Start-up of the Week / A New Player in Web-traffic Analysis

The young Israeli company is getting into the web-traffic analysis game, using data collected from the tens of millions of Internet users who have downloaded its add-ons.

The Israeli start-up SimilarWeb recently launched a Web-traffic analysis service to compete with Alexa. SimilarWeb’s service allows users to measure website traffic and global site rankings, as well as website rankings by region and category of activity. According to SimilarWeb’s co-founder and chief executive, Or Offer, the company’s Web-traffic analysis is based on information collected from tens of millions of Internet users who have downloaded add-ons developed by SimilarWeb.

SimilarWeb was established in 2009 by Offer and Nir Cohen, the company’s chief technology officer. When it was first starting out, the company won the Mini Seedcamp Tel Aviv competition and received seed funding from investor Yossi Vardi. The first service SimilarWeb developed was an engine based on Web-indexing software that identified similarities between websites. The company launched the service as a browser add-on, and it later became part of a website called SimilarSites. SimilarWeb has about 25 employees who work in offices near Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, which in recent years has become the city’s liveliest startup environment.

SimilarWeb has raised $3.5 million so far. In its latest round of fundraising, which raised about $2.5 million and was completed about a year ago, investors included Docor International BV, which is owned by Van Leer Technology Ventures; the private investment firm Naftali Investments, and Moshe Lichtman, the former head of Microsoft’s Israel research and development center, who joined SimilarWeb’s board. SimilarWeb’s income is based on revenues from advertisements on major websites that the company owns, SimilarSites first among them, together with the licensing fees technology firms pay for the service’s application programming interface, or API.

“The declared intention of the new service is to compete with Alexa,” Offer says. “We think that except for the preferred user’s interface, our service provides more precise data. The surfers’ panel that Alexa relies on is based mostly on users who have downloaded Alexa’s toolbar, which is mainly for users from the Internet industry and the field of Internet marketing, who aren’t necessarily average users. Our add-ons are more for the general public.”

In addition to Alexa, Google Trends for Websites used to analyze web traffic, but it was closed down over the past year. Another similar service, Compete, analyzes only web traffic in the United States. Offer says that in Israel, the company’s traffic analysis is based on hundreds of thousands of users who have downloaded its add-ons.

Offer says his company’s basic web traffic analysis service offers an unprecedented level of precision and detail. Among other things, it analyzes sources of web traffic to and from sites by direct traffic, referrals from other sites, referrals from search engines and referrals from social networks, email and advertisements.

“Competing services offer analyses in similar categories that are based on the site that the surfer goes to before or after he goes to the site being analyzed. That doesn’t mean the surfer was referred by the specific website. Most surfers start their day on Facebook and YouTube. That doesn’t mean they got to the next website they surfed to from a link from either one. Our analysis identifies only a website where a user clicked on a referring link as a traffic referral source,” says Offer.

In addition to its basic free service, which offers traffic analysis for websites and for subcategories on content sites, the company intends to offer a premium service that will provide customers with business intelligence analyses of traffic to groups of websites that will enable them to identify unusual surfing events on competing sites such as spikes in surfer traffic from advertising or social media. Today, about 50 specially chosen companies use SimilarWeb’s premium service on an experimental basis. The service’s pricing model is yet to be determined. In addition to the premium service, SimilarWeb will offer companies access to the service’s API for a fee.

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