Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

Summary:Hidden sources of traffic are everywhere. If you're perceptive enough and lucky enough, you may just hit the jackpot like I did recently! Read further to see how...

Pure awesomeness!

Pure awesomeness!

Recently, a popular online comic site created a new comic strip. Contained within the comic strip was a frame with a computer monitor, a Web page up, and a funny -- albeit slightly NSFW -- URL written across the monitor's screen. Due to the size of the computer monitor in the comic, one might easily miss the URL if not looking closely. But this is a VERY popular site that I would wager some tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people flock to on a daily basis; so even if just 1% of people notice the URL pasted on the computer monitor and have the gumption to try to actually go to it (like I did), that's a fair amount of potential traffic, right?


Opportunity Knocks

Lucky for me, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and was one of the first people to view this particular new comic strip. I tried to access the URL I noticed on the computer monitor in the one comic frame and guess what? It linked to nowhere. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Without hesitation, I shot over to GoDaddy and checked to see if the domain name was registered to anyone. Indeed, it wasn't. Man, let me tell you... I nabbed that thing up immediately! Once I completed my purchase and the domain name was secured to me, I then set the domain to forward to a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Now, anyone who sees the comic and tries to manually type in and visit the Web site contained within it will be forwarded to that post of mine. Now, what I've managed to do is a couple of things:

1 - Capitalize on a "hidden source" of traffic by hijacking a domain name. By my own definition, "domain name hijacking" is the act of registering a domain name you see somewhere else that either hasn't been registered or has expired, then forwarding that domain to another site/page. All traffic that hits that domain will be forwarded to whatever Web site -- and more specifically, Web page -- you specify! And if you're starting to feel your ethics alarms going off, have no fear; I'll discuss my point of view on the issue in just a second.

2 - Potentially boost the overall site and page authority of the site I've forwarded the domain to. If people talk about the domain name they tried to visit and paste it for others to visit, I've managed to successfully do a bit of link-building for myself! Granted, the anchor text for the links most likely won't be relevant to the content I've forwarded the domain to, but the content surrounding the link might be! For example, I forwarded the domain to my trend-hijacking post which happens to be written under the guise of The Matrix 4 and The Matrix 5. Check out what a couple of people wrote on the Web regarding the domain and where it links to:

Did you all catch the (*domain name removed due to NSFW wordage*) link on the computer monitor? It redirects to some Keanu Reeves post about Matrix 4 and Matrix 5 and trend hijacking something or other. ha.
(*domain name removed due to NSFW wordage*) redirects to a article about new The Matrix films. o_o

I won't get into checking for "nofollow" links and all of that, because just about any link you can naturally obtain is a good link. Even if it's a "nofollow," that "nofollow" link will help establish/maintain a natural link profile for your site. (Read my post on link-building to learn more about "nofollow," "dofollow," page/domain authority, link profile, and more). Likewise, if a link garners a click, then that's one more visitor I may not have had otherwise, right? To note, the bounce rate (the rate at which people visit a site and then immediately leave it) might be high if the domain name creates a preconceived notion of what a user will find when visiting it, then seeing something completely unrelated, but that's okay. (The bounce rate for visitors to my page from that domain name was something like 87% for the day I did it, and it's no surprise when considering what the domain name was).


Now, remember up above when I noted ethics? I want to show clear discernment between what I've done and black hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) methods that will get you in trouble with Google -- such as cloaking (the act of showing a visitor one thing while showing search engine spiders another). Basically, registering a domain name and forwarding all traffic from it to somewhere else is completely fine. Registering a domain name like and pointing it to a post about... oh, I don't know -- Bill Gates or something; that's completely fine. The act of registering a domain name and forwarding all traffic from it to another site is wholly ethical. With that said, I'm not saying there aren't unethical ways to use this method; the act of registering a domain name and forwarding it in and of itself is ethical. However, the way in which one chooses to advertise/announce/spread the domain name and where they choose forward the traffic tois where questionable ethics can come into play. Google's not going to penalize your site based solely on the notion that you have an unrelated domain name forwarding traffic to it.

Images Speak Louder Than Words

So, just what can this method I've discussed actually do for you? Well, have a look at the following two images. The sections I've bordered in red are the day I registered the domain name and started forwarding its traffic (exact numbers have been removed). Other than that, I did nothing at all with my blog that day:

Traffic Graph


Top Content

As you can see, I experienced almost double the traffic of what I receive on average on days I do not post content! And which page is it that received the majority of traffic on that day? Far and away, it was the post I forwarded that domain name to (as you can see in the second image). Not bad for just being observant and spotting a random URL in a comic strip, huh?


In closing, the main point I want you to walk away with here is to be perceptive and keep your eyes open for "hidden sources" of traffic. They're all over the place! In addition to what I have discussed in this post, another quick example is "hiybbprqag." Long story short, it's a phrase Google used to aid in their "Bing steals search rankings from us" story. Someone then registered and -- for whatever reason -- decided to forward its traffic to Google's jobs homepage. Here again, a "hidden source" of traffic uncovered with a little bit of creativity and foresight.

So, with all of that in mind, what you have to decide is if it's worth the time and money it takes to capitalize on any given source you might find. For me, I spent ~$12.00 to register the domain name privately, ~5 minutes waiting for the domain name to be secured to me, and ~1 minute setting it to forward. For the amount of traffic it gave me and the data I gathered from the experience, it was certainly worth it to me.

Questions/comments/concerns? Speak your mind in the comments section below!

Topics: CXO, Hardware


Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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