Displaying posts under "Domain Parking"
A silly mistake tipped me off to a click fraud and pump-and-dump scheme.
Every once in a while, someone running a click fraud scam slips up. And sometimes they slip up in a big way: by accidentally tipping me off about it.
For example, In August this year I uncovered one such scam after digging around following a suspicious phone call from someone pretending to be with ICANN. The people behind the scam had been boasting about how they’re making so much money with domain name parking. It turns out that’s because they were paying people to click on their parked pages.
Now we have another winner.
Last week Domain Name Wire started receiving a large amount of traffic from directory sites. We’re talking thousands of visitors from seemingly unknown directory sites such as TheTusker.biz and WelcomeLinks.info.
When I went to the sites, I couldn’t find a link to Domain Name Wire.
So I dug into the HTML of these sites. Although I couldn’t find any links to DomainNameWire.com, I discovered 30 domain names that were in hidden iframes. One of these domains, it turns out, forwarded to an article on Domain Name Wire.
Why would someone send fake traffic to DNW? It didn’t make sense.
I emailed the owner of one of the directories, who responded:
“was a ad problem from our programmers, solved. Sorry.”
I also emailed the owner of the domain that was forwarding to DNW, domainindustryreseller.com, and asked him why he was forwarding the domain name to me. I didn’t hear back.
It seemed strange, but I decided to let it go.
Yet the traffic didn’t stop coming, so I took another look at it the next day.
I started by checking the other 29 links that were in the iframes. They were all parked with GoDaddy Cash Parking. And all of the domains were listed for sale on GoDaddy Auctions.
This led me to believe that someone was up to two types of fraud.
First, it was a click fraud scam. Normally, if a parked page was just being delivered in an invisible iFrame, you wouldn’t get any clicks on the ads. But I checked Google Analytics to see how these visitors “interacted” with Domain Name Wire when they visited and found that they were actually visiting multiple pages. So the fake traffic was actually designed to click on links on the landing page.
Second, the perpetrators were trying to pump-and-dump on GoDaddy Auctions. GoDaddy Auctions shows traffic numbers next to domain names listed for sale that are also parked with GoDaddy. By opting in to display the traffic data in the auction listings, the scammers could trick unsuspecting buyers who thought the domain names received lots of traffic.
One of the domains included in the iframe, YNUV.com, showed 20,629 for its traffic.
Not to be outdone, EnrollWithEnblemHealth.com showed 41,972.
I reached out to GoDaddy to confirm my suspicions. Paul Nicks, GoDaddy Director of Product Development – Aftermarket, had his team look into the matter. GoDaddy uncovered what Nicks described as a fairly sophisticated click fraud scheme, although it was limited to about 100 domain names. Using the 30 domain names listed in the directory sites, Nicks’ team was able to find consistencies and link the domain names together. It involved multiple accounts with what originally appeared to be different owners.
That someone would undertake this scheme is no surprise. But why was Domain Name Wire ever linked to?
Looking at historical nameserver records, it appears the forwarding may have only been temporary. The domain name at issue, domainindustryreseller.com, was once parked with GoDaddy, then changed to a hosting service that did the forwarding, and then changed back to GoDaddy parking after I started poking around.
Since GoDaddy blocked the domains, they now resolve to the same nameservers that were forwarding to DNW, NS1-PRESIDENT.VIVAWEBHOST.COM. Each of the domains now forwards to a website you might expect to find if you type in the domain name.
For example, eDrafted.com forwards to DraftedMagazine.com and enrollwithemblemhealth.com forwards to EmblemHealth.com. Domainindustryreseller.com forwards to a page about domain name resellers at OnlineNic. This makes me wonder if part of the scam involved forwarding the domain names to legitimate sites for particular periods of time.
I’m not sure how long these guys got away with their scam. But whomever decided to forward that one domain to DNW made a fatal mistake.
Reality being what it is, though, these scammers will be on to the next parking company…
Sedo cites domain parking woes for revenue drop.
Sedo Holding has issued its preliminary results for the first nine months of the year. This is likely to be one of the last public reports from the company before it gets rolled up into United Internet.
The company’s affiliate marketing division saw revenue growth, but the domain business (what you know of as Sedo) continued to decline.
For the first nine months of 2013, the company had sales revenue of EUR 20.8 million, a 13.3% year-on-year decline compared with the previous year’s EUR 24.0 million.
The number of domains parked at Sedo was up from the end of last year (4.1 million vs. 3.8 million), but the company cited “the domain parking market’s overall downtrend” for the revenue drop.
As of September 30 there were 16.4 million domains listed for sale on Sedo.
Sedo Holding is lowering its revenue forecast for the year.
The full nine month report will be published in the next couple days. [Update: here's the formal 9 month update (pdf)]
The brand associated with the commercialization of pay-per-click search has found its way back to the internet.
How’s this for a bit of nostalgia?
Remember GoTo.com and its iconic green and yellow logo? It’s baaaack!
If you weren’t around the domain and online advertising world in the late 90s, you might not be familiar with the site. GoTo.com basically invented the pay-per-click search marketing business that is the basis for Google’s search ads and became key to the domain parking business.
The company later changed its name to Overture, and ultimately was acquired by Yahoo.
For a long time after Yahoo’s acquisition, the GoTo.com domain was owned by Go2 Directory Systems. xAd acquired the assets of Go2 a couple years ago. Now if you go to the domain name you’ll see this:
This new site apparently went live last month.
The only thing that looks different is that one of the top searches is the iPad Air – something that certainly wasn’t around in 1999!
The about page for the new site reads:
Once, there was a search engine that invented a new way to connect consumers and businesses. It was called GoTo.com. Recently, the goto.com domain became available and a few of us who were there in the early days decided to purchase it. We’ve got lots of ideas for what to do with goto.com but in the meantime, we thought it would be fun to resurrect goto.com as a search engine. Hats off to the GoTo.com team that helped revolutionize search. We hope you enjoy searching on today’s site. Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page and let us know what you think.
The domain’s whois record is currently protected by whois privacy. But it may be that xAd still owns it, as two of its executives have roots in Yahoo! Search Marketing/Overture.
Company hit with parking clawback from a previous quarter.
Ask any domain parking company about their top frustrations, and clawbacks will be high on the list. Basically, their upstream ad partner will clawback previously paid revenue based on traffic quality. This often happens after the parking customer has paid its partner.
These clawbacks can apparently be quite big, as evidenced in today’s Demand Media earnings call.
Speaking about a tough third quarter, Demand Media CFO Mel Tang noted that a parking clawback was one of three factors that hurt earnings in the quarter:
Results were impacted by 3 main factors: lower search engine referrals, causing additional traffic declines, softer-than-expected display advertising revenue and an adjustment from an advertising partner related to activity on certain third-party domains prior to the third quarter that negatively impacted revenue and EBITDA.
In this case it appears the clawback was from an earlier quarter. It must have been significant to warrant mention on the conference call. [Update: from Demand Media's 10-Q, the clawback was $1.6 million.]
Later in the call, Tang elaborates on the clawback:
Yes. So basically, related to a catch-up adjustment that we got notified of quarters after, I think the traffic quality was identified. And so it was unexpected in the quarter, it came in, in fact, sort of right as the quarter was closing. And so we put additional processes and communication lines in place with that partner to ensure that we don’t get a negative surprise like this in the past, that we try and be very rigorous in terms of who we onboard into that system. But at times, it’s hard to see who’s — what people are putting through. But we’re working very closely with that partner to ensure again that there isn’t sort of such a delayed negative surprise.
Also on the earnings call, Demand Media broke out revenue between the company’s content business and the domain name spinoff called Rightside.
In Q3, domain services revenue, which primarily represents domain registration fees and value-added services, was approximately $36 million. Aftermarket services revenue, which represents premium domain sales and advertising revenue from Rightside’s own domains, was approximately $10 million.
It seems that the business is not doing very well from a growth perspective. Domain services revenue was up mostly due to the Name.com acquisition, and Aftermarket was down 7% year-over-year. In Aftermarket, growth in domain sales partially offset a domain parking revenue decrease and the clawback.
No wonder Rightside is looking forward to the introduction of new top level domain names.
Which ads show up on a parked page can make the difference in a UDRP.
Yesterday WIPO posted its decision in a UDRP for the DriveUPS.com domain name, finding in favor of the shipping company UPS and ordering the domain name transferred.
This decision did not hinge on the fact that the domain was parked with ads related to shipping and delivery. It had more to do with the domain owner reaching out to UPS to try to sell it the domain name.
But the parked page ads certainly didn’t help. Had the registrant had not tried to sell the domain to UPS, the panel surely would have focused on the parked page.
The domain owner tried to make the defense that “driveups” were “nostalgic places of yesteryear.” That would be a plausible argument if the parked page wasn’t full of ads for Fedex and UPS jobs.
Yet this doesn’t mean that the safest thing to do to avoid a UDRP loss is not park your domain. On the contrary, parking a domain can actually help you in a UDRP if you do it right.
I’ve read several decisions involving Frank Schilling in which the panel found that Schilling had legitimate interests in the domain because he was using it to derive advertising revenue from the generic meaning of the domain.
So had he owner of Driveups.com had ads for, say, Sonic, then it could have tipped the argument that the domain was registered for its generic meaning in his favor (had he not proactively tried to sell the domain).