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

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...

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TOPICS: CXO, Hardware
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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 zdnet.com 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).

Ethics

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 wowthisisareallyrandomdomainname.com 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?

Conclusion

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 hiybbprqag.com 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

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31 comments
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  • Redirection Reason

    "Someone then registered hiybbprqag.com and ? for whatever reason ? decided to forward its traffic to Google?s jobs homepage."

    Simple. It's Google's recruitment process - catching smart people :)
    Dejan SEO
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @seoguy Matt Cutts actually replied somewhere (I can't find the reference at the moment, but I read it directly from him) that it wasn't Google who registered the domain name, hahaha. I'm not sure if I believe that, though. I mean, I believe him when he says that, but perhaps it was someone in a department he has no communication with or something (considering Google is a huge company at this point). Either way, it does seem unlikely that someone would pay their own money just to register that domain and forward it to Google Jobs. lol. =)

      -Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

    So you are basicly taking traffic from people obviously looking for something else and redirecting them to your own... I would understand it if it was related, but completely random traffic just because it's legal to set up a domain name and use a redirect?
    I think that makes the web a harder place to navigate and it tricks people out of finding what they are really looking for, so to ME, it is unethical.
    raul.vejar@...
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @raul.vejar@... I understand what you're saying, but the domain name led to nowhere. A person visiting the URL initially was taken to nowhere. Being taken to nowhere versus being taken to an unrelated page is essentially one-in-the-same if what you see when you visit isn't what you expected.<br><br>In my opinion, the lack of ethics occurs when the page/content a person is forwarded to is malicious. In my case, the post I'm forwarding people to is educational. I don't see how that is unethical -- especially when there's really no way to create a site that accurately represents the domain name I registered (I would post it here, but again, it's wordage is NSFW).<br><br>And since registering it, people finding their way to the domain at this point are doing so knowing that the domain name forwards to something seemingly unrelated to the name. I mean, if I said, "hey, www.big-greasy-potato-chips-in-cold-weather.com redirects to an article about how to search Google more efficiently," is that unethical? Sure, the content is unrelated, but what's unethical about it -- especially if the domain name led to nothing initially? On the other hand, if that site redirects to a vulgar picture or pornographic Web site or a site with a malware script upon visiting, that's when I feel ethical boundaries have been crossed.<br><br>I get it that misdirection and link bait is considered unethical through-and-through to many people, but I don't quite fall into that camp. If I'm misdirected to something that's not malicious or is entertaining or educational, I'm fine with that. But here again, that's just my personal opinion.<br><br>Thanks for your feedback!<br><br>-Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

    You just discovered 'direct navigation' traffic? Congrats. It only took you 5 years to do so, lol. This is a post that would be considered revolutionary around 1995. Today, it is a post that makes you look like the greenest noob on the planet.
    tim111111
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @tim111111 It seems you missed the point of the article completely, so that either makes your comprehension skills "noobish," or you're just feeling particularly sassy today.<br><br>*I* have known about this method for quite a long time. Others, however, do not. Let me clarify that this post isn't referencing someone typing some random keyword into an address bar, adding a .com on the end and seeing where it takes them. Re-read (or read, if you didn't) the article if that's what you think I'm talking about.<br><br>This is an educational blog with a viewership that reaches more into the domain of individuals who *do not* know things like this, so I'm here to teach them through example. If you already know about it, good for you! I'm addressing those who don't. And who cares if this post makes anyone look like a "noob?" People have to start somewhere, and that's what I provide for people: A place to start and to get the creative ideas flowing.<br><br>Let me guess; you're one of those types of people who would call a 90 year-old who's never been on a computer a "noob" because they don't know how to type, huh? lol.<br><br>-Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

    I commend you for recognizing Direct Navigation traffic. Many, almost 98% of SEO guys/gals and developers don't know about direct navigation traffic.

    I have been buying these types of domains since 1995 as a full time business. There is big money in this.

    Just like folks will type in Sex.com they will also type in DallasCars.com and also DallasUsedCars.com and even DallasPreOwnedCars.com and on and on.

    Once you have enough of this type of traffic you can sell it to Google or Yahoo through companies like Parked.com, DomainSponsor.com, Fabulous.com who all work directly with either Google or Yahoo.

    It's a cottage industry of domain millionaires and wanna-be domain millionaires.

    I commend you for recognizing this as most all SEO and Developer folks shun the notion it exists.

    Believe me, it exists, and then some. Frank Schilling, the most famous "Domainer" as we are called has 300,000 domains and controls 26 million monthly uniques and makes almost 20 million a year just off of clicks. :)
    Belmassio
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @Belmassio Yeah, this is one of those things I wish I had the foresight to get in on back in the day. Exact-match domain names are indeed excellent strategies for obtaining traffic, but from my personal experience, it's really, really subjective as to how they will perform for you. Niches/markets differ greatly and it's just crazy to see things like a keyword with tons of search engine traffic get very little direct navigation traffic and vice versa!

      Of course, when you get into buying up NUMEROUS exact-match domains like that, I can only imagine the collective sum of traffic between them all can be quite decent.

      Frank Schilling is the envy of many. What a butter way to make money, you know? haha. :)

      -Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

    What if the site the traffic is forwarded to is selling ad space and including this hidden source traffic in their specs to potential advertisers (Visitors/day)?
    samranso
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @samranso You bring up a good point. I would certainly think it unethical to knowingly include that traffic into their specs if said traffic makes a noticeable difference in the numbers. If a site says they get 100,000 unique hits a month on average, but maybe 1,000 of those hits comes from "hidden sources," every once in a blue moon, there are too many theoretical variables there to say those 1,000 hits help or hinder (though, in an actual scenario, the analytics could spell out *exactly* what the impact of those 1,000 hits happened to be).<br><br>However, if a site says, "hey, we get 100,000 uniques a month" and the site *knows* that 10,000+ of those hits are consistently non-targeted redirected traffic, well... that's where I feel the dishonesty comes into play.<br><br>Your mileage may vary, but that's my take on it. :) Thanks for the feedback!<br><br>-Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • This is one of the reasons Premium Domain Names are valuable

    Stephen, it's great to see an SEO guy recognize the value of "Direct Navigation", something those of us in the business of selling Premium Domain Names to marketers and business owners have been preaching for years.

    In my case, I manage a portfolio of nearly 100,000 Premium Domain Names like Tool.com, Divorced.com, and Veggies.com, many of which receive thousands of unique visitors a day from people typing the domain name directly into their Web browser.

    This is highly targeted and valuable traffic, and one of the reasons domains like these frequently sell for five and six figures.

    Bill Sweetman
    General Manager
    YummyNames
    http://www.yummynames.com
    BillSweetman
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @BillSweetman See, now here's my opinion on that. The hesitation of SEOs to purchase PDNs comes not from a lack of understanding of the direct navigation traffic exact-match domain names can bring, but rather, such sites as "divorced.com" and "tool.com" are such broad terms that even IF they have 100,000 uniques a DAY, how much of that is traffic that will *convert*?<br><br>THAT is the issue.<br><br>Traffic is great. Traffic that converts is better. And if there's one thing us SEOs have seen time-and-time again, it's that you just can't tell how a keyword is going to convert until you get ranked high in the SERPs. After all, mass amounts of search/visitor traffic on a particular keyword doesn't directly equate to mass conversions. So, where that's concerned, investing high dollar amounts in PDNs just isn't a budget-friendly approach for many SEOs or their clients.<br><br>I have no doubt that PDNs can bring in valuable traffic, but only if the monetization model of a site is right and/or if their product is more likely to convert based on the exact-match domain name than not.<br><br>Thanks for your comment! :) <br><br>-Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • slimy

    that about says it all.
    no, saying "it's educational!" does not justify it.
    Phil Brown
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @PhilBrown There's nothing slimy about what I've done. If I had malicious intentions or did this to deceive, that would be slimy. And justification or not, it *is* educational content on a subject that has its place and implementation. If you care to tell me exactly why you think it's slimy instead of "that about says it all," I welcome such a contribution to the debate and will be happy to read your thoughts.

      -Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • Noob

    I am basically ignorant of this subject, but I was able to follow most of it. Thank you for the info and the lesson.
    charleyj98
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @charleyj98 Thanks for taking the time to comment! No worries on being ignorant on the subject; I'm here to help, so feel free to ask any questions you might have. Thanks again!

      -Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

    What I especially like about your story is the playful aspect of discovering an opportunity and capitalizing on it in creative way that doesn't do any harm.
    But what if large domain companies and domain registrars owning hundreds of thousands of names had intelligence in place to spot, register and monetize domains that have even minimal traffic - without a human even setting eyes on the domain?
    Kind of takes the fun out it don't you think?
    DomainNoob
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      @DomainNoob Sure, it does. I was actually theorizing about something along these lines a few weeks ago. Imagine all the data domain registrars obtain when a person searches for if a domain name has been registered or not. The implications of that are staggering.<br><br>-Stephen
      StephenChapman
  • Message has been deleted.

    DomainNoob
    • RE: Capitalizing on hidden sources of traffic: A tale of pure awesomeness

      *reply above
      StephenChapman