Checklist Before Buying Expired Domain Names
There are a lot of reasons why people choose to buy a used or an expired domain. It might be the case that the domain they want happens to be one that was previously owned by somebody else. But most times people choose to buy an expired domain because they want to gain advantage from the fact that it’s an older domain that might also come with some SEO benefits.
By buying an expired domain we mean buying a recently expired domain, not one that had 1-2 previous owners in the last 5 to 10 years. Often, people do not even realize that the domain they buy had a previous owner.
When shopping for an expired domain, it makes sense to pick the best one in the niche in which the new site will be launched. There will be little SEO benefits if somebody wants to start a new website about cooking and buys a domain that was used for a blog about cars.
There are some things that can be done to ensure that the soon to be domain will benefit the new website and not backfire. We compiled a list of things that you should look out for before deciding to buy an expired domain.
There are some checks that you can do before you buy it, possibly rooting out the most toxic ones, and there are some other checks that you can do after you’ve actually bought the domain, because then you can prove ownership of it to a lot of services like Google Webmaster Tools, for example.
Checklist Before Buying an Expired Domain Name
A simple Google search can reveal some info about a domain’s previous history, but there are other tools to investigate the previous life of a domain. Here are the main things you should check for:
1. Check for Current Google Penalties
Before buying the domain, you can do a simple Google search (“site:domain.com”). If nothing shows up, it can be an indication that the site is under penalty from Google, which can be an automatic or a manual penalty. Either way, it’s not a good sign. Of course, there is a chance that the previous owner opted for it not to appear in the Google search index via robots.txt, for example, but even in that case you should see a few hits mentioning this fact.
2. Check Different SEO Metrics
There are a lot of tools that will produce scores given a domain name, and one example would be the Domain Authority or SEO MOZ Page Authority. Google discontinued the Page Rank, but there are other metrics that you can rely on instead. Look for extremes – if the DA or PA of a certain site is unusually high or low, and there is no clear explanation why, watch out and maybe dig a bit deeper.
3. Check for the Type of Content That Was Hosted on the Domain
You can do a Google search (“site:domain.com”), and if you can, check to see if there is any cached search result still in the index. Even if the cached content does not look right because of missing CSS, the text-only version can still give you an idea of what type of website was hosted under the domain name.
You can also use the WayBack Machine to look at older versions of the site, chances are you will be able to see a few snapshots.
4. Investigate the Backlink Profile of the Domain
Check the type of backlinks that the domain has. If you see a lot of low-quality directory type of backlinks or even spammy ones like fake social media profiles, forum profiles, or forum signature with only a few real editorial links, it’s time to evaluate if it’s worth the effort and the risk of buying that domain. In some cases, it might be, because it is the perfect name for your brand, but if the name itself is not that important, maybe it’s better to look at the next domain.
It might be the case that those links are disavowed in the GWT, but you cannot know for sure unless you buy the domain.
Extra Checks After Buying a Domain Name
After you purchase your domain there are a few extra checks that you can do before you host an actual website on it:
1. Look for Incoming Traffic
You can investigate the incoming traffic, either by setting up a small HTML page with just the Google analytics code on it and maybe a coming soon message, or by looking at the web server logs. Check the referrals, if you see traffic coming from random websites that seems legitimate, but you don’t find a link to your domain on them, it might be a sign that the previous owner was involved in some shady business like hijacking other websites and redirecting traffic to its website.
2. Google Webmaster Tools
After you have purchased the domain name, you can sign up with the Google Webmaster Tools, because now you can prove ownership of the website. Wait a couple of days or a week to see if anything shows up in Webmaster Tools like messages regarding manual penalty or basically any other issue. There is no guarantee that the domain is clean even if after a week or so you do not see any message from Google, but if you do receive messages, you know that it it’s maybe better not to host your new website under that domain.
3. Check for Email Spam
Set up a new email address on the domain name and send out a few emails to yourself, maybe to some of your friends with a link to the website. Check if the emails arrive in the Inbox or in the Spam folder. This a simple check that you can do, and if the emails do land in the Spam folder, you can look into why is that the case.
There are also tools that can identify domain names used in spam campaigns:
These tools can help you check the domain’s blacklist status and can help with tips on how you can remove/clear it from certain blacklists.
This article might make it seem that buying a domain name is a highly risky business. This is because it focuses mainly on the problems and worst case scenarios that can arise with buying used/expired domains, and it’s geared toward those who want to be thorough in researching the history of an expired domain. In most cases, however, the situation is not that bad, and there are numerous success stories when it comes to people buying extremely valuable domain names that had a previous owner.
Find Valuable Expired Domains at GoDaddy
In the Domain Auctions section at GoDaddy you can choose from thousands of expiring domains in various niches.