Discussions and blogs that relate to the monetisation of domain traffic.

Part 1 – Why Domain Portfolio Optimisation Works

Part 1 – Why Domain Portfolio Optimisation Works

I recently had the privilege of conducting a session at Domaining Europe on the topic of monetisation. Many domain investors have fallen into the trap that monetisation is dead and let me share with you that nothing is further from the truth. Domain monetisation is alive, well and thriving.

Escrow.com

What has happened, is like any industry there has been an evolution in technology. Those that have kept up with the technological curve remain successful while those that don’t struggle to remain in business.

This is not dissimilar to the days of the buggy whip manufacturer. During the days of horse drawn carts they made an absolute killing. Then a strange contraption initially known as a mechanical horse came onto the market. This technological innovation was really expensive so the buggy whip makers all laughed at the early version of the motor car and continued to make their whips. The rest is history and other than the handful of craftsman buggy whip makers are no more.

It’s the same thing in the domain industry. On one of my recent trips around the world I was talking to a domain owner that had been in the industry for years and he was decrying that monetisation was dead. I asked him one question, “What are you doing now that you weren’t doing five years ago?”

He replied, “I’m doing the same thing.”

I then said, “So you are expecting a different result by doing the same thing? You do know that’s the definition of insanity, don’t you?”

Of course, he wasn’t insane but how many domain investors behave in exactly the same manner? Five years ago they placed all of their domains with a single company, watch their revenue line fall and then claim that it has nothing to do with their own behaviour but the industry. The problem with these domainers is that they are still trying to make buggy whips rather than innovate.

So in this series of articles I’m going to share with you what I do with my own domain portfolio and more importantly why I do it. Since I’m a numbers guy, as much as possible I’m going to track everything back to facts rather than fiction and gut reaction.

When I think about optimising my domain portfolio I place each asset into one of four main buckets.

1.      Development
2.      Traffic
3.      Stock-items
4.      High value

In terms of development, I have whizzbangsblog.com and after a hiatus of about five years I’m in the process of rebuilding my aviation website downwind.com. Why these two domains? I’m passionate about both sites and I really enjoy engaging with readers. For example, those of you that have left comments here at whizzbangsblog quickly discover that I really enjoy replying to questions and helping other domain investors out in any way I can.

Developing a website that you’re passionate about is really important as it will spur you on to write or work on the site into the years ahead. I was speaking to a domain investor about developing a website into a business and I shared that it was actually really easy to do. In my case, all I had to do was write an average of three articles a week for nine years. Voila! Success :-)

I’m actually really proud of the articles here on whizzbangsblog and I often find myself trawling back through the archives to review how my thinking on a topic has developed over the years. I also find that I do much of my thinking about the domain industry and all of the opportunities within it while writing articles. It may sound strange but it’s my way of relaxing.

Every domain investor should have a couple of projects that they are developing into real businesses. In the case of whizzbangsblog I have the privilege of Escrow.com and Epik sponsoring my blog and this helps fund my time for writing.

I'm really careful about the number of sponsors and who sponsors my blog as I'm tying my own reputation to the services being offered by the sponsors. If their services aren't any good then it reflects badly on me.

With the relaunch of downwind I will be seeking aviation industry advertising as the traffic grows.

What’s really important is that when you develop a domain, develop it into a business. Don’t try and make something pretty because you like pretty websites. Focus on the end goal of how you will make money from the site so that what you develop is sustainable over time.

For the record, it doesn’t take much to get a good website up and running. There’s many different platforms available for managing the content. I personally use Joomla but wordpress is just as good.

If you spend over $1,000 getting an initial launch of a website put together then you’re probably spending too much. Make sure you get your first dollar of revenue in as fast as possible and whatever happens, learn from customer feedback!

In the next articles I’m going to dive really deep into my thinking around the four business models and how they help me optimise my domain portfolio for greater profitability. In the process I also plan on revisiting the series on pricing domains.

Recent Comments
london555
Hi Michael-great post so thank you. We own the name eEconomist.com and have thought it would be a great name for a worldclass econ... Read More
27 June 2016
mgilmour
John, I'm glad I could be of assistance. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to chat about your domain.
28 June 2016
mgilmour
It's easy to say yes to money and then realise that you've made a BIG mistake.
28 June 2016
4713 Hits
10 Comments

The Hidden Value of Optimisation

The Hidden Value of Optimisation

Many domain portfolio owners get so focused on their parking statistics that they forget about other factors that impact the overall performance of their portfolio. In this article I would like to unpack the effect the Euro/US exchange rate has had on a portfolio and to illustrate that all is not as it seems.

Escrow.com

I was recently looking into the performance of a particular portfolio that does a little over $20,000 per month in revenue. Given the size, I was confident that it was statistically significant for my analysis.

What I was investigating was the RPM (Revenue Per Thousand Visitors) trend so that I could try and understand what is going on with the overall performance. The reason why I was interested in the RPM is because the measurement effectively removes the impact of any fluctuations in traffic.

Since Sept 2014 the RPM for the account had dropped 6.5% from 13.85 to 13.00. Many portfolio owners have experienced some downturn across this period of time but I thought that further investigation was warranted. It just so happened that the portfolio had a large amount of European traffic and this got me thinking.

It wasn’t long before I had the below graph of the Euro/US exchange rate for the same period of time. The Euro had effectively depreciated by around 20% and this is what had contributed to the adverse results.

USD to Euro

 

There was some good news in the all of this analysis. Even though the Euro/US exchange rate had dropped by 20% the overall impact on the client’s portfolio was only 6.5%. The reason for this is that as the Euro dropped versus the $US the ParkLogic systems automatically migrated the traffic to higher paying European monetisation providers. As the client was being paid in Euros this effectively meant they were being paid more.

Any traffic that was being highly paid by US companies remained with them as long as they were paying more than the impact of the exchange devaluation.

I know that this all sounds a little complicated but it clearly illustrates why systems like the one developed by ParkLogic are so effective in reducing external factors that impact the revenue line. We've found that if you leave all of your traffic with a single provider for longer than about a week, then you will be affected by things such as the exchange rate.

If you leave all of your traffic with one monetisation company and there is a crash in the exchange rate, then you will be in for a rough ride. On the other hand, think of a service like ParkLogic’s as being like a “stop loss”. If things go bad, then the traffic is automatically moved for your benefit.

Full disclosure dictates that I declare that I’m one of the founders of ParkLogic. It’s not often that I openly discuss some of the hidden benefits like the one above we provide our clients. It just so happens that the exchange example is a clear case of why traffic optimisation really does work.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

1885 Hits
0 Comments

How To Conduct a Domain Traffic Test - Part 2

How To Conduct a Domain Traffic Test - Part 2

This is the second article in the series on conducting a domain traffic test. The first article can be read by going to: How to Conduct a Domain Traffic Test - Part 1

For the past 8 years I’ve been looking at nRPM (normalised RPM) numbers and routing traffic to the best solutions at any point in time. This has produced significant gains for clients and well worth the effort of getting messy in the numbers.

Escrow.com

So now that there is an agreed set of definitions for metrics what do we need to do to conduct a traffic test? There are two main approaches:

1.      Using baseline data

2.      Using the existing monetisation account

When conducting a traffic test most domain owners provide us with the previous month’s stats to be measured against. One of the problems with this is that we don’t have the raw traffic numbers to generate a normalised RPM. One of the good things is although the stats are taken from a different time period they can be useful in focusing attention on which domains are clear winners and losers. Regardless of the outcome we need to understand why we are winning or losing.

For example, what’s the point in claiming victory if the domain has twice as much traffic during the testing period compared to the baseline? Although good, it would be false to say that it was due to traffic optimisation.

For larger traffic tests it’s far better to adopt option two and run the test by integrating the existing monetisation account into the traffic mix and then sample around 20% of the traffic elsewhere. If the new monetisation sources win the traffic, then all of that domain’s traffic is then moved to the new provider.

For example, let’s imagine that you have all of your traffic going to an account at Domain Sponsor. You want to check out if they are still the best solution for your traffic so you ask me to setup a traffic test. The first thing we do is integrate your existing Domain Sponsor account into ParkLogic and then leave 80% of the traffic still flowing through to DS while we test other monetisation solutions with the remaining 20%.

So rather than having to move all of your traffic you are now only risking 20%. Remember that 20% will earn some money (hopefully more than DS) so your revenue risk is more than likely going to become a win. What’s even better is that we can clearly establish a nRPM for the traffic flowing through to DS and know beyond any doubt who is actually paying the best at that point in time.

With traffic optimisation it’s vitally important that each domain is reviewed and treated as a unique case. There is no point in optimising across an entire portfolio is you don’t also focus on the domains themselves. It’s like the old saying, “look after the pennies and the dollars will look after themselves.” The domains are the pennies and the portfolio is the dollars.

The next article will continue to unpack what metrics we focus on in a traffic test.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

1977 Hits
1 Comment

How To Conduct a Domain Traffic Test - Part 1

How To Conduct a Domain Traffic Test - Part 1

So many domain owners get incredibly confused by all the different companies that want to monetise their traffic for them. Which one is best? How do I really know if they are better than another? What is the best way to run a test? All of these questions are vital if you wish to get the most out of your domain traffic.

In this article I will unpack the critical success factors of what makes a viable good traffic test so that you will always know that you are monetising your traffic with the right provider.

Escrow.com

For a start, to eliminate any discrepancies in timing, all traffic tests need to be conducted simultaneously. What you don’t want to do is change your DNS to point to parking company A and then a few weeks later change the DNS to parking company B. The two separate periods of time introduce large errors in determining who is the real winner.

Without the proper tools, running a simultaneous test can be difficult but with a good partner this is eminently achievable. As an example, we find that at ParkLogic a number of clients use our services purely for benchmarking one monetisation source versus another. We’re happy to work with anyone on this.

The most important factor in a traffic test is understanding the definition of success. So many people fall into the trap of believing that revenue is the only metric that should be paid attention to. So is that the revenue for December or for September? Is that the revenue where there happened to be a 20% increase in traffic or not? Or how about the revenue when it just so happened that an advertiser paid more for the traffic by a mistake?

As can be seen, revenue, although important, is not the best metric to pay attention to during a traffic test. Many domainers have migrated to RPM (revenue per thousand visitors) in an effort to remove the distortions caused by variations in traffic.

For example, if you make $100 from 1,000 visitors then you have an RPM of 100. Let’s imagine that you did a test and you made $200 from 1,000 visitors from a different monetisation provider. Many people jump to the conclusion that the second monetisation provider is the clear winner with an RPM of 200…..and they would be wrong.

The problem with RPM is that it depends upon the views reported by each of the monetisation providers. Sadly, there aren’t any standards on reporting views therefore each provider has a different set of filters applied to the traffic which can dramatically change the number of views reported and ultimately the RPM.

It wasn’t so long ago that some parking companies used RPM more as a marketing tool to say they had the best in the industry! This was easily achieved by just filtering the traffic more aggressively, reporting less views which meant a higher RPM.

For a proper traffic test what we need is an unassailable metric that can be verified for each monetisation source that we wish to test. The only way to do this is to count the raw unfiltered traffic (ie. URLs) that we send to each monetisation provider for each domain and then see how much revenue that generates. This provides us with a normalised RPM (ie. nRPM) that we can then use for direct comparisons at any point in time.

Let’s take a look at some actual data for a domain (XYZ.com) across a ten day period of time (see below). Day 1 is the latest day’s data and Day 10 is the oldest. There are columns for URLs, nRPM and Revenue for 4 parking companies (1-4). The easiest way to understand what is happening is to read the table from the bottom up so that you can get an idea what is happening as the algorithms seek to move in on the higher paying revenue solutions.

Forensic report

Initially, the domain is only with parking company 4 and on day 7 forced sampling was implemented to expose the traffic to the other parking companies. At Day 6 parking company 4 was being beaten by parking companies 1 and 2. More traffic then flowed to those parking companies and away from two and 4 until parking company 2 began to perform and parking company 4 completely dropped out of the race.

In this example, the traffic flowing between the monetisation providers is very dynamic and moves around quite a lot due to the switching regimes being adopted during the sampling process. There’s a lot of moving parts and reasons why the traffic flows where it does but the whole time the algorithms are focused on increasing the domains revenue.

In the next article in this series I will really unpack how to conduct a structured traffic test and why most domain owners get this wrong.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

Tags:
Recent Comments
whizzbang
Hi Michael thanks for the article. Is there a variation on results if the domain is pointed to the platform via DNS A Record ( as ... Read More
02 February 2016
mgilmour
Awesome questions and it's great to be dealing with someone that has some technical experience. Can I suggest that we take this of... Read More
02 February 2016
2549 Hits
5 Comments

What's Going On With PPC? - Part 2

What's Going On With PPC? - Part 2

This is the second part in a series in understanding what is going on with Pay Per Click (PPC) revenue.

We can see the overall impact of the CTR and EPC graphs (see the previous article) by examining the RPM trend chart. The shape of the chart really highlights the rush of advertisers and consumers pushing up the value of traffic in May and then a decline into the norhern hemisphere summer period.

Escrow.com

The seasonal summer downturn can be clearly seen and the rise through September is encouraging. It’s clear that in both cases the rise back up to the previous May values are not being reached so something else must have occurred to disrupt the normal cycle.

RPM chart

RPM Chart

It just so happens that in the first half of June, the worlds second largest economy, China, experienced the beginning of a huge downturn in their economy. The Shanghai Index fell from a high of 5,166 and by the end of September it was resting at 3,053. In addition, to help forestall a total crash of their economy, on the 12th Aug the Chinese authorities devalued the RMB from 16.1 to 15.6 to the $US.

Shanghai Index

US to RMB exchange rate

When we examine the RPM trend we can see that it started entering a slump earlier than normal for the seasonal summer period. It is now lagging behind the typical summer rebound in much the same manner as the Shanghai Index is still languishing in the 3000's.

Domain investors would have to be completely naïve to think that such a massive decline in China would not have some impact on advertising earnings.

The question that needs to be asked is, “Will the RPM rebound?”

Although it’s early days yet, the RPM is clearly rising. The bend downwards in the trendline at the end of October is more of a function of a level 4 polynomial trend function rather than sudden depressing numbers. Traditionally, the lead up to Christmas is always a good time for traffic monetisers as advertisers flood into the Google auction system and bid prices up. Eager consumers also enter the market in droves to snap up an online bargain.

What is clear is that there is some manipulation of both the EPC and CTR numbers being reported back by Google. According to Google, if the domain channel is on now on the high value feed (due to CAF) then domain investors are receiving 90% of the advertising revenue or 68% if they are on the lower quality Adsense like feed.....not sure where we actually are in this spectrum.

Google TAC

What is suprising is that Google’s quarterly earnings report their Traffic Acquisition Costs (TAC) are currently sitting at 21.3%. It seems logical to me that even at 68% of the advertising revenue someone else must be paid a fraction for their traffic if the total TAC is to reach 21.3%. Either that or the domain channel (and other channels) are actually aggressively smart priced downwards.

Due to the lack of transparency it’s more likely this is the case and that no one is actually getting paid anything like the stated high values. Given the inverted shapes of the CTR and EPC graphs this is entirely more likely.

It’s all very easy to get angry at Google and demand our “fair share” but let’s face it…..they are actually obligated by their shareholders to maximise shareholder value. So don’t be surprised by this type of activity. The bottom line is that Google has been constantly reducing their TAC so that they ca be more profitable. They have also been buying domain traffic at massively reduced rates….

There is very little that we can do about macro-economic impacts to the domain industry like the one from China. Sadly, we just need to ride these out. However, as an industry we need to be constantly looking for solutions that pay more for our valuable traffic.....more on this later.

---------------------------------------------------

Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

Tags:
2085 Hits
0 Comments