What is a Geotag?

Liz Fernandez

A geotag is geographical information added to various media types such as photographs, videos, websites and Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds. The data included is usually only latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates but can also include altitude, bearing, distance or place names. A geotag helps Web users find location-specific information.

All modern cell phones are equipped with GPS technology, which allows for geotagging.
All modern cell phones are equipped with GPS technology, which allows for geotagging.

Items that have geotag information can produce more targeted results in search engine queries. For example, an Internet browser can find images taken near a location when the coordinates are entered into a search engine. Web surfers can also use geotagging to find location-specific news, websites and other resources.

Marathon runners utilize geotags so relatives can track their progress.
Marathon runners utilize geotags so relatives can track their progress.

Geotagging is based on positional information. This metadata, or extra information about a file, is usually derived from the global positioning system (GPS) and based on latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. Many cell phones have built-in GPS that allow for automatic geotagging. Some digital cameras also have this feature.

There are several online sites that simplify the process of geotagging. The social networking site Twitter allows users to geotag their messages and pictures. Some photo sharing websites allow users to add geotag metadata information when uploading photos from a digital camera.

Blogging and social networking sites cater to mostly mobile users. Geoblogging adds geographical information to blog entries via geotags. Tagging social networking sites with geographical information allows friends to track each other. Users can even use it to keep a log of their daily activities.

Positional information can be embedded in a Web page via meta tags, which are HTML elements that provide specific information about the site to a search engine but are not seen by users. The meta tag can include coordinates. Region, place name, and altitude can also be coded in the tag.

Retail and tourism Web sites as well as other e-commerce sites that have physical locations can benefit from using geotags. They help customers searching for items or services find what they are looking for in a specific location. Having geotag information can also elevate a site’s ranking in search engines.

Some Internet users have concerns about the privacy implications of geotagging. Giving away specific location information can open up users to unwanted interactions. For example, a blogger who posts about a controversial topic and geotags his position may find himself getting threats or being followed. Someone who blogs from a coffee shop and includes a geotag in his post may be alerting thieves that he is not home.

One way to mitigate these safety concerns is to limit the amount of information revealed. Some bloggers have opted to include location information without being too specific. They may include a city name in their geotags but not the exact coordinates of their location.

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Discussion Comments


Thank you, thank you! It makes me so cross that so many 'geeks' make a point of speaking in jargon and making people feel embarrassed or like dinosaur if they don't know all the acronyms.

Others want to unpack it - after all, it's not rocket science, only a particular language - but seem utterly unable to speak in plain English!

So thanks for something so accessible. I shall bookmark and send others to it!

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