I was having a really interesting discussion with a domain investor recently about why domain traffic appears to be reducing for some domains. What we first need to understand is not all domain traffic is equal. In this article, I’m going to attempt to unpack some of the reasons why domains experience losses/gains in traffic.
For a start, other than arbitrage traffic, there are two main types of traffic:
1. Link traffic
2. Direct navigation
Link traffic is generated from one website linking to another. For instance, I may value a particular article on Domain Name Wire and link to it from here. As an aside, Andrew Allemann (owner of dnw.com) has been doing a fantastic job for many years reporting on domain news and I highly recommend his website (no, he didn’t request this shout-out).
I will continue to link to Domain Name Wire as long as the article remains in place. Let’s imagine that Andrew decides to stop writing news and instead parks his website. At some point in time I’m going to remove my link to his website and any traffic that was flowing from whizzbangsblog to DNW will cease.
The problem with link based traffic is that over time more and more of the links are moved away from pointing to parked domain names. Any domains that are reliant upon a single high traffic domain are very risky investments as that link may be shut off and the traffic suddenly vanishes.
Direct navigation was first coined many years ago by Dan Warner of Fabulous and this traffic is when a user types directly into the address bar to reach a domain.
Interestingly, there has been a real assault by the search engine companies, computer manufacturers and operating system developers to try and discourage users from typing directly into the address bar. To date, the will of the users has reigned preeminent and the address bar still stands in the same place it did twenty years ago…..although it is somewhat smarter.
High value domains such as beds.com will always attract users but the vast majority of traffic domains are typos of a root domain. For example, bds.com is likely to get quite a lot of traffic spilling over from beds.com. In addition, some people accidentally link to a typo domain rather than the core root domain the meant to.
Most domain investors are more than aware of both the ups and downs of linked and direct navigation traffic but what else can cause traffic to ebb and flow?
Traffic is really all about people trying to get somewhere. So the question has to be asked, what made them have this desire?
Some domains have traffic that flows with the seasons. For example, I would imagine that sales of surf boards in the northern hemisphere wouldn’t be very high right now in the middle of winter.
There are more than just the seasons to think about with seasonality. It could be national holidays. Thanksgivings domains rise in traffic in November…..but only in North America. Easter is a broader holiday that has a more international appeal while Father’s Day in Australia is celebrated in September.
Some domains also may have a unique seasonality. For example, I had a domain that only spiked on a couple of days a year. It related to the world-wide celebration of the mathematical symbol pi and within those days I made thousands of dollars. Yes, I couldn’t believe such an event existed either.
If the root domain has an advertising campaign, then more traffic will flow through to it and any typos of that domain. Marketing managers are always after eyeballs and as well as bidding up keyword values they will at times artificially inflate other domains traffic levels.
Since marketers aren’t stupid, a logical reaction to a competitors marketing campaign may to run one yourself. Therefore, there may be a sudden surge in traffic for an entire industry and any domains associated with it.
Never underestimate the power of news coverage to drive traffic to domains. Many domain owners make a good living by paying attention to the news, registering domains and quickly reaping the benefits of the traffic.
It really makes you wonder whether it’s worthwhile trying to generate some news for a group of domains that you may control….maybe issue a press release or two on a root domain you may own and reap the benefit off the typos.
A huge number of forces are constantly buffeting domain traffic and that’s what makes it so interesting to analyse. With Christmas almost upon us we can see marketers demanding more and more traffic to help them meet this quarters targets.
So is domain traffic reducing? I would like to answer this with a yes and a no. Not really as much of the decline in traffic from western nations is being replaced by third world countries.
The challenge here is many of these countries are dependent upon cash as a medium of exchange rather than credit cards. Why is this important? With credit cards, online marketers can complete the revenue cycle from buying advertising right through to a purchase on their website. Even still, nearly 50% of Google’s advertising income comes from international sources.
When you look at your own domains traffic rise and fall then consider you may want to dig into why this is occurring. It’s unlikely to have anything to do with a technical fault at a parking provider and more than likely its some other force at work. Rather that trying to dig into the whys and why nots my suggestion is to spend your time finding more domains with traffic.