SimilarWeb is a web and mobile app measurement tool for online marketing professionals to measure competitor activity, benchmark traffic against competing websites, and discover new business opportunities with intelligence that will help them create and deploy better digital strategies. In this interview, Chief Product Officer Benjamin Seror talks about how SimilarWeb works and how it can be used by brands and marketers to make wiser business decisions.
Please describe the company background, vision and evolution so far.
SimilarWeb was first founded in 2009 and was doing something pretty different from what we are doing today.
In the beginning, the aim was to help people discover similar content to what they like. So, it was a recommendations engine for users to discover more websites on the internet.
In 2012, we realized that while developing our technology, we were also collecting a huge amount of data that could be used to build something a lot more interesting around market intelligence. That’s when we became SimilarWeb, the measure of the digital world.
We started with desktop web, continued to measuring mobile web, and today we also measure mobile apps for Android and iOS.
The idea is to provide business professionals with the information they need to make better decisions. We propose solutions for marketers, but also strategy teams, salespeople and even investors.
On a more business perspective, SimilarWeb employs 450 people in multiple global offices including NY, London, Tokyo, San Francisco, Brazil, Paris, and Tel Aviv.
How does SimilarWeb work?
Firstly, we have the largest panel in the industry of people who are sharing their browsing habits with us anonymously.
We also have site owners who are sharing their website information with us directly through analytics platforms like Google Analytics.
Publishers who want to show the exact size of their operations can use this data and convey transparency in front of customers and partners.
Thirdly, we crawl website just like Google. Google is crawling in order to understand the connection between websites and the content of these websites. We do the same on a smaller scale to understand the topic of each web page that our panelists are visiting.
This, together with advanced machine learning algorithms, enable us to estimate the actual size of any website or app in the world.
What are some use cases for SimilarWeb?
The beauty of measuring the entire digital world is that it can be used for various use cases. That is our blessing and curse because it’s difficult to build a product for so many different types of people. So, we focus our efforts on four major use cases.
The first use case is marketing, particularly performance marketing. Being able to access information about the marketing mix and traffic sources of any competitor allows our users to build better marketing strategies.
The second use case is Market Research. Think about researchers and analysts who need to understand their audience, their competitive situation, and report that to the management and the strategy team, so that they can build better, long-term business strategies, which go way beyond marketing. This is a very strong use case for big brands.
The third use case is the sales team. Say you are a software company selling to other companies. SimilarWeb can help you understand the size, the digital presence of your prospects and arm you with the intelligence you need to convince this prospect to use your service or offering. Knowing what’s going on behind the curtain of your prospects can be a very efficient sales strategy!
The fourth use case is investors, who use the information that we provide in order to make better investment decisions, be it regarding a private or public company.
What would you recommend for a brand seeking to become an industry leader?
In order to become an industry leader, the most important thing to do is to provide value. If you’re just building a brand as a goal, it will be difficult to keep people interested. Focus on the value you’re delivering to the world and on your mission and strive to be the best at what you do, regardless of the market size.
This is what we try and do at SimilarWeb. You as a user have been using us on the free version, that’s part of our mission. Our mission is to democratize access to data so that students, journalists, and practically anyone, and not just giant brands, can use market data freely.
So, when we were building that logic, we were focused on our mission to make data accessible, and it became really powerful. We started to get fans, evangelists and advocates who absolutely loved us. When you create such a feeling among your target audience, this is when you become an industry leader.
So, how do you make people advocate for you? By being authentic and true to your mission, and really bringing value to those people.
Tactically, you need to be able to distribute and propagate your vision. For us, SEO was the main thing. We didn’t want to pay for advertising, but to build a community as we measure the digital world. Since it was something that a lot of people cared about, we focused our strategy around the idea that our community members are our best ambassadors and advocates. There is not one tactic that works other than being very consistent with your mission.
Which technologies do you find to be the most intriguing these days and why?
There are many interesting technologies out there, but the most relevant ones for us are artificial intelligence and machine learning which are game changers because they extend our capability to provide value for our users.
When you’re a user and you’re going to SimilarWeb, it can be very confusing; you might win and find an amazing insight, or you could try 100 times without finding anything useful.
But what if we could reverse everything and make the platform find the most relevant insights for you? With machine learning, we can understand your intent, understand what you’re trying to achieve and push the most relevant insights and data points straight to you. It’s like going to a casino and winning every time.
In your opinion, what new trends can we expect to see in SEO over the next few years?
I think it’s about consumer centricity. We are passionate about how we analyze the consumer and buyer journey. Any technology that can help identify the level of intent of the potential customer would be a game changer.
In terms of SEO, the words that you use to target at the awareness stage and at the purchase stage are completely different. How do you identify the relevant keywords that would help to move the customer from one stage to the next?
So, anything relating to the identification of user intent is a big trend, and it is very connected to ML and AI. Thanks to AI, we can be better marketers; we can build better companies and products and satisfy the needs of our target audience in a better way.