TL; DR: The team behind Versionista has more than a decade of experience providing a robust, customizable, and scalable change monitoring platform to businesses of all sizes. The cloud-based solution distills insights from detected site modifications that can be used for regulatory compliance or to gain a competitive advantage, among other benefits. In the future, the Portland-based company will focus on combatting false positives at scale via machine learning, making it easier for users to monitor large datasets from various sources.
It’s a well-known fact that the web played a significant role in the 2008 presidential election, which had 74% of internet users logging on to receive news and information, talk politics, and share and receive campaign updates.
Other web-based technologies were also at play. For example, Senator John McCain’s campaign team used a site tracking service known as Versionista to publish a side-by-side comparison highlighting policy changes on Barack Obama’s site regarding the Iraq war.
In 2018, the same tool was used to detect the scrubbing of the term climate change from government sites during the Trump administration.
Peter Bray, CEO of Versionista, told us the (politically neutral) company’s flagship change intelligence product acts as somewhat of a compass to help businesses both navigate the regulatory landscape and gain competitive advantages.
“We launched Versionista in 2007 — initially we thought it was going to be used mainly in political campaigns, but it’s recently evolved into a completely different consumer base,” Peter said. “Now, corporations small and large are using it to monitor changes on the web for a number of different use cases, from compliance to business insights.”
Versionista surfaces relevant business insights from complex data using automated monitoring and change detection techniques to ensure that information is not missed or obscured. The intuitive solution also helps streamline internal communication and workflows while combatting false positives at scale via machine learning. Ultimately, Versionista’s goal is to make it easier for a range of users to monitor large datasets from various sources quickly and effectively.
Solutions for Regulatory Transparency and Competitive Insights
The intuitive and scalable solution provides color-coded comparisons to easily highlight additions and deletions, plus in-depth summary emails and timely change alerts. Versionista also makes team collaboration a breeze through simple account settings that allow admins to add and manage users in just a few clicks.
Peter told us Versionista delivers compliance automation, regulatory intelligence, and SEO insights to organizations of all sizes. On the regulatory side, for example, Versionista helps users scan for changes that will impact their businesses.
“There’s a whole world of companies that are looking to monitor federal, city, county, state, and international regulations,” he said. “They rely on the data and enforcement policies regulators publish, but those regulators don’t alert companies about things like new administrator roles. That’s where we come in.”
Versionista’s on-page SEO change tracking, on the other hand, automatically crawls and monitors the sites of clients, competitors, and prospects to surface relevant changes to landing pages and highlight variations of keywords in titles, meta tags, etc. The tool can be used to ensure clients do not alter critical on-page SEO variables and to correlate competitive search engine results changes with on-page ranking factor edits.
No matter what you’re monitoring, the Portland-based company backs its services with 24/7 customer support that includes troubleshooting, providing demos, and crafting custom solutions tailored to unique needs.
A Flexible and Evolving Approach to Risk Reduction
Peter told us that Versionista’s benefits include easier collaboration, dollars and hours saved, and streamlined workflows. But for many verticals, he places risk reduction at the top of the list. In addition to scanning for updates from regulators, Versionista can be used to stay in compliance with them.
“It’s about reducing risk by monitoring one’s digital assets to provide a comprehensive, traceable audit trail of changes,” he said. “In the financial and pharmaceutical industries, among other regulated sectors, businesses are frequently required to document and keep track of the changing marketing messages that they present to end customers.”
He said Versionista hits that particular sweet spot by providing a comprehensive audit trail and change traceability for any digital asset available. The versatile tool also helps manage business risk by delivering insights into the strategies employed on competitor sites. “Monitoring industry news and competitor sites allows companies to gain a sense of how to better optimize their businesses,” Peter said.
When it comes to adding new features or simply brainstorming new ideas for future production, Peter said approximately 95% of Versionista’s innovations are based on feedback from current users.
“We’re cadencing them within the larger framework of what our product is meant to do, which is monitor websites accurately and comprehensively in a timely fashion,” he said. “We rapidly shift our developmental road map to meet requests we think will enjoy broad appeal.”
If the suggested features won’t likely prove valuable for more than a few customers, Versionista will present options for developing, testing, and deploying functionalities to meet individual users’ needs at a reasonable cost.
Streamline Internal Communication and Workflows
When Versionista launched 10 years ago, Peter said most companies had a single webmaster managing their digital assets. Today, that job title has been largely phased out, replaced by entire servicing teams.
“As a result, we needed a product that allows team members to coordinate monitoring work, communicate with each other, detect changes and collaborate on the remediation of any issues,” he said. “My favorite tools within Versionista are the ones that we built to simplify and orchestrate web monitoring among team members.”
Numerous features were designed to ease adoption by streamlining workflows among multiple team members. For example, to facilitate the visual organization of monitored pages, Versionista features fully configurable color-coded category settings for easier management.
The company also offers an API and webhooks that empower developers to integrate Versionista into existing tools, such as Slack. “Nowadays, onboarding new software is a real hassle, particularly in the enterprise,” Peter said. “We spend a lot of our time ensuring our core monitoring capability works reliably and robustly, but also that the process is as frictionless as possible.”
With more cooks in the kitchen and increasingly siloed departments, the visibility and traceability of digital assets become even more vital in terms of compliance.
“Regulations such as the GDPR are crashing down on some of our customers, and they need to monitor their sites to make sure they’re in compliance,” Peter said. “Often, the infrastructure for cookie consents and so on is brittle and breaks easily. A product like ours is able to look for changes and provide alerts that are far more powerful than a simple uptime monitor.”
Combatting False Positives at Scale Via Machine Learning
The Versionista team is focusing on several key initiatives over the next year, including an API expansion intended to provide more integration points between customer deployments and the Versionista Intelligence Engine.
The company is also incorporating machine learning into the platform to make it easier to automatically surface changes of significance for each customer. Peter said the biggest challenge with any online change monitoring solution is false positives, or changes that occur but aren’t of interest to the user.
“Increasingly, customers are using Versionista to monitor large sets of data from hundreds of thousands of sources,” he said. “When you’re monitoring that at that scale, the false positives become a real problem.”
That’s where machine learning comes in, classifying and prioritizing changes that have historically been of interest to customers and screening out those that have not.
“We recognize that Versionista needs to go above and beyond to curate, prioritize, and categorize changes in a structure that makes sense for each individual customer,” Peter said.