The Future of Referral Traffic Looks Grim

One of my favorite thought leaders in the SEO (search engine optimization) space, Rand Fishkin,  just published an important article on his blog in which he points out that thanks to some of the tech powerhouses like Facebook and Google we’ve reached an era of a less-connected web, a web that is focused on retaining users rather than sharing content.

That is bad news for websites and what’s bad for websites is often bad for domain names.

Below is an excerpt but I encourage you to read the entire post here.  

  • Google is referring less outgoing traffic to websites for the first time in its 17 year history (at least in the US, where its SERP features are most prevalent).
  • Facebook’s organic reach has dropped to a pittance of its original promise (remember when 2% reach seemed awful in 2013? Now many brands would be thrilled with 2%), making the irony of businesses who encouraged their customers to “follow us on Facebook!” all the more stark.
  • Reddit has made outlinking the exception rather than the rule.
  • Instagram, which never allowed outlinking (save in profiles) has become so prevalent, there’s concerns about whether it should have been allowed to sell to Facebook.
  • Amazon is dominating the online retail landscape and encouraging ever more web players to simply sell via its platform (and buy ads in Amazon’s own product searches) rather than try to compete against the e-commerce giant for traffic.
  • In their post on Improving Search for the Next 20 Years, Google promises (implicitly, not overtly) to do more to answer people’s searches in their results (vs. sending them to other websites), to predict your needs before you have them (so you don’t even need to search), and to solve more queries with visual content (with the implication that no traffic nor credit be given to the creator).
  • LinkedIn, starting last year, is favoring posts without links.
  • YouTube has done a clever job of hiding links that appear below videos in the descriptions, often truncating video publishers’ descriptions to just before the link would appear.
  • It’s my guess that Twitter is doing something similar to LinkedIn and biasing to give more prominence to tweets that don’t contain URLs. Tweets without URLs definitely correlate to more engagement+amplification (but this could be a result of user behavior, not intentional network design) Source: SparkToro blog.

If this development is good or bad news for the importance and value of domain names is yet to be seen and mainly depends on how most businesses will react on the above developments.

Building an audience on your own domain name and truly owning your customers, users, visitors, and all the related data might become much more important in the future so when more businesses decide to build exclusively to favor direct visitors to their websites this could have a positive effect on the importance and values of domain names.

Doron Vermaat

Doron has over a decade of professional experience in marketing and business development for technology startups in both Europe and Asia. He is the product guy behind domain name management software, Efty. In his spare time, he moonlights as a domain name investor or can be seen trail running in one of the many country parks in bustling Hong Kong where he lives with his wife Fay, daughter Isla and their rescue dog Pepper.

3 thoughts on “The Future of Referral Traffic Looks Grim

  1. Better I point my name server to my marketplace than link to all this other marketplace where my traffic will help sell other names .

  2. Nice post, very insightful. To add to the list…….. Quora, while allowing links in the user posts, is quick to jump on a user for linking and accusing them of spamming.

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