What is Geocoding?
Geocoding is the process by which a description of a place, whether that be the name of a location, or an address, is converted to a point or a place in space, most often represented by a latitude and a longtitude. You are probably familiar with a very common geocoder, Google Maps, where, if you enter a street address into a search bar, it will specify a point in space (as shown below, for arguably the most famous street address in the world)
Alternatively, you can use the same “geocoder” to enter the name of a location, rather than a street address, and it will often provide you with a point in space, such as AURIN’s host building at the University of Melbourne.
Athough the latitude and longitude of these points are not shown by default, it is possible to get the latitude and longitude of points in this particular geocoder selecting the “What’s Here” option for any point in space:
You can also enter the name of a place that is larger than a single point – geocoding involves more than points, and it is possible to geocode to an area or a defined boundary (shown below), rather than a specific point location. This is often a better solution than going to a point location if, for example, you don’t have more information than a suburb or neighbourhood – gecoding to a point location would involve spurious precision
Of course, it’s not practical to manually enter the addresses of a database with potentially thousands of entries, so you need an automated tool that will do it for you, taking a database and then producing a list of point locations. Luckily there are plenty of those out there, but they each have different “fits for purpose”. This tool provides some guidance in choosing the right geocoder