Domain Name Type-Ins Top Search Traffic

When it comes to getting people to your web site, you’ve probably relied on search engine optimization as the Holy Grail. No doubt, search engines are the number one way people find web sites. But “guessing a URL” (otherwise known as direct navigation) may be tied as the most popular way people find web sites, according to a recent study by Internet marketing powerhouse DoubleClick and data from WebSideStory’s StatMarket, makers of the popular HitBox tracking service.

Ways Web Sites Are Found StatMarket (2/3/03) DoubleClick (3/03)
Direct Navigation/
Guessed URL
64.43% 28%
Search Engines 35.55% 41%

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DoubleClick and Grey Interactive asked “how users find web sites they use to research a purchase”. StatMarket defines “direct navigation” as typing a URL into the address bar or using bookmarks while “search engines” may include finding a site through a search engine, banner ad or other links. According to StatMarket, the trend is towards direct navigation, as this method has grown in popularity from 48.2 percent in 2001 to 64.43 percent in 2003.

In addition, if you’re in the automotive or entertainment business, people find websites through direct navigation or guessing the URL more often than through a search engine or any other method (DoubleClick, 2003).

Compared to Search Engines
A strategically crafted domain name strategy can reward you with a very low cost traffic source. After all, you pay one annual fee for each domain name regardless of how much traffic it generates. Many search engines charge by the click. And with domain names, you have no competition for the top spot, need to optimize listings or even getting listed – you own the name, so all traffic to that name is your captive audience. And if your domain name generates quality traffic that brings in sales or leads, the renewal price of the domain name doesn’t change. Whereas with quality keyword positions in a search engine, prices can go sky high – up to $42 per click in some cases. A good domain name is the gift that keeps on giving.

Crafting a Domain Name Traffic Strategy
Regardless of how the numbers and methodologies pair up, it appears that having a good domain name may no longer enough. Even more, having one domain name may no longer enough.

Aside from your own primary web site domain name, purchase your primary keywords as domain names (if available). Then check your web site referrer stats or logs to find other keywords that people might use to find your site – purchase those keywords as domain names. While most of us have budgets, limit any domain purchases to “.com”, as this is the most common extension users will type into a browser when “guessing a URL.” If your budget permits, there are more opportunities beyond this core of domains.

Identify any industry terms, product terms or names, product categories, or any other keywords that relate to your product that people might use to find your site. Wordtracker is an excellent source for culling through frequently used search terms. Take all of your terms and brainstorm possible misspellings or typos and buy those domains. Some software products like MisspelledDomains can do this for you. Finally, and of least importance, if your budget permits, purchase additional domain extensions. There are hundreds of extensions to choose from, but the most popular non-com extensions are net, org, us, info and biz.

Point, Track & Optimize
To activate your domain name, simply redirect the domain name to a targeted splash page, relevant product page or your home page. Redirecting can usually be configured at the domain name registrar you purchased the names. DirectNIC is my choice, making domain redirects an easy task.

For more advanced marketers, you may want to track your results and optimize the campaign with something like HitBox or HyperTracker (if your current tracking solution does not provide the needed data). Simply configure a unique campaign for each domain name, with the campaign pointing to your splash or home page. Ensure your domain name is redirected at the registrar to the special URL provided by the tracking service. Optionally, you can create unique splash pages for each campaign, perhaps selling a product, then track the success of each domain at converting visitors to buyers.

After everything is set up, wait. Traffic will start to flow. If you are tracking sales or conversions through a special splash page, you can optimize this as soon as you see valid results. Simply create new slash pages or redirect domains to other destinations. After your domain registration period ends (usually a year), review each domain name to determine its overall return relative to your other domains, then decide whether you should renew.

© 2003
Keith Pieper is moderator of the I-Domain Discussion List and President of a domain name creation, appraisal and brokerage service in Boulder, CO.

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Search Engine Veteran - Enterprise SEO & Small Business Entrepreneurs. Advisor to startups for pre-launch optimization SEO Audits & consulting.