BeardGuru, Programming

What kind of traffic is driven by a single mention of a domain on network TV?

During last Wednesday’s episode of The Middle, the teenage son defended his fledgling beard to his parents:

“For your FYI, this is only two days old, and according to beardguru.com, I’m showing above-average hair growth for my age.”

When I hear a website mentioned on TV, I always check it out the next time I’m at a computer, just to see how much care the writers and producers took in extending their storyline to the Web. Usually, the domain just redirects to the network’s website. Sometimes, like in the case of The Office‘s WUPHF.com, the URL is a full-fledged experience that has obviously been given a lot of care.

In the case of beardguru.com and The Middle, there was nothing there. I loaded it twice to make sure, and then I ran a WHOIS – the domain wasn’t registered at all. I’ve never seen that happen before, so I immediately registered it myself, interested to see what kind of traffic would be driven to a website by a single mention in the middle of a fairly popular network TV show. (Given that I was watching the episode on my Tivo half an hour after its airtime made the fact that the domain was unregistered especially surprising.)

After registering it, I stuck up a simple homepage with three components:

  1. Random quotes of wisdom from the “Beard Guru” that I came up with over the course of the first hour of the site being up

  2. A form to let users sign up for the Beard Guru’s mailing list (powered by MailChimp, which took only minutes to set up)

  3. A Facebook “Like” form for the Beard Guru Facebook page that I made shortly thereafter (and a link to @beardguru on Twitter).

Within minutes, I started to see visitors trickling in – about 200 people that night, with an obvious spike when the episode aired on the west coast. Thursday brought another 250 visitors, and another 100 people hit the site on Friday. (It will be interesting to see whether there continue to be mini-traffic spikes when that episode of The Middle is in reruns.)

Traffic Statistics

  • Browser usage was led by Firefox, Safari, and Chrome; Internet Explorer usage was only at 18%.

  • 15% of the visits came from mobile devices – iPhones, BlackBerries, iPods, and Android systems – a number that I expected to be higher for people casually browsing the Web while watching TV.

  • The United States accounted for 83% of visits, with the remainder split between Canada, the UK, and Australia.
  • California sent 25% of all visitors, which makes me think that if the domain had been live when the show aired on the east coast, it would have seen significantly more traffic.

Engagement

  • Forty people signed up for the mailing list.
  • Twenty-five people “Liked” Beard Guru on Facebook.
  • Three people emailed me personally to ask how I had gotten the domain.
  • Nobody followed @beardguru on Twitter.
  • Each visit averaged about five pageviews due to the random beard quote that changes each time you refresh the page.

My expectations for total traffic were much higher; I had visions of tens of thousands of people loading the site, making it an instant traffic juggernaut, bringing the server to its knees, all while offers to buy the site would be rolling in from Google, Yahoo, and the American Beard Aficionado Coalition. Even though that didn’t happen, I’m pleased with the experience; beards and beard-related humor happen to be hobbies of mine, so I’ll continue to maintain beardguru.com. My plans are to have the site focus around an occasional humorous newsletter that will answer beard-related questions, whether user-submitted or made up by myself, with previous editions archived on the website.

(If you’re interested in receiving the Beard Guru newsletter, the signup form is front and center on BeardGuru.com.)

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