PC Mag Editors’ Choice: Neck & Neck for the Title
May 30, 2023
From Tough Review to Top of the Pile
PC Mag’s 2023 Editors’ rating of Kanary was excellent! You can read the full thing yourself, but this is our favorite snippet.
“Kanary is easy to use, and it cleanly handles the task of removing your personal information from data broker websites. Its broker list is unusually clear and informative, and its process has improved since our previous review. It automates removal for more sites than most and provides help with DIY removal for many more. And it costs less than most competitors.” https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/the-kanary
Getting an excellent review from a major tech publication didn’t happen overnight. Our 2022 reception was lukewarm and frustrating. But the second time around, we were smarter about how we handled our review. And the hard work paid off. We’re a top 3 pick for Editors’ Choice of personal data removal & privacy services.
For the curious and ambitious creators, you may be wondering how these review cycles work and what we’ve learned in our journey. Let’s dig into the biggest lessons and how our team got to be a top choice for a major tech publication.
Lesson 1: Reviews are Seasonal, Software Development is Not
Review cycles happen yearly when expert journalists have time to do a refresh, but software and startups, on the other hand, change every single day. When we reached out to PC Mag in 2022, we didn’t realize that one journalist’s impression of our product would be highly visible for an entire year. We had just released our product for early beta and were in the early "launch before you're ready" phase. Well, that first review in 2022 confirmed we may have benefited from keeping the product in private beta for a bit longer. We won't revisit where the issues were, but once the review was posted it was the number 2 ranking post about Kanary on Google for the year. It’s impossible to know, but thousands of dollars was directed to our competitors by this one early opinion of our software.
The startup community says to launch fast and build in public. But this advice does not apply to major publications and yearly reviews. If you get wind of a major journalist wanting to cover your product, you should move slowly, be very careful, and do everything you can to put your best foot forward. In the initial review in 2022, we noticed small inaccuracies with the product review like the number of sites covered, spelling issues, and UX design. We made changes fast and let our reviewer know. But while the journalist updated the review, he left in opinions that had been shaped by those experiences. We had to wait an entire year to get another chance at making a better impression.
Lesson 2: Build Relationships for Softer Landings
It may feel adversarial when your work is under the microscope. It’s never fun to be critiqued. But before entering into a head-to-head with your competitors, you probably have an opportunity to build a friendlier reception with the journalists in your industry. We worked on this during the first stages of our company, but didn’t do enough of it before our first PC Mag review. Lesson learned the hard way for this one when we struggled to answer questions over email and correct misconceptions about the early team and product.
The second time around, we worked as a team to draft responses to these questions we received about our product, process, and team. We knew any part of our response could be included in the review with a positive or negative spin. Here are the questions we fielded.
QUESTION: Just what does “Clean up Google results” refer to?
QUESTION: So, is Kanary going to get into full-on identity theft protection and remediation? Or staying at the breach-recovery scale?
QUESTION: Why does the app itself say 500+ sites?
QUESTION: When the 14 days pass and the account reverts to Free, I imagine Kanary just lops the last-added items to get down to the free tier’s two addresses and one username. Correct?
Lesson 3: Time Flies, Keep Building
PC Mag's second review of Kanary shines a light on what makes us stand out. But we only got here because we took the criticism from the first review, worked to make it better, and communicated proactively. There were times when we were passed up (unfairly) for opportunities because of the review. It sucked. But we kept our heads down as best as we could, ignored the haters, and kept doing what we needed to do to build the best service.
Faster than we anticipated, 2023 rolled in. The team had addressed every complaint, grown our team, improved our process, and overall made our service better. We sent an email thoughtfully outlining our improvements and requesting a review refresh.
But, even then things didn’t go perfectly. We hit performance issues as volumes spiked exactly the week the reviewer was in the product. “Are you being DDoS’d?” he emailed us. Luckily, we were proactive, responsive, and were able to handle the unplanned issues to make the experience stand out.
Just Keep Going
We’re a women-founded software business. This isn’t typical in software or venture-backed startups. And when faced with adversity like a bad public review, it’s easy to slip into a certain negative narrative. The truth is, the only thing within our control is to just keep going, supporting each other, and doing our best work. We’re glad this time, it was recognized.