What exactly qualifies as “direct navigation” and does it result in higher conversions than search?
The domain industry typically defines direct navigation as the act of typing a common name into your web browser, such as baseball.com, when you are looking for information about baseball. This is an alternative to search, such as typing “baseball” into the Google search box.
There is frequent debate about the value of traffic that comes from direct navigation compared to search. Domain industry behemoth Marchex recently launched an updated advertising network for its 200,000 web sites. Advertising on this network comprises advertising on direct navigation sites as opposed to search. Marchex is advertising the network as a better alternative to search advertising, citing a study by WebSideStory that said direct navigation coverts at 4.23% while search converts at only 2.3%.
But the devil is in the details. WebSiteStory’s definition of direct navigation includes “bookmarks and URLs typed directly into the address bar. Also includes e-mails from non web-based e-mail clients and poorly implemented redirects where the referring domain is stripped out or masked.” Furthermore, direct navigation in the study might be defines as converting directly on the page typed into the browser, not necessarily converting after clicking on an ad on the site.
I suspect that bookmarks convert very high while direct navigation links convert at about the same as search. Someone who bookmarks an ecommerce site is very likely to purchase from the site in the future. Many of these people have purchased from the site in the past.
I know that direct navigation traffic is good. I advertise on direct navigation networks with excellent results. But to use WebSiteStory’s study the way Marchex is for its ad network is misleading at best.
In other Marchex news, the company announced that it swung to a loss for Q3. I have long been confused about Marchex’s strategy. It has acquired a massive amount of domains but has been slow to add value to them. Furthermore, it owns a number of businesses that are underperforming their peers. For example, Marchex owns pay-per-click search provider goClick, which is a poorly implemented pay-per-click search network. Just visiting goClick.com makes you think the product line is neglected and isn’t part of a large public company.