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Why Topix.net Should Have Saved its $1 Million



The WSJ’s Kevin Delaney, provides a broad overview of the issues web site owners face when switching their web site from one domain to another – usually via a 301 redirect. The story focuses on Topix.net…

The news site…paid a Canadian company $1 million for the Web address Topix.com in January…Mr. Skrenta intends to switch his site over to the more popular .com Web address from .net soon to help eliminate confusion and increase credibility with consumers…Such a simple change, Mr. Skrenta has discovered, could have disastrous short-term results.

Any loss of traffic from a redirect, could be a huge issue for the company…

About 50% of visits to his news site come through a search engine…Even if traffic to Topix, which gets about 10 million visitors a month, dropped just 10%, that would essentially be a 10% loss in ad revenue, Mr. Skrenta says. “Because of this little mechanical issue, it could be a catastrophe for us,” he says.

I’m not going to dive into a how-to on 301 redirects – especially as Danny’s covering this angle in detail – but do want to look at the bigger picture. Why in the world would you change your domain name anyway?

I think Topix.net has done a pretty good job of telling the world that they are “Topix.net”, why go through the effort of risking the potential lost traffic of a domain redirect and re-branding – especially when the new domain cost you $1m.

I know a few years back – heck just a few months back – you either needed a “.com” or you’d languish in the second-tier internet world. But with fewer and fewer .com domain names available, I’ve seen a recent resurgence of “.net” domain names – none of them seem to be hurt by choosing the younger brother of the TLD world (heck, if del.icio.us can do well, any TLD can!).

What’s done is done, but I probably wouldn’t have spent the million, and I certainly wouldn’t have worried about redirecting.

  • Jordan McCollum

    I agree. Perhaps a wiser move would be to 301 Topix.com to Topix.net. 301s aside, like you say, they’ve built a brand around .net.

  • http://www.theorganicseo.com Joshua Steimle

    A lot of companies seem to still be getting a handle on the idea that people don’t type in domain names to get to a website so much as they click on a link in a search engine, and in a search engine the domain could be long, short, or have an obscure TLD and it doesn’t matter one bit. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have the .com extension, since it’s what most people type in because they forget when site is actually .net, but it seems they haven’t done the research to verify whether that was worth $1M.

    As for changing the name, why bother? Just put up a one-page site at Topix.com that says “We’re actually Topix.net, jerk.” and have a link for people to click on. No redirect issues, and the .net will be that much further ingrained in the public consciousness, adding to the already substantial investment.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    I agree, they should just redirect the .com to the .net and not worry.

  • http://www.softlogica.com Sergey Petrov

    All they need is to spend $1 more for .com redirection to .net :)

  • http://www.softlogica.com Sergey Petrov

    Oops! Sorry, I’m not the only smart guy in the club … :))

  • http://andybeard.eu/ Andy Beard

    It would be interesting seeing how much type in traffic they were losing. That is most likely the justification, and the original domain owner could use that as effective leverage.

    I am not sure they would lose so much traffic on the redirect to a dot com, as it would depend on how various databases are being updated on Google’s end. 301 to dot net is the obvious way to reduce short term losses, but if you make a $1M investment in something, a hit for a couple of weeks in income is probably bearable too (if it really happened)

  • http://amycham.typepad.com Amy Cham

    I was snarking about this article with some classmates earlier today…if I understood correctly, it sounds like they tried to fix the issues with a meta forward? Yikes.IP

    Maybe I’m missing something in this, but don’t most registrars offer domain mapping that can resolve multiple domains to the same place? So they could just map the .com to the same server as the .net and not risk losing their indexing and backlinks?

    It sounds like Topix.net has been working fine for them anyway…

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Amy – yeah, a 301 redirect (at the server level) would do the trick. I wouldn’t trust the domain registrar to do it though. For example, GoDaddy offers a service, but it uses a 302 redirect.

  • http://www.xenite.org/ Michael Martinez

    After 10 years I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of branding Xenite.Org but I still wish I had taken Xenite.Com.

    It’s the type of quandry you have to live through to understand.

  • Jarid

    While the re-branding might be dangerous, the fact that they’ve spent money branding Topix.net is a moot point as it’s a sunk cost. It’s a question of what is the right decision for the long-term. Also, I would argue Del.icio.us is far from the mainstream. Heck, they even own Delicious.com for these very same reasons…

  • http://www.webmetricsguru.com Marshall Sponder

    Whatever the motivation for changing domain name, as long as it’s legit, Search Engines should do more to help businesses ensure they don’t “drop out” of search indexes or otherwise suffer.

    It seems to me, we should respect Topix’s reason for wanting the domain change. Search Engines are now a major part of most business and revenue plans – maybe it’s time to offer professional services from the engines to ensure changes go right.

  • http://birds.allaboutthese.org Jonix

    I agree too, they should redirect the .com domain to the .net domain, it’s the best solution. Also they should get the topix.org domain and also redirect to the .net.

  • http://www.existentialventures.com Broc

    yeah
    i think in todays growing world of internet familiarity using anything but a .com domain simply requires you to incorporate the tld into your brand to prevent whatever loss may have come of this a couple years ago

  • http://microsoft.blognewschannel.com Nathan Weinberg

    Yeah, I was going to point out that del.icio.us had the foresight to eventually purchase delicious.com, but the brains to redirect that to del.icio.us, and not the other way around.

  • http://searchenginetigers.com/2007/03/tips-for-starting-out-in-search-engine.html Simon Heseltine

    Yep, we have a property that we had to go with the .net on because the .com was held but not used by another company. We inquired about it before we started the .net and were told 30k, decided against it, launched the .net, went back and the price had almost doubled, so we decided that the .net would work just fine. It would be nice for us to have the .com, especially since we have the term trademarked, so we’ll see in the future, although what would probably force our hand would be them putting up a competing product (not to give them ideas)…

  • Rob Garner

    Andy – In addition to your point about value of the lost traffic driven inadvertantly to the .com name, the acquisition allows Topix.net to just become “Topix”, which is a much stronger brand than either “topix.net” or “topix.com”. It seems that they had no other choice but to brand as “.net” because of the potential dotcom confusion.

    If they are rebranding as “Topix”, then 301′ing .com to .net would likely suffice. But the WSJ article also mentioned that they perceive dotcom as more being a more trusted TLD in their readers eyes. So maybe they are going for more trust in the SERP’s with the dotcom, even at the risk of losing traffic in the short term. It would be interesting if someone at Topix would chime in – I’d like to know more about their branding strategy.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Lots of good points. It’s easy to question Topix’s motives without knowing all the details. I certainly hope they explored all options.

  • http://www.interplansystems.com/ Bernard

    I normally just moderate spam comments to my company’s news blog in bulk without looking at them very closely. But today, I only had a couple in the queue. One of them was linking back to topix.net (deep link, not home page). I guess 10,000 links in the ODP isn’t enough.

  • http://www.sydats.com سيدات

    In some cases, editors will be drawn from the pool of active contributors :)

    برامج