consider a route optimization app like Mapbox Fleet, which can plan complex routes in seconds.

Get started with geocoding

Geocoding is a powerful tool for businesses to use in their day-to-day operations. It allows you to create accurate and precise addresses for your customers, which makes finding them easier than ever before. 

If you're looking for a way to improve the customer experience or just want an easier way to manage your data then geocoding might be right for you. 

Search and geocoding are tied to everything we build — maps, navigation, AR — and underlies every app that helps humans explore their world. Consider Mapbox Geocoding.

Explore more about Mapbox

Frequently asked questions

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