Is Direct Navigation Dying?

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Domain Name
(photo from Tyrone Shum)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term direct navigation, here’s the Wikipedia definition for you:

Direct navigation describes the method individuals use to navigate the World Wide Web in order to arrive at specific websites. Direct navigation is a 10 year old term which is generally understood to include type-in traffic.

If you have spent any time learning about the world of domaining, you know that short, generic .COM domains are highly valued not only because they are extremely brandable, but also because they receive direct navigation (or type-in) traffic. While there’s no denying the branding power of a short, generic .COM name, a new report shows that direct navigation may be dying.

Earlier this week, Symantec released a list of the top 100 searches conducted by children on the Internet. While the list is interesting and worth looking at for yourself, here’s what makes the list particularly interesting (as noted by RWW):

Another somewhat unexpected insight gained by examining this data is the fact that kids are searching for easy-to-remember URLs including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Yahoo, MSN, and even Google. Why search when simply adding a “.com” on the end will take you directly there? Some may say that this points to children not entirely grasping the way internet addresses work, but it’s more likely an example of the trend where search has replaced typing in URLs for navigating the net.

So, why is this significant? As asked and answered in the comments of this post:

why is this bad for domainers? it may not be good for people who rely heavily on direct navigation for PPC/parking.

That is probably 50% of the domain industry’s revenue.

Because search engines very rarely send traffic to parked pages, domainers rely solely on direct navigation users. Without this type-in traffic, no one is ever going to land on a parked page and create revenue for the domainer by clicking on an advertisement.

Now, for many people outside of the domain industry, they view parked pages as a waste of a domain name and don’t understand why they wouldn’t develop them and take advantage of the huge amounts of additional traffic that search engines can send. Unfortunately, while this may sound good in theory, because many domainers have tens or hundreds of thousands of names in their portfolio, the ability to create a scalable method of development has simply not been an option. So while it is easy to say that domainers who rely on parking to generate revenue are lazy, the reality of the situation is that the high cost of trying to develop a tens or hundreds of thousands of domains has not been justifiable.

So, what exactly does this mean for the domain and SEM/SEO communities? While this report could be flawed, there has been plenty of other evidence of an overall decline in the revenue generated by domain parking. While this will probably improve some as the economy regains strength, I think the big takeaway should be that there is a lot of opportunity for domainers and SEOs to work together in the area of development. Once again, I fully acknowledge that this is much easier said than done, but at the very least, I hope that it will spur positive discussions between the two groups, like the one started by this SEO guest post on a domain blog.

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