NamesCon 2020 - Traffic Monetisation

The history and benefits of domain traffic monetization.

This is the second in a three part video series that covers the keynote address I conducted at NamesCon 2020, Austin Texas. The first video addresses the domain sales business model and can be viewed via the below link:

NamesCon 2020 - Domain sales

This video covers the history of domain monetisation and the major technological innovations that have underpinned the entire business model. It then unpacks case studies to determine how this innovation has impacted the bottom line for professional domain investors.

Of all of the videos that I've made over the years this three part series is the most important. It dives into the heart of what it means to be a domain investor and then extracts key metrics that every domain investor should be aware as they manage their own portfolio.

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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.

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 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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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.

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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Recent Comments
Guest — Prisons
If Google is becoming less relevant than maybe soon we will be able to actively market our domain names to the benefit of advertis... Read More
30 May 2018
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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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.

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 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.


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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Recent Comments
Guest — Carl Edgar
Parking companies tend to raise the threshold at which payment is made (raising a $50 threshold to $100, for example). at the same... Read More
01 November 2016
I agree.....we take that responsibility on at ParkLogic and aggregate all payments into a central single monthly payment. This is ... Read More
01 November 2016
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Part 5 - Portfolio Optimisation - Traffic Domains

So far we’ve touched on a number of aspects of building a domain into a solid business. Obviously we could spend years on that topic but what I would like to do is move onto the second segment in our portfolio optimisation – traffic domains.

Many people believe that generating revenue from domain traffic is dead and buried…..nothing could be further from the truth. The real issue is to assess what you are doing now which is different to what you were doing in the past. If you keep on doing the same thing as you’ve always done, then don’t expect your revenue line to increase.

Increasing your revenue from traffic has moved on a long way since the humble days of putting all of your domains with one parking company and then collecting a cheque. As one of the founders of ParkLogic, we’ve been optimising domain traffic for clients for nearly a decade and the sophistications of the real-time algorithms for routing traffic has grown considerably.

Let me say from the outset that optimising domain traffic is not a trivial exercise and has moved a long way from making decisions via a spreadsheet. To extract the full value out of your domain traffic routing decisions must be made on a real-time basis. If they aren’t then you are making sub-optimal decisions and leaving money on the table.

There are a number of ramifications to real-time traffic switching. Like any industry, the traffic side of the domain industry has evolved into two camps. Those that outsource their traffic optimisation and those that try to do it themselves.

Even if you have the expertise and the knowledge to be constantly working away at systems you would have to be crazy to invest in building your own traffic optimisation platform. Rather than managing a simple agreement you’ve now taken on the responsibility for an entire technology ecosystem that has real costs associated with it. The opportunity cost and distraction of managing such a platform is considerable.

For example, as many of you know, I’m a fan of the CRM platform, SalesForce. A major reason for this is I know that every single day I have literally thousands of developers working on my behalf to improve and maintain a platform I use extensively. The marginal cost I pay out each month is inconsequential compared to if I decided to build my own CRM. I’m getting a growing benefit for no additional effort or allocation of resources.

Likewise, by completely outsourcing your domain traffic optimisation you are getting a platform and a team that is constantly thinking about how to improve your results for you each and every day. I can’t speak for any other companies but I know that the number one issue for us is how to increase a client’s revenue from their traffic.

When you outsource your traffic revenue you need to be confident the company is doing the best job possible at every instant in getting the most from your traffic. More than that, they need to be able to prove it. This means that there needs to be real people, doing real work on your behalf that you can reach out to if you have any questions.

In the next article on traffic optimisation I'm going to dive into some compelling  numbers from a sample portfolio that prove the benefit of routing traffic to maximise revenue. For the first time ever I made the decision to expose some of our numbers in a presentation that I made at the recent Domaining Europe conference.

Over the years, many people have said to me that it really doesn’t make a difference what parking company you use as long as they have Google as their backend. The data in the next article proves that this assumption is false.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Jeff Schneider
Hello Michael, We agree with your statement = ( "Many people believe that generating revenue from domain traffic is dead and burie... Read More
22 July 2016
Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment Jeff. The key factor with genuine domain traffic is that it's valuable because ... Read More
29 July 2016
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