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The Data Behind the Tools

Deep Dives with Choueiri Group

The Data Behind the Tools

Fernando Angulo, Head of Communications at data provider SEMrush, explains how his company uses data to create tools that empower users.

What services does SEMrush provide exactly?

We are data providers, gathering information about companies and websites all over the world. For example, we have data based on traffic sources – such as organic, paid, social, referral traffic – so we can understand how companies are winning the edge for online visibility; we can understand how many visitors are entering a certain domain; we can even understand the type of audience that are entering different websites. With this kind of data, we can understand how the industry’s overall is working on the Internet, which industries are the best or the most popular to, for example, create a website; or just the main interests of people for a certain period of time.

How do you capture that data?

We have different methods. The first one is our free toolbar, called SEOquake, which helps you optimize a website and tracks and audits any website you look at. We have about four million downloads on Mozilla and about 15 million downloads on Chrome. If people have this toolbar installed, we can understand how they are searching on the web.

The next one is doing a reverse search on Google; we are searching for the most popular trends with our own algorithms, and we can understand how popular a term, a key word is, in terms of volume.

The other method is third-party providers for the clickstream data; that’s the digital footprint of people all over the world.

We are matching all the sources to have a better idea of what people are doing.

How do you work with third-party providers?

Because we have NDAs, the only thing I can say here is that the companies that we are working with are really trustworthy. These are big IP companies that are providing this kind of information because they own the data. For example, we have a tool called Traffic Analytics. With Traffic Analytics, we couldn’t understand the type of audience for a certain domain: the age, the gender, the location, the interest of these people. With third-party providers, we made that possible. We also made it possible to understand how many people are entering certain websites from different social media platforms and from different kinds of search engines, like Baidu. So, we have a complete view thanks to these providers.

What about the filtering and analyzing part of the data work?

We provide some use cases based on the data that we own, just to give an example of how companies can do the same thing, but this is not the main product. We are not doing any consulting. We provide the data and the tools to use the data, to make better websites, make better user experience and so on.

How do you comply with GDPR requirements?

In the beginning, nobody knew exactly what we needed to do. But in terms of GDPR, we grew a lot. We have a legal team and a special GDPR person. Whenever we need to share data, we send a request to those people. They need to know and to agree with who we’re sharing the information. And since late last year, we’ve been using a form – terms, and conditions.

Some customers are asking us how we are working, who we share their content with, and we immediately provide all the sources. In each team, even on the sales team, we have an analytical person so we can have all the information about which user information they’re using that is GDPR-affected.

 How do you address fraud and security concerns?

It’s a two-step [process]. Some of our service providers have problems. They inform us that they have a data breach, where exactly they have the breach, and what amount of information has been hacked. We need to compare with the information that we have and we inform our clients that we have problems with our data providers, so they can take action with their own personal data, like changing passwords, two-step verification or whatever.

How do you secure your own data?

We have several layers of information. We also have an audit. We have a security team that is working every day on how we are keeping all the data safe. In order to do business with some companies, they require us to have some standards on security. We passed, I believe, three certifications the last year. That’s really something important to gain the trust of people these days.

How are new technologies changing or improving the way you work?

Firstly, we are working with machine learning to understand how people react to different content and how Google reacts to different content. We have a tool called SEO Writing Assistant that gives people the opportunity to see, with a scoring system, how good their content is for search engines, and how good this content is for people. Also, we are trying to understand how people are going to react in different seasonalities. For example, Black Friday: it’s really good to have, of course, different offers, so you need to change the tone of voice, you need to put more calls to action.

In terms of gathering data, we have all that information, but we cannot understand exactly what the mood of the people is, for example. We’d also like to understand how companies are exactly using different parts of our services, their level of internal communication, their level of integration with their own team, so we can provide different reporting tools, different tasking tools or tools to create better tasks. But we are just experimenting at this stage.

How do you work with voice technologies, which is one of your specialties?

We can analyze all the questions about certain products, certain industries on the Internet. We have more than 16 billion voice search queries. In order to analyze how voice search is using all these questions, we make the research-based just on a sample of 20,000 search queries, looking at how people are asking their questions and figuring out how people use voice search.

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