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July 02, 2007

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John K

Here's an example - the top keywords driving traffic to weather.com (from Hitwise):

weather
weather.com
weather channel
www.weather.com
the weather channel
weatherchannel.com
weather forecast
weather channel.com
weatherchannel
local weather
www.weatherchannel.com
weather.com.
weather report
the weather channel.com
twc
www.theweatherchannel.com
weather forcast
theweatherchannel.com
weather 07083
national weather
wheather

I think that's 8 out of 19 with a "." in them.

ebay motors top 20:

ebay
ebay motors
ebay.com
ebaymotors
www.ebay.com
ebaymotors.com
ebay motors.com
www.ebaymotors.com
e-bay
e bay
e-bay motors
ebay cars
ebay motor
s10 on ebay
answer motocross jacket
ebay motorcycles
ebay auto
verastar
myspace.com
www.ebay

I think myspace is an anomaly, but there a lot of brand searches / domain type ins going through the search engines, obviously.


Sumbini

Great post Frank!

Excellent points on how the search engine industry is "validating" its services to its more naive and "newbie" potential customers!

Rob Chandler

Robert Rosenfeld

> Perhaps one day I will visit 'Search Engine Land' (the website) and read a less cautious...


Mmmh... I don't see this happening. "Search" people have an inherent distate for domaining and will likely see this in a low light for the forseeable future in spite of Marchex trying to raise the bar. I am even suspicious of the real intent of showcasing "domains" in forums like webmasterworld as it is obvious from reading what oldtimers say, that "search" opposes "domains". And to some extent this is real: domains eat "searches" lunches even if the conflict is not clear cut.

Searchengineland adepts as well as webmasterworlders are all for "search engine love" which equates to development. Parked pages are the ultimate insult to them. Too bad beauty is in the eyes of the moneyholder, err... beholder, that is.

Danny Sullivan

Gosh, where to begin :)

First, the article was a column -- so when you read into it some "Search Engine Land" identity, that would be better read as what the particular author had to say. Columns tend to be more opinionated or of a frame of mind for any publication than a publication itself. Not that I'm upset with the column in anyway -- not at all -- but it's important to make the column versus publication distinction.

In terms of this post, I'm kind of confused as to why you would have a problem with the column being cautious. I thought Chris did a pretty good job talking about the difficulty in getting good hard stats on what type of traffic domaining drives. The Visual Sciences stats he posted about that some domainers seem to depend on, I added a comment explaining the issue that "direct navigation" as people who go directly to sites they know is a much different thing that the traditional domaining behavior of I'll guess at some words and slap on a .com.

I agree -- and I think Chris did as well -- that there's plenty of traffic that seems to be coming in if only from the amount of revenue that Google and Yahoo are getting.

In terms of quality of traffic, anecdotally this varies. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that someone who stumbles upon a site they think is the IRS is going to convert that well because they stumbled upon a domaining site by mistake. However, in other cases, people will exhibit a need-driven navigation request (I need a used car -- let me try used-cars.com -- hey, relevant ads!) and convert well.

When you say they've qualified the "brand they seek," let's be clear that this generally isn't the case. If I know a brand (say Apple), and I go to Apple.com -- that's direct navigation, but no domainer benefits. If I make a mistake and go to Aaaple.com and get ads for Apple -- yeah, I qualified the brand I wanted, but it was also a typo domain that neither Google or Yahoo should allow. Domainers typically are not, to my understanding, cashing in on brand names (at least not publicly, not if they don't want to be locked out of Yahoo and Google). They are cashing in instead by getting very good generic names.

And there's nothing wrong with that. If you're smart enough, good enough or whatever to have gotten a great generic name, why shouldn't you cash in if you put relevant ads on it. You've got some people upset that these sites might pollute search results, but it's relatively rare that you crash into a domaining site powered by ads in top results. Instead, these sites earn by people going to them directly. And if you've gone their directly, as you said, you may well be qualified.

For me personally, with domaining, I generally only have three things I dislike:

First, the idea of tasting. It just feels unfair that you've got people who've established a way to find out what works and have a free ride for testing. But I can't blame the domainers for that. If that's the way the system works, and they're smart enough to work it, there's some admiration.

Second, typo domains. Frankly, if you're making money off a typo of someone else's domain, I'd love to see either the domain yanked out from under you or the ads cutoff. Generics? Have a ball.

Third, that you can't buy domain traffic separately. Contextual ads initially came under fire as being sucky because they did not convert as well as search. No surprise -- contextual ads are completely different from search. They should be sold in a separate marketplace. Domain traffic is also not search, not contextual but it's own thing. It should be something that people can buy as an independent channel.

Therein lies the problem you might have with domaining not getting the respect you seek. You want respect, you don't end up being sold as non-opt out traffic riding on the coattails of search. If you want non-Google network search traffic, you have to get domain traffic shoved down your through. You cannot opt-out. Opt out of contextual does not opt-out of people who also do searching on domaining sites.

As a result, you've got search marketers who can't distinguish the two types of traffic nor then measure if domaining is better than they might expect. In addition, it already has, as I've explained, a taint of something not good enough to be sold on its own. Want to fix the problem? Go lobby Google to stand up for your traffic and show it the respect it deserves rather than shoving it into a dark corner and looking all embarrassed when people ask about it.

Finally, to come back to your fairy land tale -- nope, I fully well understand not all things begin with the search box. Go back to the article, see my comment, and you can see how years ago before domaining was even discussed I was already clarifying that search is responsible for the minority of traffic a site will generally receive. Parked pages are not an insult to me -- in particular because, as I explained, I know they aren't even competitive in search results. They get their traffic primarily from an audience that is not searching.

Marchex might be different in terms of ranking well -- but hey, you well know what Marchex is doing is well beyond the slap Google AdSense For Domains on the site and walk away. They're really working to put up some content that isn't just making these domains parked. And that, dare I say, is search marketing, if they manage to make that content pull in search traffic in addition to type-in traffic.


***FS*** Thanks for your comment Danny.. The article was run on "Search Engine Land" hence my comment. If it was run in "Time Magazine" I would have said 'get with the times' or some other funny turn of phrase ;) .. not trying to be overly hard on SELand just the tenor of the piece struck me as 'so' cautious and written with such trepidation that I had to point it out. I'm not married to the things you dislike about domaining.. but those trademark typos do convert to sales when targeted.. you'd be surprised. There are good and bad folks in every industry and some target trademarks.. the secret I was pointing out is that TM typo traffic, actually converts for advertisers. The article incorrectly intimates that typos camouflage traffic that doesn't convert.. its the other way around. I have heard it from advertisers and those running the marketplaces. That doesn't make it right, nor should it make us want to run out and register tm typos. You should be careful what you wish for with typos. If typos stopped, flickr.com would never have gotten that name.. You could argue that the founders of that photo sharing service decided to capitalize on the organic traffic of people typing flicker.com (the correct spelling) then grew a business after that because they were unwilling/able to buy the correct spelling. I don't think web2.0 co's should be precluded from buying a misspelling that they can brand, nor do I think any other domain registrant should be denied that opportunity.. I agree that deliberate tm typos are something that should go away.. and probably will over time.

I think the biggest take away for me is: "a lot of stuff relating to domains and type-in traffic that seems 'hard to believe' for folks on the SE side of the fence (whether it's the conversion rate of type-in traffic or the propensity for people to search and navigate in their address bar) is more or less accepted as 'a fact' by folks on the domain side." Said fact born out by years of experience and cashflow.

Folks on the domain-side also ask themselves why the keyword marketplaces don't seperate out "domain traffic". The answer on this side is generally the opposite of those on the Search Engine side. Folks here beleve that nobody wants to shine the light of truth on where the real conversions come from. Many many domain names.

Stephen Douglas

SEO and domain names should actually be kissing cousins. Why they aren't may fall on the choices of the SEO community. They put a lot of work into their theories of how to push a website to the magical top 10 SE results, and they're very proud of their acheivements in this area. However, not every website can achieve this status, so SEO crews need to set aside their subtle envy of domainers and start incorporating partnerships that forge strong branding and traffic positions from both camps. The holiday dinners are never as exciting without the odd cousins in attendance. Remember that poignant refrain from the past, of someone unfairly beaten on camera, "Can't we all just get along?"

"Be Zen"

Stephen Douglas
Executive Producer
Domain Roundtable Conference
NameIntelligence.com

Norbert Mayer-Wittmann

I have been listening to Mr. Sullivan's mp3-casts for some time now. I also used to read what he wrote - SEO and all that jazz (but that was in the *last* millenium).

I am sorry to say that nowadays, the stuff that Mr. Sullivan "professes" is rather "old-school", "dated", no longer all that fresh, etc. It's till fun to listen to him make horrible jokes and laugh at them all by himself (I do the same ;). But a lot of this "literature" stuff is kind of dime-store stuff and/or more along the lines of some sort of literary agency and/or PR services.

I think there are two possible explanations:

1. Mr. Sullivan has been "eating his own dog food" for too long;

2. Mr. Sullivan doesn't get out in the fresh air enough.

The second may sound similar to the first, but look at it this way: you can roam from one cave to another another and thereby constantly change your setting but still not ever be exposed to direct sunlight.

With respect to spreading folklore and/or myths, I would say that something like that would probably come back to haunt whoever might be involved in it. At any rate, the bible did not remain "all of the books" (as the name "bible" implies) forever -- likewise, the Internet will not somehow remain limited to whatever isn't listed on some sort of papal index (that's like *so* 2.01 !! ;).

Will there be another crash? Sure! Why wouldn't there be. That will shake out alot of the nonsense. Do I think Books.COM will go under? That's easy: NO.

:) nmw

Miguel

Great post Frank,

I get more traffic from bookmarks and link exchanges from other sites then I even begin to get from the search engine although I have some sites that get more traffic from search engines then any other place this is not the case on the majority of my sites. this is just my experience

at any rate awesome post

Jimmy

Kissing cousins indeed: search and parking. Ultimately they give the same results. After all, when searching in engines, how many times does one have to click to get to the info you need? In fact, I often find the link results in parked domains more accurate than in engines. Which is odd when considering they more often than not are generated from the same source. I suspect that the algorithms are better suited to displays with fewer results. Almost as if those many engine servers out there are struggling a bit. Anyhow, I've recently parked many of my domains instead of going through the tedious SEO experience. At the end of the day I guess the choice between SEO and parking lies in the strategy one has for your domain properties.

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