Is Domain Parking Dead?

Monetisation is NOT dead!

In this blog I’m going to be a little like Rick Schwartz and have a rant. Many domain investors make the mistake of assuming that domain parking is dead and the only real business model is available to them is domains sales. Is domain parking dead? No, it’s not dead but for a growing number of investors it’s morphed into something a lot more sophisticated.

Escrow.com

One of the strengths and weaknesses of traditional domain parking is that behind all the smoke and mirrors lies Google. Google buys a lot of the domain traffic because they have a huge breadth of advertisers. If you have a website that is about "Norwegian Knitting" then it’s likely Google can put relevant advertisements on the page.

The weakness of traditional domain parking is that Google has manoeuvred itself into an unassailable position and has then exploited this position by continually reducing pay-outs. Domain investors shouldn’t be surprised by this behaviour as it’s economically rational in a world that is driven by quarterly earnings calls….so stop complaining and just get over it.

Notice what I said earlier…..Google buys a lot of the traffic. Just because Google is wanting to buy your traffic doesn’t mean you have to sell everything to them. It would be far more sensible to only sell to Google what Google is paying fairly for and then sell to other people what they want to pay more for.

What I've found is the majority of domainers are like a person selling a bucket full of oranges. The buyer (ie. Google) asks if you can throw in your car with the deal and with a grateful smile you say “yes”. In fact, it’s a bit worse than that. Domain investors are selling oranges and Google takes the car without asking because they believe they deserve it. Remember they still only paid orange prices for your car.

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Wolftalker
And 'wow, that's amazing', you've nudged me. So I'll be bringing in a bunch of new domains and I hope we can do something. Che... Read More
06 August 2018
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Domain Traffic Monetisation Continues to Grow

For those of you that listen to the naysayers and believe that monetising your domain traffic is dead then think again. The reason why domain traffic continues to be valuable is because advertisers want to reach potential customers.

Escrow.com

This demand for quality traffic has continued to increase while the volume of high value traffic has decreased as domains were dropped. Since the supply is diminishing and the demand increasing then the price paid for the traffic has gone UP over the last few years.

The question has to be asked, “If the price being paid by advertisers is going up then why are most domain investors experiencing a decline in their traffic based revenues?”

The answer is really simple. The advertising aggregators (of which Google is the largest) is taking a bigger slice of the pie. Ask yourself a really simple question, “How much of your earnings are exposed to Google?”

If the answer is “a lot” then don’t be surprised by the decline in your earnings. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Are you doing the same thing as you’ve always done?

So how do you get an improvement in your results? I like to think about this in a similar manner to the gold rush. Many years ago, a farmer stubbed their toe on a rock, only to discover the rock was a nugget of gold. This was like the first domain investors monetising their domain traffic. It was an awesome time of easy money!

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mgilmour
That is true. What Google does have is a breadth of advertisers. I think this competitive advantage will be eroded over time but i... Read More
30 May 2018
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Why Traffic Optimisation Provides Greater Revenue

We recently had a new client that does a significant amount of domain traffic revenue come across to ParkLogic (I'm a co-founder) for a test. They were previously with a single parking solution and I thought it would be interesting to share with you the results as a case study in why domain traffic optimisation works.

Escrow.com

After 6 days the overall results a 20% uplift in revenue…..which is quite a good given the short time frame. It's still early days for the optimisation process to kick in and effectively route the low traffic domains to the highest paying monetisation solution.

When you begin to unpack the data a little further an even better outcome is just on the horizon. For instance, for all those domains that have exhibited at least the same traffic levels as the previous month’s baseline the uplift in revenue has been 39%.

If we hand back to the client, the bottom 10 worst performing domains out of nearly 4,000 in the test then the results completely change. Overall, the performance is a 41.2% revenue uplift with a 75% increase in revenue for domains that had at least the same traffic as the baseline. This is a HUGE result where the revenue line has nearly doubled!

I wouldn't be surprised if the revenue line continues to increase over the next 6 weeks as the optimisation process hones in on the best performing solution. From that point onwards, optimisation will continue every second of every day.

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Part 3 - The EPC Opportunity

The formula outlined in the previous two articles on EPC looks a little scary but whether we like it or not it is THE formula upon which a huge amount of the domain investor community swings. Understanding how it can impact your business actually isn’t rocket science but requires a little intuition. Here is the EPC formula in its entirety.

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EPC Forumla

 

The formula now incorporates the advertisement clicks and also the Monetisation company filter in the denominator. What it does clearly show is the closer you can get to an advertiser the higher the payouts.....no surprises there! The goal is to effectively eliminate many of the margins on the top line and potentially remove one of the multipliers in the denominator.

There are two problems with managing direct advertising relationships:

1.      There’s a large hidden downside cost associated with the relationship management.

2.      Most domain owners don’t have the scale to attract the interest of the serious advertisers.

The one great thing about domain parking is that it’s scalable without scaling the direct cost base associated with matching the advertisers. The question is whether there is enough free margin available to offset the costs.

The rise of zero-click solutions is an attempt at getting closer to the advertiser in a unique manner. For those of you that are unaware, zero-click is where domain traffic is routed directly through to an advertiser’s web page and does not require a click. Behind the scenes there is a real-time auction process to determine whether the zero-click advertiser will pay more than a parking solution for the traffic….if they do, then they get the traffic.

Many of the zero click companies have moved away from working directly with domain owners because the domain owners do not have enough traffic to warrant working with them. The cost of doing business is just too high…..therefore domain owners are faced with working with traffic aggregators.

What needs to be appreciated is that as soon as you add zero click to the mix then you are effectively introducing yet another EPC. Remember that EPC is a measurement across a period of time (typically 1 day) while zero-click is an offer at a point in time. In terms of the stock market, this is comparing an average price versus a spot price….the two don’t mix.

Let’s take a look at an example that will hopefully provide further insight into the challenges of zero-click. Remember the example of EPC we used in article two in this series? The EPC was made from six clicks each of $10, $10, $5, $5, $1 and $1. The final average EPC result for the day came to a value of $5.33. You don’t know the individual values that made up the $5.33 you ONLY know the $5.33.

Let’s imagine a zero-click solution offered $6 for the traffic? Since it’s more than $5.33 then it looks great! Wrong! Zero-click solutions are smart and only want the pristine traffic. They can often accept the traffic that you were previously getting paid $10 for and now pay you $6. Your average EPC for the day has now dropped to $4……which is lower than you received previously.

Correctly setting up a zero-click initially solution sounds trivial but it actually isn’t. There must be a dynamic swinging of the real-time auction process to ensure each piece of traffic receives its full value. This can get really complicated really quickly!

I hope this series of articles helps domain investors in their understanding of one of the very much taken for granted metrics that are bandied around. EPC isn’t as simple as can initially be thought about and yet coming to grips with its intricacies can pay significant dividends. If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Greenberg and Lieberman

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vanclute
and this is why I work with ParkLogic.
25 November 2016
mgilmour
LOL and thank you for your kind comment. :-)
25 November 2016
vanclute
It was made with all sincerity! Trying to manage my own advertiser relationships was an area of absolute disaster for me as a tra... Read More
25 November 2016
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Part 2 - Understanding EPC

This is the second article in the series that unpacks Earnings Per Click (EPC). Click here if you wish to reach Part 1. The previous article covered the basics in how EPC is calculated while this one goes in depth into what actually lays at the heart of EPC.

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So now we have an approximation for the EPC and the formula will look like.

EPC = (Total Revenue Over a Period of Time)  /  (No. Clicks x Parking Company Filter)

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This is great but we have forgotten the other side of the whole equation. An Earnings Per Click for the domain owner is a Cost Per Click (CPC) for the advertiser. How much they will pay for each click will be dependent upon their business models and ultimately conversion rates.

If I’m an advertiser and I need 10 clicks at $1 each to make a sale and I make $20 for every sale, then I’m happily making money. But if the online auction for the traffic increases to $2 per click then my advertising is costing $20 and I’m making $0.

In a perfect world where everyone has the identical conversion rate, the advertiser with the lowest cost base will ultimately be able to outbid their competitors. It just so happens that we don’t live in a perfect world and many advertisers have widely varying margins that they can expend upon buying traffic.

Assuming economically rational advertisers (they aren’t always) we can then simplify what an advertiser is willing to pay for a click down to the following equation:

p=  Am  S  C

Where:

p= maximum price per click

Am = Advertiser gross margin on the goods/service being sold

S = total value of the sale

C = Conversion rate (0 to 100%)

What this formula suggests is that in market verticals with large margins the EPC should trend higher. We see this as domain investors know the “Sale Value” of a mortgage lead is much higher than a computer games lead, so the EPC for mortgage traffic is much more valuable. Remember we are talking about EPC rates and not revenue at this stage…..revenue will also depend upon the click through rate.

By adding the conversion rate into the equation, we can clearly see why Google wants conversions to be as high as possible. The higher the conversion rate, the higher an advertiser can bid for traffic. I read in a forum recently that Google doesn’t care about the conversion rate…..this formula debunks that theory and provides an economic rational why Google wants higher conversions.

Ideally for a domain investor we want high traffic domains in market verticals that have big margins and large sale prices. Sadly, these are few and far between…

So we now know what an advertiser is willing to pay for a click but what’s our percentage? If we were to simplify the whole advertising auction system, then the formula for revenue now looks like the scary one below.

EPC forumla

Where:

p= Price advertisers pay per click
f(p)= p x Advertising clicks
G= Google margin
Mg = Additional Google tier margin
T = Tag smart pricing
M= Monetisation company margin

What does this complicated equation actually mean? Once you get past the sigma notation (ie. Sum) you have a function which is essentially what an advertiser pays for a click multiplied by the number of clicks.

The (1 – G) is the Google margin and the “T” is some “smart pricing” factor that is applied to the tag that your particular account at a parking provider happens to be on. The (1 + Mg) is the increase in margin due to the Google tiers that a particular parking company may be on….this typically has a very small impact on the results. The (1 – M) is the margin taken by the parking provider. This will then become the numerator for the EPC equation.

The sigma or sum just means sum all of the revenue earned for all of the values of "p" for the function f(p). In other words, just add up all of the revenue. So let's move on.....

The denominator (ie. Number of clicks) is different to the advertising clicks. This is where it can get a little tricky. An advertiser may still pay for a click but it is still not registered as a click in a parking company interface due to their filters. By rights, the revenue should still flow through (fingers crossed) but the clicks may not.

The question domain investors should ask is what can they influence in the equation? Assuming Google has the targeting right (they don’t always) then there isn’t that much at a single parking provider. If you’re big enough you can squeeze parking company margins but other than that an individual domain owner typically neither has the scale nor the technology to take advantage of other optimisation solutions. Don’t worry…..there is light at the end of the tunnel.

A few things should be said…..given the volatility of the domain parking market the parking companies do not have any spare margin to hand around to domain owners. In other words, there isn’t some secret slush fund that any of them have. If this were the case, then it would come out and as soon as they paid out with the slush fund it would be soaked up as domain owners migrate their traffic across to them. It’s the market at work….

On a personal note, as one of the founders of ParkLogic I've found that getting underneath the mathematics really provides dividends for clients. Understanding the maths and coming to grips with the fact that its constantly changing ís one of the reasons why large domain investors utilise our service.

In the next article I will go through the opportunities and pitfalls that understanding EPC presents for domain investors.

Greenberg and Lieberman

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