This morning DomainNameWire posted an article about the decline in traffic to parked pages, due to changes in how web browsers handle predictive search. Google Chrome’s combined address and search bar, known as the Omnibox, has further complicated the issue for a lot of domain owners who rely on type-in traffic.
Users can still navigate by typing a domain – for example, Dentists.com – in the combined search bar, but they will likely see a half dozen Google Instant recommendations pop up before they’ve finished typing. I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that the trend is heading away from direct navigation, but for domain investors, it’s certainly troubling.
However, I think this is the least of our worries. What about when people don’t need to type anymore?
We are only a few years away from having Siri-like “eyes free” voice integration systems in our vehicles, and eventually, in our homes. Ford and Chrysler already rolled out voice-command systems in 2008, and Apple is in discussions with a number of automakers about testing Siri-integrated systems. We’re likely to see this technology advance even faster at home, where distracted driving and accidents aren’t an issue. I’m not proposing that keyboards are going away anytime soon – primitive as they may be, people like the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard. And as anyone who has tried sending a text message with Siri can tell you, voice and speech recognition is still a long way from a reliable degree of accuracy.
However, Siri is perfectly excels at search queries, especially ones with local intent. So what does that mean for the owners of product and service domains? Well, a couple of things. First, it appears that Siri’s adaptive algorithm pulls most of its data from the location-based content directory Localeze, a division of Neustar, which partners with Yahoo, Google, Bing, Yelp, and sites. If you’re a local dentist listed in these directories and have great reviews, that may be great news. But if you own a generic domain like Dentists.com, you may be out of luck, unless you have enough local listings to compete with these larger directories, and happen to be in Siri’s “go-to” database of preferred sites.
There’s also the fact that the top spots on directories are occupied by paid listings. Yelp is free, but is notorious for strong-arming merchants into paying for advertising in exchange for better reviews. Clearly, Adwords will play into this, as well, and with Google privileging its own content, one could argue organic search is almost extinct.
This spells trouble for parked pages. While Siri can certainly find the domains themselves, they’re not going to be indexed in directories because they don’t have valuable content that visitors are looking for. It’s likely they will be ignored or vanish altogether.
Typos will be a non-issue, because as voice recognition technology develops, they will be corrected automatically.
Owners of developed generic keyword domains will likely be the ones to come out ahead, particularly .com, because the cream rises to the top. For a business that’s looking to position itself above the competition, it may be more important than ever to own an authoritative .com, particularly if it includes local keywords.