What is website categorization? How does it work? What is it for? And what does each featured product have to offer? These are the basic questions we’ll answer in this post to help you zoom in on the tool that can help you and your business the most.

What Is Website Categorization?

Simply put, website categorization is a means for companies to classify sites they access often under different umbrellas for marketing, cybersecurity, and brand protection purposes. Examples of website categories include entertainment, shopping, games, and more.

The fact is all organizations need to interact with tons of websites daily. Most are harmless but some are definitely bound to be risky either to employee productivity or, worse, their data.

How Does Web Categorization Work?

Website categorization tools (whatever form they take) take a domain name as input, run it through a database of categories (which differ in number from one product to another), and give the results in seconds.

Common Website Category Types

Website categorization tools can have as few as 25 to hundreds of site classifications available. Some rely on their custom-built set of categories, while others use website classifications from organizations like the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Other website classifications rely on categories that their respective vendors put together. Some are connected to other cybersecurity tools (e.g., web or content filtering solutions) they also offer.

What Can Web Categorization Tools Do?

Organizations categorize websites for a variety of reasons and we’ll talk about three here to show how web categorization works.

Know Your Clients

Content personalization is the way to go. In fact, 71% of consumers tend to leave impersonal sites. One way to do that is by knowing all you can about them, and the first step you can take is by looking closely at their websites. A website categorization tool can help with that.

If your company sells services to clients, for instance, and want to find out what kind of business they are in, you can key in their domain into the tool’s input field and instantly see the categories their websites fall under, giving you an insight into what they do. A query for Detroit-based clothing shop City Bird, for instance, will tell you it’s primarily a style and fashion shop that offers men’s clothing, gifts, greeting cards, and more.

Beef Up Your Cybersecurity and Reputation

Third-party monitoring and assessment is a crucial process for companies that care about their cybersecurity and reputation. In fact, a little more than half of the companies surveyed in 2021 said they suffered a data breach caused by a third party, which emphasizes the importance of third-party monitoring. Website categorization can be one of the important steps as part of such a monitoring activity. If a supplier’s network gets compromised or its site falls under a category like sensitive topics, it could end up having a bad reputation and consequently drag your organization down.

You can query the sites of all third parties you do business with on a website classification tool and may be surprised to find that some of them are suspicious at the very least. Blocking access to and from them and all sites under the sensitive topics category on your network may thus be a good idea.

Protect Your Brand

Just as important as keeping bad sites out of your network is making sure your brand doesn’t land on any blocklist. That’s bound to cause you to lose their customers’ trust and create a dent in your revenue. Website classification can solve that as well.

Running a domain you want to purchase on a website categorization tool is a good idea because you might learn that the domain is categorized as a spam website and contains sensitive topics. Your potential partners will unlikely be willing to do business with such a website and ultimately block access to it throughout their network, limiting your business opportunities.

Now that you’ve got a pretty good idea as to what a web categorization tool is, how it works, and what it’s for, it may be time to identify criteria for choosing the right one for your company’s needs.

What Should You Look for in a Website Categorization Tool?

Most web categorization tools have standard features but some can do more than others. When looking for the right solution for your business needs, you need to consider the five basic features below.

Categorization Level

It’s typical for website categorization tools to use domain names as inputs but others require more specific URLs or even a web page’s full path (i.e., complete URL).

Output Parameters and Formats

A good number of the website categorization tools out in the market today give pretty straightforward results (i.e., a simple list of categories a site falls under). However, some go the extra mile and provide other information, including a website’s primary category, subcategories (i.e., tiers), classification confidence level score, country code, domain creation date, and IP address Autonomous System (AS) details.

Normally, the results use the JSON or XML format. Very few have more readable results in the form of a report that doesn’t look like code for the not-so-tech-savvy.

Quality of Website Categories and Coverage

Probably the most significant difference among website categorization tools has to do with their available classifications. Some tools may have hundreds of categories that are overlapping and end up confusing. A granular approach with the necessary categories can be more effective.

Coverage-wise, almost all can classify any website you key into the input field. That translates to between 100 million and 37 billion URLs.

Update Frequency

A majority of the website categorization tools in the market are updated daily, making them beneficial to organizations that need timely data for their marketing, cybersecurity, and brand protection efforts.

Rate Limitations

Website categorization tools differ in terms of processing speed, too. Some are slower than others. Normal speeds range between 10 and 30 requests per second.

Database Download Availability

Probably the least-available option across website categorization tools we’ve come across to date is a downloadable database. This tool is ideal for companies keen on integrating website classification into their existing systems and solutions.

After going into the nitty-gritty of what an ideal website categorization tool should be able to do, it’s time to check out five of the best solutions out there.

4 Top-Ranking Website Categorization Tools

We narrowed down the list of website categorization solutions for you down to five.

  1. WhoisXML API Website Categorization Products
  2. SimilarWeb API
  3. Cyren Website URL Category Checker
  4. SafeDNS

1. WhoisXML API Website Categorization Products

WhoisXML API’s website classification solutions include Website Categorization API, Website Categorization Lookup, and Website Categorization Database.

The offering uses machine learning (ML) engines, natural language processing (NLP), and a combination of advanced web categorization methods aided by human assistance to classify websites at scale.

The tools also assign confidence level scores to each category, giving you the freedom to look into a website further. The higher the score, the more accurate the category assignment is.

For example, cnn[.]com is aptly categorized as a News and Media site, with a high confidence score of 0.99, 1 being the highest. The result is also enriched with the domain’s IP address AS details, including AS number, domain, name, route, and type, and WHOIS creation date.

These output fields are highlighted in the screenshot below.

The API results come in JSON and XML formats, making the tool integrable into many existing systems and solutions. The lookup service results, meanwhile, come with custom URLs that you can share with colleagues or clients and can be downloaded in JSON format as well with a click of the download button.

Anyone interested in getting the same results can use both the API and lookup service free of charge to run 100 queries per month. Those who need to do more queries than that can choose a plan tailored to their specific needs and use cases.
Users also have the option to download the entire Website Categorization Database, which includes a domain’s country code as an additional output field. The database can be downloaded in CSV or JSON format.

2. SimilarWeb API

SimilarWeb API requires users to sign up for an account to receive an API key. Only then will they be able to utilize the available tools in the vendor’s arsenal. Website Content API specifically allows users to make 10 requests per second using domains as input.

SimilarWeb Website Categorization Homepage

Categorization results for 100 million websites appear as a simple list of all the categories (25 main classifications and 219 subcategories) a specific site falls under along with their respective global rank for the identified classifications. They use the JSON and XML formats, making them compatible with existing systems and solutions. 

3. Cyren Website URL Category Checker

Cyren Website URL Category Checker provides a site’s Alexa ranking along with its classifications (64 categories to choose from). It combines IP reputation, malware URL, phishing and fraud URL, and malware file intelligence to categorize websites.

Cyren Website URL Category Checker Homepage

Users can try the tool out by simply typing a URL of interest into the input field and clicking the Check Classification button. A query for amazon[.]com, for instance, showed that it’s classified under Shopping with the Alexa rank 13.

Users also can utilize the Report a Misclassified URL feature, should they want to correct classifications (i.e., their own site’s categories). And while the page doesn’t say how many free queries you can make, it’s possible to get results without spending a dime.

There is no information about the possibility of downloading the database, rate limits, output formats, or data updates on the website, though.

4. SafeDNS

SafeDNS targets hardware and software vendors that want to integrate web categorization into their offerings. It boasts of 109 million categorized websites across 61 classifications, which users can customize or add up to 200 more. And like all of the other featured solutions above, the tool’s data is updated daily. The service uses domain names as inputs. There’s no information on the website about rate limits or the possibility of downloading the database.

SafeDNS Homepage

Web categorization tools can help companies improve their marketing campaigns aided by content personalization, beef up their cybersecurity posture through web or content filtering, and ramp up their brand protection strategies through monitoring their web properties closely. Any tool that meets the criteria for choosing what works and fits your budget is the right one for you.