Lean Domain Search: Two Weeks After the HackerNews Launch

Two weeks ago I launched Lean Domain Search, a new domain search tool, on HackerNews.

If you’re not familiar with it, Lean Domain Search pairs your search term with 1,000+ other keywords commonly found in domain names and instantly shows you which of the generated domain names are still available. It makes finding a great domain name for your website really, really easy.

I’ve launched four other apps on HackerNews (Domain PigeonHNTrendsPreceden, and jMockups/LeanDesigns) and Lean Domain Search was by far the one that was met with the most enthusiasm. And rightfully so — finding a great domain name is a problem that everyone with a web presence faces and until now — even with the existing tools — it’s been very hard to find a good one without spending a lot of time or money on it.

Traffic Overview

Here’s what week 1 looked like (click to view full size):

This is the typical pattern in each of the startups I’ve launched:

Launch day you get a huge boost of traffic from the early adopters checking out the new-hot-thing and then over the next few weeks it stabilizes at a much lower number. Consider: not everyone who visited that first day needed a domain name that day. What’s important is not how many visitors you get when you launch, it’s how many come back. Lean Domain Search saw 8,350 unique visitors the first day thanks to sitting on the HN frontpage for almost 20 hours. Two weeks later and with no major additional press coverage, that number of daily uniques has stabilized at around 400.

Traffic though is not a good indicator of quality — so how’s it actually doing?

Metrics Overview

One important indicator of how useful the tool is is the average number of searches per visitor. If you find the tool useful, you’re more likely to make additional searches so tracking the averages searches per user is a pretty good indicator of quality. In this case, that number has steadily risen since the launch:

And this makes sense — launch day (Jan 16) had a lot of folks just checking it out so you’d expect the number of searches to be lower. As the ooh-shiny-thing traffic fades off, the people who are left are the ones who are actually using the tool for its intended purpose. Currently, the average number of searches per user is hovering at around 4.

The average number of available results has also steadily risen:

Again, I think this is simply due to the nature of the people who are using it — the longer you stick around, the more likely you are to search for less-common and obscure words which on average will return more available domain names. Currently, the average number of available domains returned per search is a little over 600 and I expect that number to go up a lot over next few weeks (more on that in a moment).

One thing I’ve spent a lot of time on since the launch is improving the quality and speed of the results. Here’s a graph showing the impact of my speed optimizations:

On launch day, the average search took 4.39 seconds (227 domains/second). Yesterday, the average search tool 2.98 seconds (335 domains/second), a 47% increase in speed (the duration distribution is actually bimodal — if you search for a phrase that has been searched for before, a cache will kick in and it will take fractions of a second; if you search for a new phrase, it takes a few seconds to perform the lookup; it averages out around 3s).

By the way, all of these metrics were tracked by Mixpanel. If you run a JavaScript heavy application, you absolutely should be using it to track your app’s analytics.

Finally, one important qualitative indicator is the number of positive things folks are saying about Lean Domain Search like “This is exactly what I need. I have been having difficulty looking for viable domain names that contain good keywords and that I can use as a business name as well. Great help.” and more colorfully “Holy balls that comes back with some quick results.” You can read the other testimonials here. :)

Design Improvements

Here’s the design on launch day and now (click to enlarge):

The overall design hasn’t change much, but there are a few notable exceptions.

  • Added filtering and sorting options (starts with search term, ends with search term, sort by length or alphabetical)
  • Added a News section where I can post significant updates for visitors
  • Added a Synonyms section which lists synonyms of your search term if they exist
  • Added Moniker and BlueHost to the list of registrars
  • Darkened the shade of green used for available search results
  • Changed the registration box from a fixed position to a draggable dialog box so users can move it out of the way
  • The registered search results are now hidden by default
  • The “Add to favorites” icon (which used to be a plus sign you’d see when hovering over a domain) is now in the registration options box — I did this because opening the registration options box now automatically triggers a “double-check” feature which confirms the availability of the domain name you clicked on and I don’t want users adding domains to their favorites that are actually registered
  • Added a testimonials link on the footer and removed the UserVoice suggestions link (no one was using it)

The Future (Viva la Revolución!)

With the major kinks worked out, it’s time to start looking forward.

Starting today (Monday, 30 Jan), I will add 100 new domains per week to the search results. From launch day until today, there have been 1,000 results when you search for a given term. Today, there are 1,100. Nine weeks from now, there will be 2,000 search results. And i’ll continue doing this as long as the quality of the results stays high and the servers can handle it.

Bottom line: it’s now easier than ever to find a great available domain name. If you’re launching a new blog, a startup, or any other endeavor that requires a new domain name, you should never have to pay a domain-squatter again.

Give Lean Domain Search a shot and let me know how to make it better.

Matt (@mhmazur)

4 thoughts on “Lean Domain Search: Two Weeks After the HackerNews Launch

  1. I would not say that averages variance is completely meaningless. Rolling averages are used quite a bit industry to show data trends. I’m not sure if the data shown is a rolling average or just a point in time average. Even still the average can show trending that can be very important to data behavior. That in mind variance does show a clearer picture of the underlying variability of the data. The variance will dictate if significance of change is occurring with the data.

  2. I visited your site while you were on HN front page and found myself a great domain name on my very first search: boardword.com, which I promptly bought soon thereafter for a small wordsolving engine I’d been developing for the past few days. Thanks!

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