Maximising Domain Revenue

Maximising Domain Revenue

After publishing the article, “Getting Dirty in the Domain Data”, earlier this week I ended up having an interesting discussion with a domain investor. I thought that it would be worthwhile continuing to pull apart the data from the previous post to help many domain investors understand why optimising traffic across multiple monetisation solution is so beneficial.

Escrow.com

I will be referring to the data from the previous article so you may wish to read it if you haven’t done so already.

Sampling by Changing the DNS

Many domain investors sample different parking providers by changing the DNS. This method is fraught with many problems that largely stem from comparing results from single sources across different periods of time. Some of the challenges are:

1.      What are you measuring?
Revenue is not a good measurement of success as there will be different levels of traffic at different points in time. Since parking companies count traffic different you can’t rely on the produced Revenue Per Thousand Visitors (RPM) numbers.

2.      Data Distortion
When testing different parking providers over different periods of time you can get massive distortions in the data from seasonality in both the domains and the time of year. In the example from the previous article the domain had massive results in May to July due to it being a travel related domain.

3.      Traffic Leakage
There is a propagation delay each time you change the DNS and this creates more traffic leakage and no new information. In some extreme cases where the TTL (Time To Live) for the domain is long the DNS may not update for months for some users.

The Cost of Information

Some investors believe in splitting traffic equally across multiple solutions and then at some point in time sending all the traffic to the monetisation company that pays the most. This is one of the worst ways to optimise domain traffic and here is the reason why.

There are a lot of strategies around sampling but they basically boil down the single question, “What did the information cost?” In other words, if I was earning one dollar with one company and then sampled another company and found they were paying 90 cents then the information cost me 10 cents.

Minimising these "information costs" is crucial to optimisation. From the example domain, A.COM, in the previous article if we sample the traffic equally across the different parking companies then the portfolio would have earned $1611 versus $2217 or 38% less overall (ignoring direct advertisers).

Every domain needs its own sample regime. At the most simplistic level domains with less traffic should be sampled less often compared to domains with high levels of traffic. In each case, what you are after is a statistically significant result that allows you to decide where to route the traffic. If you don’t have a statistically large enough sample, then you’re guessing.

Real-Time Decision Making

All traffic routing decisions need to be made on a real-time basis. Based upon the data, decisions need to be made literally milli-second by milli-second. I can only speak for my company, ParkLogic, as we use dynamically changing data from multiple inputs to alter not only the routing decisions of traffic but what is displayed on the page and ultimately which advertisers are engaged.

As an example, we track over 250 different metrics for every domain every day and process this data to alter how the traffic is routed. Layered over the top of this daily data we then can then incorporate external dynamic data such as geo-based weather.

Everything must lead to a decision....otherwise it's just intellectually interesting but pointless.

Winning Solutions Constantly Change

If you sample other solutions (however you decide to do it) and then lock that solution in for an extended period of time, then you will be losing. The data from the previous article clearly shows that even for a single domain the winning parking company changes constantly (see below table).

For example, if we routed ALL the traffic through to Voodoo (average winner) and applied Voodoo's payout rates each month then Voodoo would have paid out $436 for the ten-month period. The domain actually earned $4531 for the same period of time (including direct advertisers). The reason for this was a combination of an advertiser paying a lot for the traffic in May-Jul and other parking solutions beat Voodoo the majority of the time.

This doesn't mean Voodoo is bad....as they actually did win for a couple of months. Remember the data is summarised on a monthly basis and can only testify to the fact that the same behaviour exists at the daily and even changes milli-second by milli-second.

Winners

Benchmarking Results Must be Done Simultaneously

I mentioned this point briefly when discussing the problems with sampling via DNS but it is important to reiterate it. Testing new solutions must be conducted at the same point in time otherwise distortions in the results will occur and incorrect decisions made.

Let’s imagine I used the domain’s revenue results in June as the baseline data and compared this to any new parking company in September. I could erroneously conclude that the new company was hopeless! Remember that A.COM (in the previous article) is a travel domain and has extraordinary performance in June.

Understanding Data

I’m in a discussion right now with a customer where about one hundred of their domains just aren’t performing. I’m not worried about this customer leaving ParkLogic as we are both working through the data to understand why their performance is down.

Too many domain investors immediately bail on their existing partner and whip their domains out somewhere else in the vain hope they will perform better. This syndrome has a saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” In other words, you will always think somewhere else is better than where you are.

My advice is don’t do a knee jerk reaction and move your domains. Sit down and dig into the data and really understand what’s going on with the traffic. We are in an industry that is built upon data and if you wish to get abnormal returns then it’s vitally important that you get your arms around it or work with a partner that can help you do so.

 

I hope the few items I’ve raised here in this article will help give you a fresh perspective on your own domain portfolio. Over the years I’ve found that earning more from domain traffic is not always the solution that investors are after. What they want to know is they are maximising their returns and there is proof that this is being done.

Anyone can have a good or bad month but knowing that there are systems and experts in place that are monitoring and understanding the results is really where it’s at. This is particularly the case if you must report to investors or a board. Having the data to confidently know that everything that can be done is being done often alleviates the concerns of the most aggressive directors!

Greenberg and Lieberman

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Part 3 - Why Domain Portfolio Optimising Works - Advertisers

Part 3 - Why Domain Portfolio Optimising Works - Advertisers

Obviously there are a great multitude of business models that you can apply to your development project. Remember that we are looking at developing one of our domains into a business as part of our portfolio optimisation. The first business model that we will examine is advertising.

Escrow.com

In this business model you are trying to ramp your traffic so that it becomes worthwhile for advertisers to spend their money to reach your audience. A couple of things about audience, you can either provide mass numbers or the right people to advertisers. For instance, Whizzbangsblog doesn’t have millions of people visiting it every day but it does have the right people in the domain industry. This is valuable for sponsors.

With your new development you need to choose your approach and go mass volume of advertisers or a select few. If you have a mass of advertisers on your pages, then readers may revolt and advertisers won’t pay the big dollars. Less advertisers will potentially allow you to charge a higher rate and keep the readers onside. It’s a balancing act and it really depends upon your market vertical.

Remember that one person’s advertising can also be another person’s content. This is often the case in hobby publications where the advertising is just as valuable as the articles to the readers.

Unless you have huge volumes of traffic then I would recommend staying clear of selling on a cost per view basis. Likewise, any other performance based advertising (eg. Pay per click) may not be suitable for a business you’re launching out of the gate. A reasonable charge per month is often palatable for advertisers as well as provide some necessary initial cashflow for your venture.

As you write your content what you really want to do is provide value to your sponsors/advertisers. For instance, I use both Escrow.com and Epik and I wouldn’t have a problem recommending them to readers. You need to be careful that you’re not writing advertorial pieces but sharing your own experiences of using their products and services.

You can add a lot of value beyond a banner on a webpage. For instance, earlier this year I conducted a video interview with Jackson Elsegood from Escrow.com about some of the developments that he’s introducing at Escrow.com. Likewise, I will be interviewing Rob Monster from Epik about what he is working on at Epik. If you are looking at adopting this strategy, then the number one issue that you should be focused on is whether this is providing value to readers. There’s no point in conducting an interview that’s merely a sales pitch.

On the flipside of the coin, the ultimate mass volume model is a directory. Once again the biggest challenge for anyone building a directory isn’t the actual building (there’s lots of directory software available) but getting the high volume of traffic to the directory so that advertisers get a return on their investment. As an aside, as a directory grows they can often morph into market vertical or hyper-local search engines…..hence why Google is very interested in this market.

So there are a lot of decisions that need to be made with the advertising business model but they all tend to boil down to providing value in the form of highly qualified traffic. The only way you will keep your traffic is if you are providing reasons (see the previous article) for people to return to your new business. So be really careful in looking after your audience....they have a lot of demands on their time and for them to spend some of it with your new venture is a privilege and should be respected.

In the next article we will look at products, services and how building one of these businesses isn’t actually as hard as you may think.

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