Can someone explain me the difference between Geocoding and Address Geocoding?

Can Geocoding be for anything else other than postal addresses? If so can anyone please provide me with few examples.

I am not able to relate geocoding to anything else other address geocoding.

  • "Geocoding is the process of transforming a description of a location (such as an address, name of a place, or coordinates) to a location on the earth's surface" is the first line of the geocoding page on wikipedia. So, yes, you can map something other that a street address to latitude/longitude. You are a bad person for not checking WP first and I downvote you.
    – user1462
    May 2, 2016 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


The basic idea of geocoding is taking a human understandable representation of location (ex: 123 W Main St) and using a geocoding tool or service to transform that into a digitally understandable representation of location (ex: Latitude/Longitude coordinates). And with that basis, it can be seen that while an address is typically what geocoding is used for, it is by no means the only possible use as there are lots of ways people describe a location of various features other than lat/long.

For example, you may geocode a house using it's address (ex: 123 Main St, city, state, zip) which would put it part of the way down the correct main st, on a particular side of the road.

However, you may not have a full address, you may only have, let's say a list of customers or research participant's zip codes. Well, you could create a geocoder based on a point feature class of zip code centroids and run the dataset through there to quickly map out where all of the people in your dataset are from (a destination retailer may use this to understand what percentage of their customers are local and what percentage come from further away, how far people are willing to travel to come to their store, and what sections of a city they want to invest in putting up billboards in, or such decisions as that).

Similarly, you could take a point feature class/shapefile/geo-enabled dataset of business names (even if addresses are not available) and create a geocoder based on that so if someone calls 9-1-1 wanting to report an emergency at "XYZ Business", the dispatcher taking the emergency call can type in the business name and it tell them where the emergency is. After all, if you can help it, you don't want to have to say, excuse me, I know someone is bleeding to death right next to you, but could you walk out to the road and check for a mail box and tell me what the address is of the store you're in so I can get an ambulance to you. And equally you can set up geocoders that have road intersection information so you can geocode Main St & Center Rd instead of a specific address.

Furthermore, if the idea of a geocoder is to be able to automatically determine that 150 Main St is half way down the 100 block of a particular road, well then you could equally apply the same type of inquiry to a dataset that has nothing to do with a typical address. Lets say a oil pipeline company wants to locate all of their valves, meters, cleanouts, etc... along a pipeline. Well they could build a geocoder that basically says instead of this segment of road representing the 100 block of main st, this section of pipeline represents mile 1, this section is mile 2, etc... So when they have a facility to check on, have a leak, need to do repair work, etc... they can call in something like I'm just past mile marker 261 on pipeline ABC123 about to do a replacement of a valve. If you can geocode 123 Main St, there's no reason you couldn't create a geocoder for 456 Pipeline ABC.

And there are a whole host of other uses and styles of geocoders built by particular users/organizations for their particular needs and available data.

Hopefully that helps clear up some of the confusion that geocoders are only for addressing. It is true you are likely to only find commercially available pre-built geocoders or geocode services for addresses, but there a wide variety of other possible uses if you've got the right data to geocode against.


If you have a table with lat & long for a set of locations and you use that to create a point layer, then that technically is geocoding. In practice, the tool that does this task is not referred to as a "geocoding" tool. Most "geocoding" tools work primarily with address data. Some also use census or survey data.


Geocoding means that an address is transformed into geographic coordinates like latitude and longitude. Consequently, if you have an address, but you want to know the mathematical location for that address, this process is called geocoding. Address geocoding is a sub layer of geocoding since geocoding can be used also for different places or locations on Earth that are not necessary addresses. Everything on Earth surface has a spatial representation, so every point on the Earth can be used for geocoding, not only addresses.

Maybe two examples can help to understand better. We can take first example the Bemis Woods in Illinois, USA and the second one could be Meadowlark Golf Course, in the state of Illinois, USA. For the first example the address is “1100 Ogden Ave, Westchester, IL 60154”, while for the second example the address is “11599 W, 31st St, Hinsdale, IL 60523”. If the first address doesn’t have a street number, the second address has the number for the street. However, both these addresses can be used in geocoding process even if not both of them provide street number.

Consequently, you can geocode even locations or places like in this example, a wood that has no street number. You can play with geocoding processes by using geocoder at Batch Geocoding. There are many features allowing you to run geocoding processes using different types of address parsing. Moreover, this geocoder provides the possibility to run for free the geocoding process for 100 rows, so you just have to type the addresses that you may want to geocode. By “playing” with different addresses and locations using this geocoder, you may understand better the small difference between geocoding and address geocoding. The idea is that even when you go for address geocoding or for geocoding, you will obtain back numerical coordinates for the desired addresses/locations.

Another example that can be more suggestive can be the intersection of two streets in Brooklyn. We will have the example of the crossroad for Mary Pinkett Avenue and Eastern Pkwy. Now, in order to geocode this location, you must only type this text “Mary Pinkett Avenue and Eastern Pkwy Brooklyn” in the Batch Geocoding tool and you will obtain the coordinates for this crossroad. As you can see, only street name and city are enough to geocode a location and you don’t need full address.

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