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One of the simplest ways to keep unwanted sites out of your network is through web categorization. It is also a great way to protect against brand abuse and even classify customers for content personalization purposes.
While using a web classification tool may be straightforward (as you’ll find out more about later), choosing the perfect one for your business needs may not be as clear-cut.
This post attempts to narrow down the choices for you by presenting five of the top tools in the market. Before diving into that, though, let’s get on with the basics first.
Table of contents:
Website categorization, in very simple terms, refers to the process of classifying websites that users come into contact with into various categories. Those categories range from the industries they fall under to more specific descriptions of what they contain.
Website categorization, as we said earlier, can enhance any company’s marketing, cybersecurity, and brand protection efforts.
Website Categorization Can Keep Unwanted Sites Out of Your Network
While not all website categorization tools have cybersecurity features built-in, some do. A comprehensive tool can tell you if a particular site contains spammy or sensitive content, for instance. But even those that can’t do that could help your IT administrators block potential phishing websites from your network. Filtering access to shopping sites, for instance, is one way to do that, which also aids in boosting employee productivity.
Website Classification Can Bolster Your Brand Protection
Many of today’s data breaches stem from a compromised third party (e.g., a supplier, a partner, etc.). To protect your brand from the unwanted repercussions of a soiled reputation, you can use a website categorization tool to do more in-depth research on your own site and any of the third-party websites you do business with. Making sure none of your or their sites fall under categories that companies normally block access to is one way to boost your brand protection efforts.
Categorize Websites to Personalize Content
Content personalization lets organizations make their website visitors feel at home. But it’s impossible to know what they may be looking for if you don’t even know what they do. Their sites can give you an idea of what their companies are about and how your offerings can benefit them. And one unobtrusive way to do that is by using an effective web classification tool. You can categorize visitors’ sites to get more insights about where they come from to make special pages for their industries or create more targeted campaigns, for example.
Website classification tools basically categorize websites based on the data source. This method is common among cybersecurity solution providers with web filtering offerings and the classification is usually limited to less than 100 categories.
Other tools use third-party data sources, such as the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) website categories. The IAB has 500+ categories, ranging from the industry (e.g., Automotive) a site belongs to more specific subcategories (e.g., Auto Buying and Selling) that zoom in on what products or services they sell.
Not all website categorization tools are created equal. Most have standard features, but others have more to offer. When looking for the one that fits your business requirements, there are several aspects which you might want to consider.
Website categorization tools sometimes differ when it comes to providing inputs. Most can categorize websites using domains, while others need more specific URLs or web pages’ full paths (i.e., complete URLs).
Output Parameters and Formats
Many of the website categorization tools out there have an API consumption model. As such, you can get results in either JSON or XML format. But those that go over and beyond can provide custom URLs (for instant sharing with colleagues) for results pages.
In terms of results, most provide just a list of the categories they fall under, but some go beyond that. They can give the sites’ corresponding Alexa ranking, subcategories (i.e., tiers), confidence scores, or threat classifications.
Number of Website Categories and Coverage
Where website categorization tools differ most is the number of available classifications. Most have less than 100 site categories, while the more exhaustive tools have hundreds. In terms of coverage, the various solutions we’ve seen are pretty much equal. They all categorize millions of websites.
All the website categorization tools featured in this post get daily updates, making them useful to any kind of business.
You can measure the speed of website categorization tools in frames per second. The usual processing time usually ranges between 10 and 30 requests per second.
Database Download Availability
Likely an uncommon website categorization tool feature is the option to download classified site databases, which companies that want to use them as data sources for existing systems and solutions may find useful.
Now that you’ve gone through our website categorization 101, you’re ready to see what we’ve dubbed as five of the best.
Here are our top website categorization tool picks.
WhoisXML API Website Categorization Solutions
WhoisXML API’s website categorization tools combine machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to scan website content and meta tags to classify it. Using the domain name as input, it assigns the most applicable 500+ IAB categories and subcategories to each queried site. It also gives confidence ratings for each category. Basically, the higher the confidence score, the more accurate the category is likely to be.
WhoisXML API offers the tool as an API (Website Categorization API) that can be integrated into existing systems and solutions. The results come in the form of JSON files that can be read by any text editor. It also comes as a web service (Website Categorization Lookup) that provides easy-to-read results with custom URLs for quick sharing. The results can be downloaded as JSON files as well.
Both solutions get daily updates of up to 4 million web pages and can process up to 30 requests per second. You can also opt to download Website Contacts & Categorization Database in CSV format if that works better for you.
Cyren Website URL Category Checker
Cyren is essentially a cybersecurity company. As such, its tool categorizes websites to determine which of them pose threats to a user’s data security. It also provides the queried site’s corresponding Alexa rank each time you query its URL.
Cyren’s Website URL Category Checker has 64 categories and offers some free checks. As for the data updates, coverage, rate limits, or database download, these details are not indicated by the provider.
SafeDNS primarily targets software and hardware developers that want to build website categorization into their products.
It categorizes websites using their domains as inputs into at least 61 categories, but users can add up to 200 classifications to customize their solutions. The tool gets daily updates and currently has 109 million sites in its database.
Website Categorization API by Brandfetch uses the IAB list as a reference. Users can get the industry and subcategories a company website falls under by simply keying in its domain into the input field. In fact, the API uses 385 IAB categories. The results are pretty straightforward and come with confidence ratings. As an API, the tool is integrable into a user’s existing systems and solutions. Results come in JSON format.
ufdbGuard REST API by URLfilterDB categorizes websites into at least 50 categories. It uses URLs as inputs and is updated daily, giving you up-to-date information. Results come in JSON format, but you also get the option to download the vendor’s database if you prefer that.
Organizations that want to enhance their content personalization, web filtering, and brand protection efforts can rely on website categorization tools for support. And since there are too many tools out there, we hope we narrowed down the list of the best website classification tools for you.