NY Times: Direct Navigation Traffic is Best

An article in the New York Times confirms what most domain investors have said for years – direct navigation type-in traffic yields the most valuable website visitors. Based on a study performed by Internet marketing company Engine Ready, the article compares direct navigation traffic to search engine traffic, both paid and organic. While comparing the value between organic search versus paid search, the article mentions that neither is has the edge when it comes to valuing traffic:

That honor goes to the people who arrive at a site by typing its Web address directly into their browsers or clicking on a bookmark. Such visitors, who tend to be repeat customers, linger the longest, spend the most money, and are the most likely to “convert” to buyers, doing so on 3.3 percent of their visits.

Read the rest of the article on the New York Times website.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  1. “Such visitors, who tend to be repeat customers”
    The article looks to be talking about people visiting sites they already know rather than on spec type ins. I’m sure the domain industry will spin this story for all it is worth though.

  2. The more these larger companies understand huge value that “qualified visitors” generate from direct type-in traffic the more money they will make when acquiring generic domain names. We have been accomplishing this for years without spending advertising dollars. More profit made from less money spent. This is the future.

  3. Snoopy is right. When most people say “direct navigation” they mean remembering amazon.com, not typing in carinsurance.com hoping that they find a site about it.

  4. Gordon, I am not surprised where our traffic comes from. I have been living off of direct navigation for 12 years. Daycare.com, for one, has over 12,000 facilities that have signed up personally. The site was never on any search engine at its start but had over 3,000 sign up the first year. I have been in this business long enough to know how to make money and why generic domain names are profitable. If I can explain better please ask.

  5. “Gordon, I am not surprised where our traffic comes from. I have been living off of direct navigation for 12 years. Daycare.com, for one, has over 12,000 facilities that have signed up personally. The site was never on any search engine at its start but had over 3,000 sign up the first year. I have been in this business long enough to know how to make money and why generic domain names are profitable. If I can explain better please ask.”
    That’s great, but what does it have to do with the debate at hand? The issue is whether on spec/guessed domain traffic converts at the same rate as people going to sites they already know of.

  6. Snoopy, I believe the NY Times article relates to buying intention. I am sure I am not the only one that puts in a name.com to find something I am looking for. Qualified traffic is scalable. There are many methods invented to get click-through traffic which to me is not as important or profitable. What is preferable is a visitor that comes to a site/name that they feel is trustworthy, has content and products for what they are searching for. Those kinds of visitors will make advertisers more money per visit.
    Of course I will go to Amazon.com because I have used it previously and trust it but the same can be said if I visit SpringBreak.com which I have never visited but most likely would purchase a vacation. Both have targeted and qualified traffic made more so by their respective generic names which produce “better” traffic.
    Lots of eyeballs do not necessarily equate to lots of money. Intention directed by a trusted name produces better results. Those results will determine the worth of a domain name or business. These are the types of metrics an industry needs and one it can rely upon.

  7. Michael,
    You’ll never see me downplay the value of a generic, but this report just doesn’t show that people who “speculatively type” in a domain name convert any better than a normal search visitor. I think the generic domain will convert better but I’m not sure the method of getting to the site makes a difference. I know studies have been done that show parking traffic converts better, but that is another animal.
    One thing I’ve always thought was wrong is how people in the industry throw around numbers like “80% of people use direct navigation” when in fact they are referring to people using the address bar to find a site they are tying to get to.
    Also – I never trust analytics data for the amount of type ins my developed sites get – I have a 2 word .net with a dash that google analytics claims gets thousands of direct navigation visits per month. All I can really trust is what traffic it had pre-development.

  8. Good points Gordon. What I try to explain at many conferences is that the hype will be spun however it is needed. I watched an internet bubble come and go in 1999 because of the hype that was discharged for those that wanted to become rich quickly. Everyone got the internet logic but many did not know that it moves at its own tempo. I see some of the same hype these days. The funny thing is that illusion can become reality if enough people believe it. That is fine for the short run and people can make lots of money. My reference is in promoting long term strategies. The only metric that matters is when the visitor finds what they need and an advertiser makes profit from a website that they can continue to grow with. But how do you prove it?
    We solved this dilemma in the 90s when advertisers could not be sure that the money they spent for a small advertisement on PalmSprings.com was worth it. Our selling point at the beginning was that these advertisers did not need to take money from their existing advertising budgets because we were going to make the money for them. We use to tell them we would not charge them for the first couple weeks to prove this. The problem arose from the fact that they could not tell if they were making money from us. Yes there may have been traffic but how could we qualify that traffic to dollars and cents. What we did was ask that they offer a 10% PalmSprings.com discount. Of course they balked but we explained if they were not getting traffic it would not matter. Once we put up that discount everyone was asking for the PalmSprings.com 10% discount. They advertiser immediately knew how much traffic came from us and exactly how much money we brought them. This was a huge step for us because it offered an exact visitor to earnings ratio that to this day cannot be broken. Most of these original advertisers are still with us after ten years. Expedia, Hotels.com and Travelocity cannot touch us with these clients and that is not only powerful but political.
    There is something fundamentally basic in what we have accomplished that needs to be learned and understood. This is not about ego. It is a roadmap for building out the internet with balance and making lots of money from very little. All that is needed is understanding, commitment and a plan. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.

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