Place Ranking in Nominatim

Nominatim uses two metrics to rank a place: search rank and address rank. Both can be assigned a value between 0 and 30. They serve slightly different purposes, which are explained in this chapter.

Search rank

The search rank describes the extent and importance of a place. It is used when ranking search result. Simply put, if there are two results for a search query which are otherwise equal, then the result with the lower search rank will be appear higher in the result list.

Search ranks are not so important these days because many well-known places use the Wikipedia importance ranking instead.

Address rank

The address rank describes where a place shows up in an address hierarchy. Usually only administrative boundaries and place nodes and areas are eligible to be part of an address. All other objects have an address rank of 0.

Note that the search rank of a place plays a role in the address computation as well. When collecting the places that should make up the address parts then only places are taken into account that have a lower address rank than the search rank of the base object.

Rank configuration

Search and address ranks are assigned to a place when it is first imported into the database. There are a few hard-coded rules for the assignment:

  • postcodes follow special rules according to their length
  • boundaries that are not areas and railway=rail are dropped completely
  • the following are always search rank 30 and address rank 0:
    • highway nodes
    • landuse that is not an area

Other than that, the ranks can be freely assigned via the JSON file defined with CONST_Address_Level_Config according to their type and the country they are in.

The address level configuration must consist of an array of configuration entries, each containing a tag definition and an optional country array:

[ {
    "tags" : {
      "place" : {
        "county" : 12,
        "city" : 16,
      "landuse" : {
        "residential" : 22,
        "" : 30
    "countries" : [ "ca", "us" ],
    "tags" : {
      "boundary" : {
        "administrative8" : 18,
        "administrative9" : 20
      "landuse" : {
        "residential" : [22, 0]

The countries field contains a list of countries (as ISO 3166-1 alpha 2 code) for which the definition applies. When the field is omitted, then the definition is used as a fallback, when nothing more specific for a given country exists.

tags contains the ranks for key/value pairs. The ranks can be either a single number, in which case they are the search and address rank, or an array of search and address rank (in that order). The value may be left empty. Then the rank is used when no more specific value is found for the given key.

Countries and key/value combination may appear in multiple definitions. Just make sure that each combination of counrty/key/value appears only once per file. Otherwise the import will fail with a UNIQUE INDEX constraint violation on import.