Search Engines Making Millions Off Type-In Traffic From Domains

Masters of their Domains is a great article from Business 2.0 that WebmasterRadio's Monte Cahn of the Domain Masters show turned me onto before the New Year. It goes into great depth about the sheer amount of money that "type in" traffic is generating for those who own hot domain names. That money is coming from players like Yahoo and Google -- who you might recall got some fire from me for not allowing advertiser to opt-out of domain-generated traffic.

For the record, I do have follow up calls being set up with Yahoo and Google to talk more about that situation, so I'll come back to it in more depth with their views. Google AdSense For Domains Program Overdue For Reform -- And Yahoo & Microsoft Should Also Take Note is my past article on the topic.

Monte sent me the article, but I only finally got to reading it today in the post-holiday digout after Barry pointed out a WebmasterWorld debate spurred by it. Some folks are upset over the sheer amount of money "domainers" are making, especially when it seems some may not be following the various ad program rules and advertisers themselves can't opt out.

AdSense For Domains Garbage Traffic is our own, earlier Search Engine Watch Forums thread where people are getting just as heated. It also covers that while officially you can't automatically opt-out of domain-driven traffic if you buy search-targeted traffic, some have managed to gain exceptions.

One of the most gripping aspects of the Business 2.0 story comes at the end:

In the meantime, Google and Yahoo are trying to keep the type-in business coming--and execs from both companies are using the Delray Beach conference to court the folks who control it. As the party at Delux winds down, 14 Yahoo executives pile into a stretch Hummer with a few of the domainers, including Schilling, who has an exclusive contract in which Yahoo serves all the ads for his sites. The limo heads 35 miles south on Interstate 95 to Scarlett's Gentlemen's Club. The men kick back in the VIP section, outfitted with plush booths and red velvet curtains.

When the woman in charge of the area comes by and mentions the cost of the booths, the Yahoo crew gets nervous. And in the end, no one wants to submit the $1,000 tab to the expense department back at headquarters. Finally, Schilling pulls out a roll of cash and pays up. Not a big deal for a guy who owns a share of a jet. But considering that Schilling's traffic generated more than 1 percent of Yahoo's $3.6 billion in revenues last year, you'd think one of those guys could have stood up and taken one for the team.

That all happened at the Traffic domain conference last year, an invite only event. Next one happens at the end of this month in Silicon Valley.

Elsewhere in the story, one Yahoo exec is cited as saying type in traffic may make up 15 percent of search revenue. It's no wonder both Google and Yahoo haven't made it easier for people to opt-out, given the amount of money at stake.

Nevertheless, it's something they should do. It's not that domain traffic is necessarily bad nor that domainers are necessarily doing anything wrong. But there's a difference between the person who did a keyword search as opposed to someone who did a navigational guess (a type in) versus someone who sees ads placed contextually on pages. Advertisers deserve the transparency of doing these as separate buys.

After three years, Google finally got it through their heads that contextual needed to be a different marketplace than search targeted traffic. Actually, I feel like they dragged this out so long precisely because they didn't want to risk losing money that contextual pulls in. Excuses like not wanting to allow site targeting or separate buys made three years ago so as not to "confuse" advertisers always sounded lame.

At least Yahoo understood that contextual needed to be separate from the start, or sort of. That's sort of because what's classed as "search" by Yahoo might not be considered "search" to an advertiser.

In both cases, neither player is putting domain traffic into its own box, and that needs to be done -- so advertisers themselves have a better choice.

I'll leave with something I put in our own forum discussion. A big change that would help is if Google dumped the idea that "AdWords" is a program for buying ads while "AdSense" is a program for carrying ads. It's incredibly confusing.

Consider this. Through AdWords, you want to buy ads that show up in search results. Many think that's what AdWords is. It's not. AdWords just lets you buy AdSense For Search, which also includes AdSense For Domains. Then there's AdSense For Content that you might also purchase through AdWords. All clear? And if you carry AdSense, chances are you really mean you only carry AdSense For Content.

Honestly, let's shift to this:

  • AdWords = Ads that show up when someone does a keywords search, currently called AdSense For Search
  • AdSense = Ads placed contextually, currently called AdSense For Content
  • DomainSense or DomainPark = Ads placed on parked domains, currently called AdSense For Domains

Do that, and things are much, much clearer. Want to buy search targeted ads? Buy AdWords. Want to carry those ads? Sign-up to carry AdWords. The same word will mean the same thing to two major parties that are involved. And want to opt out of a particular program? Easily done, or it should be.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our Search Engine Watch Forums thread, AdSense For Domains Garbage Traffic.