Part 7 - Portfolio Optimisation - Running a Traffic Test

Part 7 - Portfolio Optimisation - Running a Traffic Test

So you’ve just been to The Domain Conference in Fort Lauderdale and a monetisation company convinces you that you should run a test with them. Is there any real point and what is the best way to do this?

If you’ve ever moved your domains between parking companies by changing the nameservers then you will very quickly realise that there are so many variables to consider that the test becomes meaningless. For example, by routing the traffic at different periods of time, traffic volumes and domain market verticals all contribute to distorting the results.

In addition, if you move all of your domains across to the new company then from the previous article in this series we now know the best case scenario is they will win 35% of the time. Remember this number is for a properly optimised domain portfolio. If they win more than that then it’s only because your portfolio has not been looked after.

All monetisation companies know that they will perform well on some domains and not so well on others. Their goal is to hope and pray that overall the total amount they pay you will be more than your current parking solution.

From the domain investors perspective this is a really silly way of looking at things. What you actually want is to leave all the domains that win with the new company with them and automatically move all the domains that do worse away. This then maximises your earnings.

The ideal solution would be to keep all of your domains where they are and then send a percentage of the traffic to the new company for testing. This process allows you to accurately benchmark the new deal with a greatly diminished risk, compared to sending all of the traffic for your domains to the new company.

Earlier this year, one of ParkLogic’s customers had just returned from NamesCon and they were approached by a couple of the parking companies to run a test. Rather than move all of the domains away from ParkLogic they had a chat with me and we then routed a portion of their traffic to special accounts setup for them at the new companies.

They then were able to assess down to the cent on each domain whether the new deals were any good or not. In the end they moved everything back to their ParkLogic controlled accounts as they performed better than the specially setup ones. I should say that we were very happy to facilitate this process for our client as we regard it as one of the services we provide.

This structured process provides domain investors and any of their investors the confidence that everything that can be done is being done to maximise earnings. There’s no “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” as we absolutely know what the grass looks like and tastes.

Ultimately what you need to assess is your stomach for risk or in other words, how big a percentage is good enough? We typically find that forcing around 20% of the traffic for each domain over a couple of weeks (time depends upon traffic levels) gives a good enough sample. If the new company wins then you should move 100% of the traffic across to them…..and this is what we do. If a few weeks later they don’t perform as well then we automatically migrate the traffic back to the winning solution.

So after going through this process, what constitutes a win for the new company? You can’t use revenue as the traffic will have varied for the domain and distort the result. The only measurement that you can use is the normalised RPM.

Remember, we discussed this in a previous article. A normalised RPM involves measuring exactly how much raw unfiltered traffic we have sent for a particular domain to a particular parking company. We then measure get the revenue generated from that traffic. For a domain, mathematically this looks like:

(revenue at a parking company) / (total traffic sent to the parking company) x 1000

This then means that for every domain we will typically have the normalised RPM for every monetisation solution at any point in time…..yes, that’s what we do. In fact, we collect around three hundred different metrics for every domain every single day.

So when we were assessing for a client whether the new companies were performing better we we’re not looking at the revenue. We are looking at the normalised RPM because this metric tells us if the grass is actually green or brown. Given the process we also know the colour of the grass for every solution at any point in time.

So let’s imagine you’re not with ParkLogic and you don’t have any baseline normalised RPMs. For many clients we typically integrate their current monetisation account into the system. They change the nameservers to ParkLogic and we then route 100% of the traffic back to their existing provider.

By going through this process there won’t be a drop in revenue and it allows us to establish a baseline normalised RPM that we can measure any new solutions against. We then test a portion of the traffic elsewhere to see if it will perform better at other solutions. The whole time we are keeping an eye on the normalised RPM. It isn’t long before we see an uplift in the overall revenue.

This is the proper way to conduct a traffic test as it provides definitive performance data that is accurate. I hate to say it but any other methodology will largely be guesswork which is likely to end up with a suboptimal result.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How to do a Domain Traffic Test - Assembling the Data

How to do a Domain Traffic Test - Assembling the Data

When I was speaking at NamesCon in January I said that I would like to show the attendees the best computer game I’ve ever played. It has all the aspects of both a tactical and strategic game with a bit of time travel for good measure. Everyone leaned forward with expectation…

I then put Excel up on the big screen in the room. It’s safe to say there was a bit of laughter. Let’s think about it for a second, Excel allows us to answer questions about the performance of our domains like no other application can. We can view the past, compare it to the present and even predict the future.

Right now we are going to mobilise the data that we have arrayed from the previous articles in the series so that we can understand what is happening with our domain traffic. This will be a VERY high level view of our traffic test but I believe that it will help get some answers to our questions.

The first thing we need to do is to ensure that all of the baseline data is in the same currency as the testing monetisation source. Once this is done then we then need to convert everything to daily data. The reason why we need daily data is that it gets rid of the problems associated with 28/30/31 days in a month and also allows us to later compare the data against daily from the new testing source.

Next, create another tab in Excel and call this “Latest Data”. When capturing data make sure that you have multiples of 7 days so that any variability caused by the weekends can be minimised. All of this data needs to be brought back to a daily format so that we can then compare it to the baseline.

Make sure you check the DNS settings of EVERY domain in the test so that domains not pointed correctly can be removed. There’s no point in penalising a test by having domains with baseline data and no data from the testing source.

Now create a tab called “Analysis”. In this tab you need to add you complete list of domains in column A, Column B, C and D are for the baseline views, revenue and RPM. Columns E, F and G are for the new monetisation company’s views, revenue and RPM.

Now that the data is sorted out you are now in a position to conduct some analysis.

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How to do a Domain Traffic Test – What are you measuring?

How to do a Domain Traffic Test – What are you measuring?

“What are you measuring” seems like an obvious question when you are conducting a traffic test with a new monetisation company. From experience, most people get the answer to this question completely wrong.

When you are running a traffic test you are NOT seeing if you can earn more money. This may sound strange but it’s the simple truth. What you should be actually measuring is the capabilities of the new company to optimise your traffic for a better result. More money (although important) is merely a by-product of the optimisation activity.

Escrow.com

For example, we recently had a client place their domains with ParkLogic for optimisation and as time went by we just couldn’t beat their numbers. In fact, it seemed that the more effort that we put into the optimisation the worse thing became.

It was at this time that I had an epiphany (ie. a brainwave!). It just so happened that the client provided their baseline data in Euros from back in August and we were being benchmarked against these numbers. Since the ParkLogic system uses $USD we dutifully converted the baseline data from Euros to $USD when we received it.

The below graph tells you the story of the relationship between the Euro and USD during this period of time. The Euro has fallen from $USD1.36, when we did the initial conversion for the baseline data, to $USD1.09 (bank rate). That was a fall of 25%!

Exchange Rate

So the fact that we were providing the client around a 5% uplift wasn’t the real result at all. The real result was 5% + 25% = 30%. To clearly show this we applied today’s exchange rate to the baseline data so that we could clearly measure our optimisation efforts and nullify the impact of the exchange rate.

Another example is we were optimising a domain portfolio and the results were absolutely stellar! In fact, we were beating the baseline data by about 250%. Naturally, the client was really happy with the results but something was annoying me about the numbers….

A quick comparison analysis showed that one domain was getting a number of clicks paying $80+ each. We removed the impact of this domain as we did not believe that it was sustainable and redid our analysis. The uplift was still around 135% but I was more comfortable with this number being sustainable.

In both these examples, only paying attention to the money earned column would cause you to completely miss the actually impact of the optimisation effort. It’s not just the data but interpreting the data that is critical to getting the most out of your domain portfolio.

Another simple example is when you have domains that are seasonal in nature that affect the result. These should be removed from any analysis to determine whether the new company is actually adding value. They have the potential to either inflate or deflate the numbers and cause you to come away with a completely incorrect picture of the new monetisation company.

I live a breath numbers all day every day and I would like to say that I’ve seen everything…..but I know that I haven’t. When measuring the impact of any change you must first of all have a clear baseline and then have a metric that you can actually use to measure the impact of that change. It’s the art combined with the science that produces results….and both are constantly evolving.

In a future article I will begin to unpack what metric is critical for determining whether a new monetisation company is performing or not.

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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. Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face.

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