Microsoft has just released a paper (.pdf) on the value of good domains calling it “Domain Bias” which looks like one of the best papers ever written on the subject of domains that prove out the value of a good domain.

This paper may become a domainers best friend in helping to sell domains to end users.

The authors call this as Domain Bias according to the author is defined as “a user’s propensity to believe that a page is more relevant just because it comes from a particular domain.””We provide evidence of the existence of domain bias in click activity as well as in human judgments via a comprehensive collection of experiments. ”

“We begin by studying the difference between domains that a search engine surfaces and that users click. Surprisingly, we find that despite changes in the overall distribution of surfaced domains, there has not been a comparable shift in the distribution of clicked domains.”

“”Users seem to have learned the landscape of the internet and their click behavior has thus become more predictable over time.””

“We find that domains can actually flip a user’s preference about 25% of the time.””

“The existence of domain bias has numerous consequences including, for example, the importance of discounting click activity from reputable domains.”

“”Our goal is to provide incontrovertible proof of the existence of domain bias.”

“We do so via a series of carefully designed experiments.”

“We ask if a search engine drastically changes the surfaced domains, do domain clicks also change accordingly? Amazingly, the answer turns out to be no.”

“Instead, we find that users click on the same domains despite changes in surfaced content. In a similar vein, if we take two search engines of wildly different relevance, we ask if domain clicks also swing wildly. Again, to our surprise, the answer is no.”

“We observe that the top domains garner a larger and larger fraction of the clicks and it is not because search engines are surfacing a smaller number of domains. On the contrary, search engines are changing the domains they show. It is users who have decided to visit a smaller number of domains.”

“It should not be surprising that users have learned to trust some domains over others. ”

“”What is surprising is that users click on results from rep-utable domains even when more relevant search results are available.”

“Our experiments are geared towards proving that domains can so drastically influence perceived relevance that users will favor some domains, regardless of content. Viewing content on the Internet as products, domains have emerged as brands. And users have developed such fierce brand loyalty that their clicks are tainted by domains.”

“Our experiments also reveal that search results concentrate over time on fewer domains with increasingly larger share of results pointing to the top domains.”

“This trend is accompanied by an increase in click-through rates (even after factoring out query distribution changes) and is in contrast to the growing size of the web content and the number of registered domains.”

2011 December 13
by Michael H. Berkens

Original Document