Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
Today I want to briefly talk about how Google works out what navigational queries are, what a navigational query is, and how we can make money from it. It’s a pretty easy concept to get to grips with, but I like it because it’s a fast way to make some party money.
What is a “navigational query”?
When you perform a search on Google, it has to have some kind of stab at what the motivation behind your search is. Lets say you setup a company called “Beds and Mattresses” and you build yourself a cute little homepage. Now when a user performs a search for “beds and mattresses” Google has to work out whether you are generically searching for some beds and mattresses, or if you are specifically searching for that company.
If Google thinks you are searching specifically for that company/brand/website, then your search will be treated as a “navigational query”, which means that website will be given greater preference in the SERPs, and will rank well (normally #1) regardless of the site’s link popularity and authority.
A little bit of proof
If you haven’t noticed this before, the evidence is all around you! For instance, lets do a search for “property in france” – a query with over 30,000 monthly searches.
You can see that the propertyinfrance.co.uk website ranks #1 with a lower PR and way, way fewer links. As a note, propertyinfrance.co.uk also is not the oldest domain, with some the domains in that screenshot out-aging it by 5 years – so it’s not down to that.
To me, that’s kind of surprising, it’s a real estate search term with a decent amount of monthly traffic and there’s a lot of money in real estate traffic. Google doesn’t like doing corrections “by hand”, so I find it odd that these high volume & value terms are not algorithmically bias towards general search, rather than navigational queries. Cheers, Google.
Making money from navigation queries
Okay, so how can we make money from this? First, lets talk about revenue streams. It’s always important to think hard about the intent of your visitors when you’re trying to monetise your site. For instance, I would never run AdSense on this blog – my visitors come here for information and most of them are techy/SEO types. To me this says that Adsense would add no value to my visitors, most of them are aware of Adsense and so I’d get a pretty low CTR (Ã¡ la Digg users). I don’t particularly like seeing Adsense on SEO blogs because it makes me suspicious of the motives of the author, it almost makes me feel like they are only writing to make a quick buck. I do however give (normally labelled) affiliate links to products or services that I’m currently using and think are decent, when they are relevant.
The point here is, it’s actually going to be easier using a specific CPA offer, rather than a shotgun Adsense approach and hoping somebody will click on one of the contextual ads. The Google Referrals programme, inside Adsense, allows you to browse through these ads and select a specific one for your page.
Google’s “Referrals 2.0″ is basically the CPA part of their Adsense programme – i.e. you get paid when the user performs an action rather than a click. Using Google Referrals 2.0, I set a site up in an hour and within 7 days was making $15 a day from it, with no SEO or extra promotion whatsoever. Here’s how I did it:
1) First off, I scanned through Google Referrals in my Adsense account, looking for a CPA offer. Ideally you want something where you get paid to get someone to perform a free action, as this is dead easy to do.
2) I used the standard keyword research tools to identify how competitive what I thought the “main” search term for this product/service was. I found one with a mere 300 searches per month.
3) Next I registered a domain with the URL exactly the same as this keyphrase.
4) I created a single landing page and made the title, the h1 the key phrase, as well as dotting it around the copy (which must be unique of course). Matching the URL, title, h1 is normally enough to trick Google into thinking the search is a navigational query.
5) I wrote the copy of the page, explaining the product, had a screenshot and put the ad in a nice fat outlined box in the middle of the page – it’s the only external route out of the page.
6) Google can be a bit stubborn when it comes to indexing a single page, so keep at it and build links as you usually would.
The Google Referral TOS is slightly different, allowing you to draw more attention to the advert, since the pay out is CPA, not CPC – read through it carefully and use this to your advantage. I’m achieving a 30% CTR with a pretty poor looking page, and I am converting 50% of these people to the free sign up offer and getting paid $15 a time.
There it is. It’s so simple, it’s so quick and it works. I love these 1 shot quick methods at getting a little extra cash. So 2 hours work should benefit me around $5,000 a year.
If you don’t have an Adsense account yet, here’s a massive affiliate link for you