The HN Effect: Traffic & Revenue For Dictionary Domains

Last Wednesday (Jan 29th) I made a ‘Show HN’ post on Hacker News for Dictionary Domains. Seems it struck a chord; the post remained on the front page for the entire day! I thought it’d be interesting to write a recap of (1) the traffic that came in, (2) the number of domains bought, (3) the affiliate revenue earned, (4) the mistakes, and (5) a few lessons learned.

I made the Hacker News post around 11am (Pacific time). It started getting some votes and made it to the 2nd page of the Top Stories  in just a few minutes. It got stuck between #31 – #33 for quite a few votes until, finally, it jumped straight to #10 on the front page! And once that happened, DD started receiving 150 – 180 concurrent visitors. It peaked just above 200 concurrent visitors right before 1pm:

Dictionary Domains Peak Traffic
There was a lot of engagement on the HN post. The post finished the day with 115 votes and 61 comments.


The first day brought 8,832 unique visitors:

Dictionary Domains - Day 1 Numbers

The level of engagement is really interesting. More than 5 pageviews per visitor and almost 3 minutes spent. I expected the Bounce Rate to be almost twice as high as it was. Who says Hacker News traffic just bounces?!

As you can imagine, this was a pretty big spike and traffic would diminish pretty quickly over the next few days:


Day 1: 8,832 unique visitors
Day 2: 2,755 unique visitors
Day 3: 1,052 unique visitors
Day 4: 763 unique visitors
Day 5: 467 unique visitors
Day 6: 447 unique visitors
Day 7: 293 unique visitors

Here’s the breakdown by traffic source:


As you can see, almost all of the traffic was coming from Hacker News  (annoyingly, traffic from Hacker News is counted as ‘Direct’ and not a ‘Referral’ in analytics, so it’s hard to get actual numbers). The Twitter traffic was largely fueled by Andy Baio. Hacker Newsletter sent an impressive amount of visitors well.


Revenue on Dictionary Domains comes from affiliate commissions when somebody buys a domain. Affiliate revenue is tough. I learned that lesson in 2009 when we turned on affiliate links for iTunes music purchases made through Mugasha. I’ve got the monthly $0.39 checks to prove it :)

With Namecheap’s affiliate program, I get 15% commission on sales (which is awesome) BUT only for brand new customers (which isn’t awesome). Between purchases made by current customers and people purchasing at other registrars, I don’t get credit for a most of the sales. Given my past experience with affiliate revenue, I didn’t have much expectation.

In the past week, 281 of the domains that I’ve posted have been sold!
Bonus: I’ll include the entire list of purchased domains at the bottom for those that make it all the way through :D

Of these domains, only 51 (18%) were eligible for affiliate commission. Here’s the daily affiliate revenue breakdown:

Day 1: 29 domains eligible, $102.53 commission [a nice dinner!]
Day 2: 15 domains eligible, $52.95 commission [still a pretty good dinner.]
Day 3: 3 domains eligible, $7.03 commission [a craft beer!]
Day 4: 2 domains eligible, $3.07 commission [umm… a PBR?]
Day 5: 0 domains eligible, $0 commission [ :( ]
Day 6: 1 domain eligible, $1.35 commission [a sketchy gas station beer]
Day 7: 1 domain eligible, $1.45 commission [a sketchy gas station beer & a mint?]

Total commission for the week equaled $168.38. The average commission per domain was $3.30, which is pretty good. .IO domains really help the average: I get $8.83 each vs. about $1.50 for most others.

Mistakes Made

The biggest mistake of Dictionary Domains is that I didn’t capture email addresses right away. I didn’t expect it to get much attention right away and I didn’t put much thought into email capture since I didn’t require people to have an account. On Day 4, I put Hello Bar on the site and it’s been converting like crazy. Since installing it, it’s converted 153 of the 2,380 unique visitors (6.4%). Assuming those same numbers, if I had added Hello Bar from the beginning, I’d have a list of 1015 subscribers instead of 153.

Lessons Learned

Good Enough Is Plenty Good:
Dictionary Domains has it’s fair share of shortcomings: it’s pretty slow, filtering is kind of crappy, it only has a handful of TLDs, etc. But at the end of the day, the most important part was having some pretty good domains that could be easily registered. As long as it did that, all the other features were ‘nice to haves’. An awesome feature that nobody cares about isn’t awesome. Provide the core value and ship fast.

Pay It Forward:
The biggest benefit of Dictionary Domains has been goodwill. I started the project to scratch my own painful itch: wanting to find a decent domain name. Out of that, I spent a weekend building Dictionary Domains so other makers/entrepreneurs could do the same. The positive response has been overwhelming. I’ve heard from several people who were finally able to put a name on their project (like Andy Baio) and even a few who started new projects just because they found the perfect name (like JB Uy). I’m super excited to start seeing the things people make with their 281 new domains!

P.S. I just posted 5,000 new domains and 3 new TLDs (.org, .net, .ly) to Dictionary Domains. Just in time for your weekend project! :)

Find your next domain name →

P.P.S. Thanks to Brad Bouse & Rick Turoczy for reviewing this post.

Appendix 1: Huge list of the purchased domains:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *