| Journal of Financial Economics
Search-Based Peer Firms: Aggregating Investor Perceptions Through Internet Co-Searches
Applying a "co-search" algorithm to Internet traffic at the SEC's EDGAR website, we develop a novel method for identifying economically-related peer firms and for measuring their relative importance. Our results show that firms appearing in chronologically adjacent searches by the same individual (Search-Based Peers or SBPs) are fundamentally similar on multiple dimensions. In direct tests, SBPs dominate GICS6 industry peers in explaining cross-sectional variations in base firms' out-of-sample (a) stock returns, (b) valuation multiples, (c) growth rates, (d) R&D expenditures, (e) leverage, and (f) profitability ratios. We show that SBPs are not constrained by standard industry classification and are more dynamic, pliable, and concentrated. We also show that co-search intensity captures the degree of similarity between firms. Our results highlight the potential of the collective wisdom of investors―extracted from co-search patterns―in addressing long-standing benchmarking problems in finance.
Keywords: peer firm;
EDGAR search traffic;