How Dune Analytics' free product became the most talked about blockchain data tool
When I first started doing marketing analyses breakdowns, I was focusing on Web 2.0 brands at Growth Models.
Honestly, I was never short of strategies to analyse.
In Web3, it’s a lot harder as so many projects seem to go the same “community first” route. Which can be great, but a lot of them don’t do it so well and they’re missing out on some real low-hanging fruit.
One of the brands that’s impressed me over the last few years is Dune Analytics.
I’ve been on calls with people who are 10 years in the space and those just entering who have mentioned checking out Dune.
What’s amazing with Dune is they haven’t done the common Web3 approaches of…
- “Pay to follow” community growth
- Use to earn models with their own token (they have no token)
They’ve leveraged what I consider a lot of traditional PR and brand awareness strategies which could easily lead to dominating the SERPs.
And all of it comes from the way they’ve built their product.
It’s an incredible tool and one of the first people think of when it comes to blockchain analytics.
So what did they do to quickly rise to the top?
What is Dune Analytics?
Dune is a web-based app that allows anyone (with a little SQL knowledge) to query blockchain data and create awesome visuals like the below.
Some people even spend their time building full dashboards to give others an overview of a project, collection, or even sub-set of the industry as with this example on CEXs.
It’s a weird thing.
Dune doesn’t pay people to build these dashboards, but everyday countless new visualisations show up and are promoted by the people building them (I’ll explain why they do this later on).
In my opinion, they’re talked about more than many other brands in the space that offer data visualisations like Nansen.
The question is, how did they do it?
Let’s take a look.
Dune’s astronomic growth
Dune was founded in 2018.
But if you look at any of the analytics tools out there you don’t really see the platform taking off until around 2021.
SEMRush has its organic traffic taking off from early 2022 (the SEMRush numbers are low IMO, and only consider organic).
And sees them starting to generate backlinks around the same time.
This looks like it’s coinciding with the brand's Series A raise that happened in August 2021.
At the time, it felt like Dune popped up out of nowhere.
People were talking about it, sharing links, and creating visualisations like mad.
Within no time Dune was everywhere.
And what’s interesting is that little of their traffic comes from Google search. Most of it is direct.
I’m actually amazed more of it isn’t referral traffic either (which we’ll get into shortly).
Dune has managed something few brands can.
They’ve become synonymous with their category (blockchain analytics) and are often the first service thought of when someone needs analytics visualisations.
As a result, they get a large volume of people who don’t even need to search for them. They simply go straight to the site.
I’ll be analysing how they did this, and also looking at a few of the areas I think they could improve in.
Dune helps both the supply and demand side of blockchain data visualisations
This is essentially what it comes down to.
Dune has done an incredible job of helping both the supply and demand side of data visualisation with their platform.
Dune’s helping data scientists get noticed and secure paying work.
Dune’s also helping people who need analysis (VCs and content creators) get detailed information on the industry as a whole.
They’ve positioned themself in the middle of these two groups and created something that helps both sides of the scale.
The result is everyone wanting to talk about them.
Let’s get into the details.
Demand - Generating PR and awareness by enabling content creators
Let’s be honest.
The best tools, projects, and products help users achieve their goals. Usually, they make achieving them faster, easier, or cheaper.
We’re currently in a phase of creators.
Everyone is producing content. From individuals who want to make a bit of side income to brands that want to attract thousands of new users.
Content is the way to do it.
It could be through video, a blog, podcast, newsletter, or even social media accounts.
The amount of content being produced is huge.
And, if I’m going to be really harsh here, a lot of it is pretty generic and little more than noise.
It's created by people who aren’t always experts (at least not yet). They’re simply driven enough to put the time in to continually produce content.
Building an audience by offering the same kind of general overviews as everyone else is a long, hard process.
But, if you have a unique insight, perhaps from data analysis, you’re immediately going to stand out.
Not only do opinions backed by data carry more weight, they also have cool images that grab attention and help explain elements.
Analysing blockchain data was a bitch before Dune for everyone but the most technical of people.
But, thanks to Dune and a little SQL knowledge, anyone can spin up a simple graph or more detailed dashboard of analytics.
The result is creators of all kinds referencing Dune in their work.
Brands and influencers use Dune to talk about project growth or interesting changes in the market.
Huge publications with millions of readers like Coin Telegraph use Dune to bolster their reporting.
Video tutorials regarding Web3 analysis feature Dune.
All of these references not only expose Dune to a wider market, but it gets them a backlink which assists with their organic Google rankings.
According to SEMRush, Dune has around 3.5M backlinks pointing to their site from over 14,000 domains.
Dune has basically created a product that creators need to grow their own business, and must reference if they use it.
The result is a huge level of exposure and backlinks to help the brand grow.
Supply - How Dune gets data scientists to create visualisations
My first thought when looking into Dune is “how do they get these people to create these visualisations?”.
I mean, without the visualisations, Dune wouldn’t get a fraction of the press or use it does.
These people ar literally creating the marketing material for Dune.
But why on earth should anyone bother learning how to use Dune?
Again, it all comes down to Dune taking a back seat and letting other people benefit from the product.
Data scientist jobs are pretty hard to land. You need a specific skill set and need to be able to demonstrate your ability to potential employers.
It's also competitive and relatively well compensated. Which means brands who need to hire a data scientist only want those who are proven.
It's hard for a newbie in the space to show their skills and land work.
Dune enables that.
Anyone can sign up for an account and start building cool dashboards for free.
Because it’s free to build public dashboard, Dune effectively became a portfolio for data scientists.
It’s the data scientist equivalent of…
- WordPress or Medium for Writers (Mirror.xyz if you like Web3)
- YouTube for video editors
- Figma for UX designers
Aspiring data scientists can create dashboards that show their skill and use it to land work.
It's great because, if someone’s visualisation is picked up by one of the big publications like CoinTelegraph, the creator gets a link back to their work which can drive potential clients to them.
But Dune also goes one step further.
They have something called their wizard program.
Those who are very skilled with Dune can become a Dune wizard and have their work featured.
They get a special category on the main search page.
As more and more people start to see the Wizard’s work, more brands reach out to them to help them build their own dashboards as mentioned in this interview with a Dune Wizard.
Dune have also released a job board to help those wizards apply for and land jobs in the space.
Some of those jobs have 6-figure salaries.
Not bad for someone who’s exploring their desire to understand and visualise blockchain data.
Again, it comes down to Dune taking a back seat. Their product is not the highlight and focus for these people.
They’re enabling others to use their product to chase their own goals.
Freely marrying supply and demand for blockchain data
The whole Dune approach to giving others the tools they need to grow and achieve their own goals works so well.
Dune sits in this wonderful overlap of needs between three groups.
- Data scientists - they want to build a portfolio and get a job
- Creators - who need data vis to create more engaging content
- Institutions - who need t find reputable data scientists to help them understand investments or their own progressions
Few brands are able to do this.
Most brands want the detailed data visualisations they create to sit behind a paywall so only customers can access it.
Others charge a high fee so fledgling creators can’t get access to the tools in the first place.
And then there are some who are so intent on retaining IP that they don’t really allow others to share their product.
Dune bucks all of these trends.
It’s free for anyone to set up visualisations, and free to use them (with relevant citation) in any marketing material.
On the surface, you might think that Dune is just a tool to visualise vast amounts of blockchain data. But it’s so much more than that.
Dune is a matchmaking platform that offers opportunities to data scientists and valuable data to those who need it.
By helping everyone, they’re also helping themselves.
But how do they help themselves if it’s all free?
How Dune monetises
While you can create dashboards and share Dune visualisations for free, they also have a paid tier.
They now everyone wants (or needs) their data to be publicly available to everyone.
A lot of projects need specific on-chain data analysis to help them understand how they can grow as a brand. They need specific analyses for their own internal processes.
Dune has a paid plan for this.
Institutions can sign up for a paid plan to help them with their in-house data analysis. It's a good fit for projects who have a lot of on-chain data to organise or VCs that need to understand how projects are growing.
What I love about this model is that you can essentially get a full product demo for free.
Anyone who is thinking of buying a premium plan can just head to Dune and see what they can produce.
If they like the data readouts, then they’re more likely to sign up for a paid plan. And if they need help, they can find it directly within the Wizards’ portal.
Areas I believe Dune is missing out on
I am amazed that Dune doesn't get more organic traffic. I think they could massively increase traffic if they took a look at this.
They have great domain authority. At the time of writing, their DA is 78 according to Ahrefs.
If you’re not aware, DA is a third-party metric that assesses the authority of a site. Generally speaking, the higher the DA (it’s out of 100), the more likely it is to rank highly in Google.
78 is really quite high.
And yet organic traffic is incredibly low. SimilarWeb has it at below 10% of all traffic to the site.
Well, a lot of the data visualisation are not optimised for Google search.
And I wouldn’t change them. I think they’re great as they are.
So what is Google indexing for Dune? They tend to index a lot of the creator pages.
And really, I can’t imagine these are showing up for much in terms of searches.
If I were consulting at Dune and they wanted to increase traffic, I would be trying to use the platform to create data readouts related to what people are searching for.
Here’s a small snippet from Keywords Everywhere around some basic crypto searches.
There are around 20,000 searches per month here and the competition is pretty low (CMP is on a scale of 0-1 with 1 being most competitive).
With Dune’s DA, they could spin up some articles that they update every month or so and have them ranking quite highly in Google.
They have the benefit of…
- Being a recognised authority
- Having direct access to data
- Having an established audience
They could easily create articles that address high-volume searches and use their own data to create something no one else can.
In the above cases, you'd have to be careful of “financial advice” but you could easily find an angle that avoids that.
For example, rather than an article that looks at “which crypto to buy today for long term” you could create one which is “cryptocurrencies that have the highest trade activity over the last X months”.
You still optimise for the primary keyword listed in the image, but you get away from making any concrete investment claims.
I imagine they could easily add a few more hundred thousand visitors to their site every month by tackling this.
Especially as the SEO approaches in Web3 are weak AF right now.
Summing up Dune
Dune’s success is really down to 2 key elements in my opinion.
- Having a great product that helps multiple groups
- Enabling people to use their product for free which promotes free PR
While it’s not a marketing strategy per se, the way they’ve built things creates a strategy that has Dune on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
They’ve built something with the aim of helping others. They don’t put themselves at the center of everything, but find themselves there thanks to their generosity.
It’s a true Web3 approach.
I do think they could be doing more in terms of traffic, and I hope that their monetisation model is enough to keep them viable as they grow.
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