July 25th, 2007

The Underground Web Economy

by

I tried to visit TechCrunch.com this morning and instead ended up here:

techrcunchcom.jpg

As much as we focus on the Web economy that operates in the sunshine, e.g. advertising on TechCrunch, there’s an entire economy that operates “underground,” e.g. pay-per-click ads on domain typo sites.

Techrunch.com

techrunchcom.jpg

Techcunch.com

techcunchcom.jpg

Tehccrunch.com

tehcrunchcom.jpg

I’m sure TechCrunch isn’t missing much traffic from sites like these, since most TechCrunch readers are probably savvy enough to know that they have ended up on a domain typo site. But it reminds you that a lot of the money being made on the Web is through exploitation of human error, human foibles, human confusion, and human ignorance.

Viva la Web.

  • This post illustrates exactly why site owners should be "defensive" when it comes to picking up misspelled domain names. I wrote an article in Inc with this very advice recently.

    In response to that article, someone left a comment on my site recently pointing out that the site Auctiva.com was smart enough to pick up the URL for Octiva.com also (since some people may spell it phonetically).

    Now if I could just get that one particular misspelling that six blogs have linked to mistakenly for my blog, I'd be thrilled.

  • Scott: you might find this article on Kevin Ham to be quite interesting:

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines...

    He's built his empire on buying domains others might want, including misspelled ones. And even though it sucks, it's perfectly legal.

  • A Philadelphia Inquirer article on 2/26 (I had the link but unfortunately it has been retired and their search form is no help) had an article on what they called "domain tasting". The article reports that the 5 day grace period in domain name registration, along with automation, has created an industry that gobbles up thousands of domain name variants, creates these types of sites based on ads, tests which ones work best, and dumps those that don't:

    From the article...

    During the grace period, the entrepreneur puts up a Web page featuring keyword search ads and receives a commission on each ad clicked. Services like Google Inc.'s AdSense for Domains and Yahoo Inc.'s Domain Match help large domain name owners set them up, even as the search companies officially oppose abuses in tasting. Addresses likely to generate more than the $6 annual cost of the domain name are kept - not a high threshold given how lucrative search advertising is these days.

  • Seamus,

    The reality is that a significant percentage of Web users type URLs -- and keywords -- into their browser bar rather than a search box. That's why domains ownership is SO lucrative.

    Mike,

    TechCrunch happens to have savvy users, so they lose less, but other sites have much less savvy users, and may lose visitors entirely. Also, TechCrunch has lost some control over its brand, since my first thought when I saw the site is "What has TechCrunch done with it's design?" before I realized what had happened.

  • I guess the problem is that that yes it is like you are given revenue to those site with the pay-per-click. But your not loosing anything since like most readers will find techcrunch.com eventually. They just might buy some music on their way.

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