What is Direct Navigation? iPad.com Example

I often have the feeling that many people do not understand what Direct Navigation is. Some may be aware of what it is but maybe do not understand how much it really happens or if others really use direct navigation. Some people think they know what direct navigation is but do not. So I wanted to try and be clear about what direct navigation is and give a pretty cool example using the domain name iPad.com to help me along.

Direct Navigation: A method used on the internet to visit a specific web site. The person using direct navigation would type the domain name and TLD of a site into the address bar of a web browser instead of using a search engine or toolbar.

Example: If you intend to visit the brand name Home Depot web site, you would type www.homedepot.com into your address bar instead of using a search engine with a search term like “home depot”.


The above image is from a FireFox Web Browser so it may look a little different than the one you use. In almost every web browser, the Address Bar will be the most dominate and likely near the top.  Using the address bar and entering a domain name (like www.dotweekly.com) will navigate you direct to the specific domain name (site) you enter.

Using the toolbar search box, will navigate you to the search engine or site used in that tool bar. In the screen shot above, what you type and hit Enter in the toolbar search box, will simply perform a search using the search engine Google for an example. The search engine uses your terms and tries to return the most relevant results to what it thinks you are looking for while also navigating you to the search engine.

If you already know that you want to visit the Home Depot site, why “search” for what you already know? Save a step in the process and go directly to your address bar and enter homedepot.com (some sites may not resolve without including www., but the vast majority will) and click Enter. Doing so, you just used Direct Navigation and are at HomeDepot.com! You didn’t need Google, you already knew where you wanted to go!

From a business aspect, Direct Navigation for the site owner is a big deal. The reason behind this is because direct navigation web site traffic is almost always the most targeted as well. Targeted traffic converts a lot better.

The reason we see a domain name in almost every TV commercial and Print advertising is because those companies want you to use direct navigation to visit the site. By including the domain name and without even saying it, you know that you can visit that domain name and find out more information based on the ad.

Matching the terms used in an ad like the main marketing message, the products name, business name etc all become what is considered Keywords. Keywords are mainly used on search engines but the words in a domain name are also keywords. Keywords are the terms people are most likely to remember. Home Depot is a brand name. Home Depot to you is a way to reference what you are talking about instead of saying… “that building down the road that sells wood and stuff”!

Just as you reference Home Depot as the store, HomeDepot.com is the destination of the online store. If you search “Home Depot” at a search engine, those two words become keywords and the search engine tries to provide you with relevant results to those keywords. Doing the search and finding the site you were looking for is one way a web site gets traffic (visitors) and can be considered a “Link”. The second way a web site gets traffic is from direct navigation as explained above.

It is becoming second nature for businesses and even products of these businesses to also own the matching domain name of the product or business. It makes sense right? Well, keep in mind those keywords that I was talking about before because they are important. Search engines give a lot of weight into a domain name when looking for the proper site to return to the searcher based on the keywords entered. If the domain name matches relevant text on the site, it is more likely to be returned near the top of the search results. It takes a bit of work for a site owner to rank at the top but if done correctly, HomeDepot.com should  rank at the top of a search result for Home Depot at a search engine.

The same things go for “natural search terms” like Bike or Tickets etc. This is one reason generic domain name hold so much value.

This can be the negative side of direct navigation as well. Although we can assume the proper company owns or uses a specific domain name to it’s business name, brand name, product name or service name.. it is not always the case. Although companies are starting to notice it is important to own the matching domain names (mainly .com), it doesn’t always happen. Lets use the company Apple Inc. for an example.

Apple announced this new and exciting product on 1-27-2010 with the product name of iPad. One problem with the name they picked to call this product, somebody already owned the domain name and Apple either wasn’t able to purchase it or didn’t try to purchase it. Big deal right, it’s not like Apple was running advertising or talking about the iPad.com domain name. Correct, they did not promote it but interested iPad customers using direct navigation clearly thought Apple owned it.

I think this is pretty clear proof that people use Direct Navigation. No advertising was done with or for the iPad.com domain name, internet users simply used direct navigation thinking Apple did own the domain name and more information would be displayed on the site. I think this is also clear proof that it is important to own the matching domain name to your product names, business name, service name etc. and never leave it to your customers to assume. It is always best to own the domain name BEFORE you launch a product or service but sometimes it is not to late and you can contact the current owner and try to purchase it. iPad.com was just some other site before Apple launched the iPad on 1-27-2010 but right around the announcement of the product, traffic sky rockets from about 1,000 monthly unique visitors to over 68,000! Likely all because of direct navigation!

Apple is a huge company but it is hard to say that traffic wasn’t missed. Did the people find what they were looking for after visiting the products name as a domain name? It is hard to say. Another thing to consider… since Apple doesn’t own iPad.com, it is going to be hard to control what goes on the iPad.com besides trademark laws. That is another reason to own the match name as a domain name, brand protection!

I hope this helps answer some questions you may have had. Feel free to post a comment below if I missed something or you can always contact me with any of your questions.

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