Type-in traffic is a term describing visitors landing at a web site by entering a word or phrase in the web browser’s address bar rather than following a hyperlink from another web page, using a browser bookmark, or a search-box search. For example, if you are interested in widgets, then instead of doing a search for ‘widgets’ you might type ‘widgets.com’ in your address bar to see if such a web site exists, and, if so, what content is there. From another perspective, if you are in the business of selling widgets, then owning the domain name ‘widgets.com’ and having an active website at that address would be a desirable thing, as you could take advantage of the targeted type-in traffic that this name receives. That simple example holds true for virtually all products and services.
Most web browsers formerly defaulted the top-level domain to com, thus entering ‘mysearchterm’ in the web browser’s address bar usually would lead the user to http://mysearchterm.com/. This behavior changed depending on the ‘default search engine’ setting in the web browser’s properties, so entering ‘mysearchterm’ in the address bar could also lead to an error page or to results from a search engine. Today most error page traffic has been taken over by browser manufacturers such as Microsoft and Netscape for the purpose of displaying paid search advertising. Much of MSN’s high ranking as a portal results from the error page traffic delivered from their dominant Internet Explorer browsers.
In the last few years advertisers, publishers and ad networks such as MSN, AOL, Google and Yahoo have awoken to the power of displaying relevant advertising to highly targeted type-in traffic from domain names, browser address bar searches and error traffic.
In November 2004 Marchex acquired the generic domain name portfolio of Name Development Ltd., a little known British Virgin Islands company, for 164 million dollars, predominantly for its 100,000+ domain name portfolio. This portfolio generated 17 million type-in traffic visitors each month.
In 2005, Highland Capital, a venture capital firm, acquired a controlling interest in BuyDomains, paying an undisclosed sum for its domain name portfolio.
In August 2005, industry trade journals such as dnjournal, dnforum and domainstate reported that sale volumes and prices of existing generic domain-names were rising rapidly as a result of type-in traffic monetization opportunities. Small webmasters can buy a domain name with type-in traffic and utilize Google’s Adsense product, or any of several traffic aggregators such as Namedrive, Fabulous, DomainSponsor, or Skenzo to display relevant advertising to the trickle of visitors coming to their domain names. Many small publishers are generating thousands of dollars each month in revenue with very little effort by building websites that serve relevant advertising to their type-in traffic visitors.
Google’s entry into the small publisher monetization space came as a result of their purchase of Applied Semantics in 2003. The drop registrar phenomenon is directly related to the value and desireability of type-in traffic domain names.
Type-in traffic does not differentiate between trademark traffic and generic traffic as it relates to domain names. For example, the act of registering coca-cola.com for one’s own commercial gain would be considered cybersquatting. However, the act of registering softdrinks.com or cola.com would likely be a defensible acquisition of a generic domain-name for type-in traffic generation or resale business opportunities.