Fastbase is a web leads add-on for Google Analytics. It is claimed to be heading towards 4 million customers and a public listing on London’s AIM stock market. But what does it do? And should you be using it?
What is Fastbase?
Fastbase was launched in June 2016 by Danish entrepreneur, Rasmus Refer. In less than 2 years it claims to have 780,000 companies using its website visitor tracking software.
It is an add-on to Google Analytics that identifies companies that visit your website by cross-referencing visitor IP addresses to a worldwide database of companies.
In Fastbase these companies are called Web Leads.
More recently, Fastbase has expanded its service to include the ability to buy a targeted list of contacts and creating Google AdWords campaigns.
Is Fastbase a Google product?
No. FastBase has designed its user interface to closely resemble the Google Analytics interface and emails received make prominent use of the Google Analytics logos. However, Fastbase clearly states it is not affiliated with Google.
Is Fastbase unique?
No. There are plenty of website visitor tracking software applications available. Well known brands such as Lead Forensics, CANDDi, Communigator and Who is Visiting – all provide similar solutions for identifying companies who visit your website. These products are standalone software applications that require you to add a code snippet to your website to track visitors.
Fastbase differs from these by using your Google Analytics data as the source. Direct competitors are Leadfeeder and Snitcher that also uses your Google Analytics data to identify the companies that visit your website. Fastbase, Leadfeeder and Snitcher can “look back” at historical data whereas the standalone products can only track new data after the code snippet has been added.
Each software supplier has a database of IP addresses and companies. Suppliers then maintain company contact data (web address, phone numbers, postal address, email address) alongside the company name. Some suppliers further extend their data by identifying potential contacts through LinkedIn profiles and other methods.
Is it useful for my business?
Visitor tracking software only identifies companies / organisations who have visited your website. They cannot identify which individual person from the organisation visited* and they cannot identify visits from residential users / home-owners as IP addresses are dynamically allocated by the Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Therefore, Fastbase and its competitors are only of use if you operate in a B2B environment. In many cases your list of visitors will include large corporations – these are unlikely to be of much use to you as you’ve no idea which of the corporation’s thousands of employees actually visited you. Similarly, universities and government institutions often crop up and are of little practical value.
Another key consideration is whether you are able to make use of the data. Many of the visitor tracking applications allow you to create filters (visitors from a specific country, visitors who viewed a certain page etc.) and to integrate with your CRM system to feed in the useful web leads. Fastbase allows you to export data to Salesforce, Zoho and Hubspot.
Does it work?
I set up a new Fastbase account but no results were displayed for over 24 hours. I created another account but 8 hours later still no results. After some pestering of the support service I did eventually get a response which apologised for some unspecified technical issues – and very soon after results did arrive in the dashboards of both accounts.
Using the same Google Analytics profile, I tested Fastbase against Leadfeeder and the website’s existing Who Is Visiting tracking software.
On setting up Fastbase it decided to review the last 3 months’ data for each of the Google Analytics properties / views linked to the account. In comparison, Leadfeeder allowed me to select an individual Google Analytics property & view and within 10 minutes had returned data for the previous day. I don’t understand why Fastbase insists on collecting data for every website property and view. It is best practice to create at least 2 Google Analytics views (filtered and unfiltered) and I can’t see why you would want to collect visitor tracking data on both.
Anyway, the results. For visitors starting from the previous day.
- Who Is Visiting: 1042 companies
- Leedfeeder: 889 companies
- Fastbase: 42 companies
I double-checked this because Fastbase was seriously lacking in comparison – but it really did only manage to identify 42 companies.
A raw count of visitors is OK, but part of the service quality is for the software applications to automatically exclude general ISP traffic. I created a filter limiting data to companies who visited a specific page on the site.
- Who Is Visiting: 19 companies identified of which 3 appeared to be general internet traffic / ISPs
- Leadfeeder: 21 companies identified of 4 appeared to be general internet traffic / ISPs
- Fastbase: Unable to filter by page
Only 12 companies were common in the lists from Who Is Visiting and Leadfeeder.
Surprisingly Fastbase doesn’t offer the ability to filter companies based on the page they have viewed (although if you drill-down on a company it does show the pages viewed). For sites with decent traffic this looks like a real oversight as with so much data it becomes a real slog to work through non-relevant visitors.
Instead, I filtered the list to only UK companies:
- Who Is Visiting: 434 companies
- Leadfeeder: 544 companies
- Fastbase: 23 companies
Of the 23 UK companies identified by Fastbase, only 2 appeared in the lists from Leadfeeder and Who Is Visiting – which seemed very low. There were certainly differences between the companies identified by Leadfeeder and Who Is Visiting but generally there were lots of common companies identified. It would appear Fastbase’s database is not nearly as broad/deep as those used by the competitors.
Companies identified by Fastbase included rather obvious ISPs such as Virgin Media Business and Stofa (a well-known Danish ISP) which was disappointing.
What about GDPR?
The new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on May 25th 2018.
Visitor tracking systems generate lots of data some of which is personally identifiable information (PII) regulated by GDPR. Most of the visitor tracking software suppliers have updated their sites to talk about their GDPR compliance (or at least the steps they are taking towards compliance ready for May 25th).
At the time of writing this post Fastbase does not have any mention of GDPR on it’s website, which seems remarkable for a company with over 780,000 customers and heading to an IPO. Presumably they are taking GDPR seriously and will be in compliance before May.
What about buying lists through Fastbase?
Fastbase founder Rasmus Refer previously founded Masterseek – a database of worldwide company information. Presumably, Fastbase is using this database as its primary source of company and contact information.
In these days of GDPR and explicit consent it is strange to see a new product selling customer lists. Fastbase doesn’t actually tell you what data it is going to supply but I checked and they confirm email and phone numbers for the contacts you select.
This part of the software feels like its been rushed out and not really part of the core Fastbase software. The site is not secure. There is a notion of ‘leads credit’ but this doesn’t work or isn’t explained. At point of purchase you are redirected to a third-party PayPal payment page. Not necessarily a problem – but not what you’d expect of a company about to launch on a London Stock Exchange.
What about the Fastbase AdWords B2B campaign tool?
There is certainly a market opportunity for a simple, easy to use method of creating Google AdWords search ads, for users who don’t want to tackle the complexities of the AdWords interface (although AdWords Express may be the real answer). Personally, I don’t think this sits within a visitor tracking system but I can see the cross-selling opportunity.
To be fair to Fastbase they have only launched this add-on tool in the last couple of months and it is marked as [New]. But if I’m being kind I’d say it hasn’t been sufficiently tested. If I’m being honest I’d say something else!
It may be that this is an early concept version. But for a company with grand ambitions I’m surprised this has been released.
How much does it cost?
Fastbase operates a freemium model. The free “light” version provides up to 200 web leads per month.
The premium version offers unlimited leads for USD $45 per month (or USD $351 per year).
Fastbase’s competitors all offer free trials but no-one else offers a completely free version. Competitor prices tend to be based on the volume of website traffic – but start from $24/month.
A curious case
Fastbase is a curious case. The visitor tracking software certainly exists and if you do not have budget for a paid product then this is your only choice. However, from the test cases the number of companies identified is significantly lower than competitor products. The G Leads and AdWords B2B add-ons seem out of place and feel rushed, incomplete and not of the required standard for a company about to go for a public listing. Perhaps there are plans for further development but I remain unconvinced.
There is a good argument to be had about the benefits of a Google Analytics add-on vs standalone system for visitor tracking. Here at Peak Demand we recommend Who Is Visiting as a standalone visitor tracking product. But if you prefer the Google Analytics add-on route then Leadfeeder offers a professional and robust product.
One way or another, Fastbase has been very effective in generating hundreds of thousands of customers and clearly has the belief it can massively grow this customer base. It has a reported valuation of $132 million.
Yet for a company expecting to have over 4 million customers by the end of the year, there is surprisingly little information to be found on Google aside from investor press releases. Very few blog posts, forum comments, reviews (good or bad) etc. can be found. Fastbase doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile, has never tweeted and the last Facebook post was in the summer of 2017.
Nothing wrong with that of course. But unusual.
These are my own opinions and I always encourage you to form your own. Fastbase is free (for the light version), so why not give it a try and decide for yourself. Please share your feedback in the comments below. I’m absolutely sure readers of this post will be interested in your views. As part of producing this post, I posed a few questions to Fastbase and CEO, Rasmus, responded personally and promptly to each one.