Direct Navigation: Web Promotion Nirvana

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Life is good. You found the perfect mix of natural search optimization, social media and paid placement. Your website sales are humming along and you’re thinking: I couldn’t possibly bring more people to my site at a rate of return that will keep me sustainable!

But you are wrong — way wrong. The reason is the tactic known as direct navigation. And it’s about to bring you one step closer to Web promotion nirvana.

A pure definition of direct navigation is when users navigate through their browser address bar in an effort to arrive at a specific website. For example, you visited a site in the past, enjoyed it and still remember the name — so instead of searching for it you type in www.thatsite.com into your address bar. Or, a while back you found a useful site and bookmarked it within your browser for later regular visits. In essence, the traffic generated from this type-in and bookmarked traffic is done without the help of a search engine. While the traffic received may be considerably less than what you would see from a top ranking at Google, Yahoo!, Ask or Microsoft’s Live Search, it still provides traffic, and at a much lower cost than traditional online advertising.

But what if your website is not so memorable or has not been bookmarked by thousands of Web surfers? Users are entering domain names into their address bars (or using bookmarks) that are all related to your industry but are not arriving at your specific website. Many users are entering keywords, adding .com and finding what they are looking for. Taking advantage of direct navigation can garner that traffic.

Let’s say that you run a travel website. A user types in “InternetTravelDeals.com” to find an inexpensive travel package. Lucky for you, that domain is in your portfolio. With a little forethought, you redirect the domain permanently to your travel-related sites and bingo! You now have a highly qualified prospect.

Direct Navigation in Practice:
Getting started with direct navigation comes in mostly two ways: Participate in advertising programs that offer direct navigation or do it yourself by purchasing relevant domains (often expired with existing traffic) and simply redirecting Web surfers to the primary domain for which you need traffic.

Direct Navigation In Action:
While most Web marketers are content with PPC advertising and SEO, others will want to experience direct navigation first hand. Sendori has several patents on its direct navigation practice and has received some modest Web media attention on sites such as ClickZ and TechCrunch. Advertising and online marketers looking for direct navigation traffic may want to consider 7Search.com’s ClickFree™ program which utilizes Sendori technology.

The other side of direct navigation is the domainers themselves. If you have a portfolio of thousands of domain names, direct navigation is a nice opportunity to monetize on undeveloped websites — usually billed on a cost per visit basis for the website getting the traffic. Or, you could choose to simply run a direct navigation campaign for your own website(s).

One of the byproducts and mutual benefits of direct navigation is the cleansing of search engine results pages (SERPs) which have been inundated with parked pages of late. Web users have become increasingly savvy at identifying parked pages and, as a result, click-through rates have plummeted. Instead, with direct navigation, searchers are getting better results, website owners are benefiting from more traffic and domainers are getting paid for redirecting that traffic.

There are a few problems with direct navigation as a practice — but nothing that can not be overcome. The primary problem is that most Web promoters use search engines as their sole source of traffic to a domain. Bypassing these networks and investing your energy in maintaining the necessary direct navigation relationships will be a hard sell.

Ideal Domains For Direct Navigation:
What makes one domain better than another for driving traffic through direct navigation? According to Sedo.com’s Chief Operation Officer Jeremiah Johnston, “When it comes to purchasing domains for use in direct navigation, it’s important to understand what people are searching for, determine how wide the potential audience is and try to narrow it down to those [terms] that are actually used.” Johnston recommends using Sedo’s related search feature to narrow selection and determine correlations.

The major question surrounding the practice of direct navigation revolves around the quality of type-in traffic prospects. Supporting the practice is the notion that users will respond with fewer clicks and higher conversion rates if they arrive on an actual website rather than a parked page full of ads. WebSideStory published a report in January 2006, illustrating that direct navigation traffic converts into sales at a rate of 4.23 percent of total visits compared to 2.3 percent for product- and service-related searches performed via the search boxes at sites such as Google and Yahoo. What’s the rate of return on direct navigation marketing? The verdict is still out.

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