April 29, 2010

Heather Werner ’02 Drives Traffic on the Web

Exactly how do Google and Yahoo generate millions of dollars each year, especially when many of their services are free? Ask people behind the scenes like Heather Werner ’02, domain advertising specialist with DomCollect AG in Cologne, Germany, who work like Internet traffic controllers. Werner finds ways to transform Internet traffic into revenue for her firm.

The anthropology & sociology and German graduate studies consumer behavior and cultural norms to determine how to increase traffic on a portfolio of domains owned by DomCollect. As she explains it, it’s ensuring an investment yields a high return.

A domain can be developed into a web site (e.g. with its own address and location on the Internet, and with pages of associated content. If you want people to visit your site, she says, you first need to know your audience and find a domain name and TLD (e.g. .com, .edu) suited to it.

“With an undeveloped domain, you can set it in a parking program, such as Sedo,” Werner explains. “Sedo is a marketplace where domain owners can list their domains and park them for the chance to earn money. Those who visit the domains in a parking program will see a template with ads, which to an untrained eye would look like a normal web site.”

At DomCollect, specialists like Werner analyze who is visiting the domains the company oversees. Then the real work of driving traffic to those domains begins.

“If I take a domain with zero traffic and project it, it truly is a rewarding experience to know I developed it in a way so that traffic is being drawn to it and the site is being used as I had imagined it to be,” she says. “For instance, if there is a domain referring to taxes, I will develop it in a way knowing what people are looking for in that specific area. I might see they are buying a specific product or using a special service that I placed on that page.”

Werner, who just earned her MBA in international management from University of London, Royal Holloway, had been preparing for life abroad before she worked for DomCollect. She caught the travel bug early, eagerly learning about the places her father visited while serving in the Air Force.

After studying ethnologies and cultural differences in Western Europe with Andrea Smith, associate professor of anthropology and sociology, Werner added anthropology and sociology as a major and pursued international opportunities. She spent a summer in Bonn, Germany, and traveled to Poland and Russia for an interim session course. She also visited New Mexico with Lafayette’s Alternative Spring Break Club and participated in American University’s Peace and Conflict Resolution program in Washington, D.C.

The opportunity to work closely with Lafayette faculty made an impact on Werner both academically and personally. She still keeps in touch with Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, professor and head of foreign languages and literatures, Deborah Byrd, associate professor of English, Gary Miller, former College chaplain, Steve Lammers, Helen H.P. Manson Professor Emeritus of the English Bible, with whom she conducted EXCEL research, and Robert Weiner, Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Professor of History.

It was Weiner who delivered a holiday surprise not long after Werner graduated.

“In my freshman year, I took a history course with Professor Weiner regarding World War II and the Holocaust,” she recalls. “I really appreciated the ear he willingly gave when I had questions. It is his caring nature that is memorable. After graduation when I was living in Hamburg, Germany, with a yearlong exchange program (Congress Bundestag Exchange Program for Young Professionals), he mentioned he was in Berlin with Professor Pribic and students. He knew that due to my program I was not able to travel home for the holidays, and instead of spending the winter holidays alone, I accepted his invitation to join the Lafayette students at the Brandenburg Gate for New Year’s fireworks.”

She employs techniques from Lamb-Faffelberger’s classroom in helping German students learn English.

“She was willing to work together with me in enjoying the study of the German language,” Werner says. “She used various learning methods to help one learn a foreign language, which are very catchy and have been helpful for me to use with my private English students.”

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