Part 2 - A History of RPM

This is the second in the series on "The History of RPM" and refers to the forumula discussed in Part 1.

RPM formula

Please click on the below link to view Part 1 of a History of RPM:
Part 1 - A History of RPM

Escrow.com

A number of years ago, one domain parking company (Domain Sponsor) controlled a HUGE volume of traffic and ruled the industry. Using their market power, they began to dictate terms to Google. Although I wasn’t privy to internal discussions, I could view Google’s response from an external perspective.

Since a contract was in place Mg was VERY HIGH and Google was bound to pay a bonus for what they previously thought would be impossible high traffic levels. This created a virtuous spiral for Domain Sponsor. As payments increased, they sucked in more traffic, climbed the tiers and they then increased payments further etc…..well, you get the idea.

What did Google do? They shattered the market by issuing a whole lot of new contracts (eg. Parking Crew, Internet Traffic, Voodoo etc) and wrote contracts that provided sunrise clauses to new players, so the traffic was sucked out of Domain Sponsor and the tail was no longer wagging the dog. They then rewrote the contracts with shorter terms and different values for Mg.

For those of you that are familiar with Domain Sponsor you will also know that it no longer exists. This could be blamed on a whole variety of reasons from bad management and VC driven outcomes through to Google but the fact remains that the once king of the domain industry was dethroned and ground into the dust.

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Part 1 - A History of RPM

Getting a fuller understanding of RPM

In this series of articles, I plan on sharing my insights into RPM and how this metric has impacted all our lives in the domain industry over the last decade. I hope you enjoy the articles as much as I have writing them.

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For those of you that are unaware, RPM means Revenue Per Thousand Visitors. I find that very few people understand how this universally accepted measurement term is calculated and how it can vary from one provider to another. During the following articles I will be referring to how RPM has shaped the history of the domain industry….

Most people would be aware of the formula for a domain’s RPM looks like the one below:

Simplistic RPM formula

This looks simple enough until you begin to dig into it. The reality is that a sustainable market RPM formula it looks something more akin to the following:

Extended RPM Formula

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joezeppy
Hi Mike, You're a show off but I mean this in the most positive way. I love this stuff. LOL
24 September 2019
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Why is Domain Traffic Still So Valuable?

Domain Traffic is like gold.

For many years people have been making proclamations that the domain monetisation industry is dead and yet….it’s still with us. There is a really simple reason why a number of individuals have been so successful in the domain monetisation industry. Domain traffic is valuable because it converts like no other source of traffic available to advertisers.

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Yes, it’s that simple. Quality direct navigation is like 24 caret gold for advertisers that care to investigate what traffic sources are actually generating their profits.

When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious. If a person goes to beds.com guess what? They want to buy a bed! This gold standard of traffic is what also contributes to driving up the price of high end premium domains.

Many years ago, I read a report released by Google that outlined how domain traffic converted better than search traffic. Not surprisingly, the report quickly vanished…. Everything comes back to advertisers…..and guess what, they want this traffic and they want it bad!

Given domain traffic is so valuable, why is it that many domain investors have been experiencing a decline in their traffic revenues? Once again the answer is simple…..if you depend 100% upon Google to provide you with your revenue then don’t be surprised if they reduce payouts.

I’ve seen domain investors get all upset about their revenue declining but do nothing about it. Go figure? The domain traffic IS valuable but someone else is just taking your lion’s share. What’s the point in getting angry with Google and then doing nothing?

The Google domain management team is doing EXACTLY what they should be doing….maximising Google’s profits. They are not interested in maximising your profits. In fact, if any of them weren’t putting Google first then they would be fired…..

So the question I would like to leave you with is also simple, “Given domain traffic is so valuable shouldn’t you take charge of your own profit line?”

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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.

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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.

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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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Critical Insights Into the Domain Industry - Part 2

This article continues directly from Part 1 in the series "Critical Insights Into the Domain Industry"

Google’s response to the aggregation of traffic by parking companies was to instantly grant a number of additional domain feeds to new parking companies. Some of these feeds had a honeymoon clause that allowed them to have a competitive advantage versus the larger incumbents. Many domain investors flocked to these new companies as they were seen as their salvation to paying renewal fees. This instantly re-fragmented the marketplace.

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Now that the market was split up again, Google instituted DRID’s (Domain Registrant ID) to reduce fraud (this was a good move IMHO) and CAF (Custom Ad Frame). CAF is where Google controls everything on the lander for a parked page.

Personally, I think that this overall strategy was a really clever part on Google. It allowed them to decrease PPC rates and completely control the entire domain channel without the threat of a wounded Yahoo stepping up to the plate. Some people get really upset by Google’s behaviour. What domain investors need to understand is that Google is obligated to behave in such a fashion on behalf of their shareholders.

In fact, if you look at the Google TAC (Traffic Acquisition Costs) graph over the last years you can see the TAC in a constant decline as Google buys traffic at cheaper and cheaper rates. The domain channel is but one part of the overall TAC number....sadly, this is not broken out as a separate number. It would appear that the TAC is now at the point where tier 2 players are a serious contender for the traffic. This has really made zero click a feasible option for domain traffic. The challenge for individual domain investors is to actually take advantage of this...

TAC

 

So let’s get back to the story. So who bought the domains being sold by investors and how did they buy them? Many of the buyers of the traffic domains did so with debt or investor backed money raised just before the financial crash. Post the GFC this became problematic as:

1.            Promised investor returns weren’t realised.
2.            Debt payments couldn’t be funded.

A number of funds that raised a lot of money found themselves in the awkward situation of dealing with boards that were screaming for results. Here’s what’s interesting. In the past it was good enough to buy a domain and get phenomenal returns from the traffic but now things were different. A different set of skills were required to extract every bit of value from the domain traffic.

A good way of thinking about the problem is like this. Previously you could bend down and pick up a nugget of gold while now you need to drill three miles deep and run a shaft two miles horizontally to find the seams of gold in the traffic. The gold is still there but it just takes more effort to get it out.

The individuals and companies that raised cash to acquire domains now needed a different set of skills to extract the value. For most companies the individuals have skills to find domains, do deals and do basic monetisation. Very few, to none of them had the skills necessary to extract every dollar out of the traffic.

The problem then became one of ego. For the years before the GFC many of the individuals that had established these domain funds had been lauded as geniuses. They were partying like there was no tomorrow and almost overnight they were completely out of their depth. Picking gold up off the ground is very different from driving shafts into the bedrock.

I remember being in a meeting with one such fund where my company, ParkLogic, had increased the revenue by 32% (versus a direct Google feed). The company refused to admit that this was possible and turned their back on the additional revenue. It turned out that there was massive political infighting and egos were being threatened because they didn’t have the skills to produce the same results. Lesson learned, it’s always easier to deny the facts then to admit you’re wrong.

These same portfolios are now being broken up into pieces as investors (and debtors) endeavour to get some of their money back. Domains that were purchased for 40+ months revenue are now being sold for 12-18 months.

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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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