Why your new TLDs won’t work well with domain parking (yet)

Domain parking ads don’t consider the full meaning of a domain name that spans the dot.

A couple weeks ago Donuts launched the .cash top level domain name.

This got me thinking about domain parking. I’ve owned a few .com domain names with the term “cash” in them. When they got clicks, they were high dollar clicks. There are lots of expensive Adwords terms related to cash.

So would traffic to something.cash monetize well?

No, not on the basis of the top level domain name.

As of right now, Google does not consider the new TLD term when deciding which ads to serve on parked domain names. It only considers the second level domain name.

This creates a problem for domain names in which you need both the left and right of the dot to determine the full meaning, e.g. austin.condos.

Sedo, one of the largest domain name parking companies, told Domain Name Wire that Google has confirmed to it that considering the new TLD is in Google’s feature pipeline.

However, I wouldn’t expect Google to roll it out any time soon. There’s very little traffic to new TLDs so far. Sedo said that new TLDs accounted for just 0.13% of its traffic in June.

I have come across a couple examples of parked domains that seem to show ads based on the full context of the domain name despite the full meaning spanning the dot, so there’s hope for decent monetization while you wait.

How I busted another click fraud (and auction fraud) scheme

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…

Domain parking clawback dings Demand Media earnings, plus first look at Rightside numbers

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.

First signs of Google’s new domain parking client identification program…

Internet Traffic asks customers to identify themselves as part of new Google initiative.

One of the topics discussed extensively in the hallways at Webfest this year was changes Google is making to its parking program.

Although I don’t have all of the details, the bottom line is that Google is making an effort to better identify who is actually parking domains using its ad feed. This may involve steps to identify people across the various parking companies that use Google.

Today Internet Traffic customers saw what appears to be the first sign of these changes.

The company sent an email to customers asking them to agree to a couple terms and provide detailed contact information.

The terms are basic and are already in all parking companies’ terms: that you won’t click on ads on any of your domains and won’t provide incentives for others to click.

I’m not sure how this will be implemented across the different parking companies, but you can expect to see some of the results of these changes in the coming months. And my understanding is that there are other parts of this initiative that you won’t see.

Matt Cutts: don’t park your domain right before launching a web site

Cutts recommends taking down a parking page about a month before launching a new site.

Google web spam czar Matt Cutts just published a video in which he asks himself a question (rather than taking it from the community): should I keep a domain name parked before I launch a web site?

In short, Cutts says no.

He works in a reference to eNom’s backpack girl and then goes on to explain that Google has a filter to try to keep parked domain names out of its search results.

This filter doesn’t immediately know when a domain changes from a parked page to a “real” web site, so he recommends putting up a placeholder page 3-4 weeks before launching a site.

That placeholder page can be something as simple as “coming soon” with a few lines of text — just make sure it’s not an ad-filled parking page.

Here’s the video: