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How To Buy Aged Domain Names

Does an aged domain name make it easier to rank in Google?  In some cases, yes.

It’s not so much the age of the domain, per se, as the authority you’re able to assume.  Lets review a quick Q&A from my experience:

 

If I buy an old or aged domain name, is it easier to rank in Google?

If you’re able to acquire an aged domain name with significant PageRank or an extensive back link profile, absolutely.

 

Does the domain need to be relevant to my targeted niche?

In my experience, no.

 

Should I 301 redirect the domain name to my new domain and/or existing property?

While a 301 redirect of an authoritative and/or trusted domain can enhance your existing site’s (or a new domain)  rapid acquisition of its own trust and link equity, I believe it’s almost always more effective to develop and re-establish old domains rather than a redirect.  If you’re looking to promote your existing domain or new brand, create content on re-established domains specific to your niche.

 

How do I buy old or aged domains?

Though a multitude of registrars and ancillary services exist, I’m a fan of GoDaddy Auctions.

 

How do I know which domains are worth buying?

Several paid services exist to assist in the hunt for aged authoritative domains, but why pay when you don’t have to?  I use ExpiredDomains.net free service for an initial assessment of available domains for purchase.  It will allow you to view basics metrics (PageRank, Back Links, SEOMoz Domain Authority/Page Authority, MozRank, etc.) for all domains currently available for sale on GoDaddy Auctions.  I then use SEOMastering’s Fake Page Rank Check Tool to verify authenticity of PageRank, and look for hidden bonuses like existing Yahoo Directory or DMOZ listings.  Additionally, I’ll analyze potential domain purchases with back link analysis tools like MajesticSEO, Ahrefs, and OpenSiteExplorer.  Personally, I prefer an established, diverse and clean back link profile to Google PageRank.  MajesticSEO is my tool of choice for analysis.  Even without a subscription, look for trouble indicators like over-optimized anchor texts or excessively low trust.

For example, a current domain listed on PRDrop is bosch-fh.com, touting a PageRank of 7.  Impressive, no doubt, but in analyzing this domain with MajesticSEO we see it’s showing a single back link that’s showing as recently deleted as of April 4th and nil CitationFlow or TrustFlow.  Don’t be led astray by PageRank alone.  While a PR7 site can have uses of its own, I’d much prefer a PR5 domain like togetherville.com, with a TrustFlow of 25, 16,567 back links from over 1,000 different domains on 819 referring class C subnets.

A quick search on Archive.org’s WayBackMachine shows the domain active with content as recent as March 2013, and the domain still exists in the Google index and shows no 301 redirects.  This makes for a fantastic potential acquisition.

 

What are some pitfalls to avoid when evaluating domains to acquire?

Sites that diverse back link profiles, but have been stripped of PageRank.  See my example below, WickedAngelsRadio.com, on initial inspection — evaluating back links alone — it appears that this would be an absolute power house of a domain.  Our first warning signal is the discrepancy in the ratio of CitationFlow and TrustFlow.  A domain with this many back links showing a TrustFlow of 8 likely has a sordid past.

WickedAngelsRadio has a diverse back link profile, but has been stripped of PageRank.

Upon further inspection, we see this domain has been completely stripped of PageRank by Google.
0 PageRank?  Rut roh.

0 PageRank? Rut roh.

Worse yet, glancing at its anchor text diversity, we see key indicators prior use and abuse.
Extensive back link profile.  Bueno.  Over-optimized anchors containing casino references?  No bueno

Extensive back link profile. Bueno. Over-optimized anchors containing casino references? No bueno

 

What are my options after purchasing an aged domain name?

Rebecca Kelley presented the article below on SEOMoz.  I think provide a fantastic post-acquisition risk/benefit analysis.  Again, it’s worth mentioning, in my experience I’ve seen the most favorable results when developing out the content on an acquired domain.  Your mileage (and intent) may vary.

Option #1: 301 Redirect the Old Domain to Your Existing Domain

The easiest and least time consuming option is to 301 redirect the old domain to your existing site. This tactic obviously works best if both sites are in the same sector and are targeting the same keywords; otherwise, if you have a pet supply site and you buy an old Texas Hold ‘Em poker site, a redirect probably might raise some eyebrows among the search engines. If, however, your site is brandnamepets.com and you buy onlinepetsupply.com and 301 redirect the domain over, you’re inheriting a lot of topical and appropriate links.

PROS:

  • Is the least time consuming option
  • Benefit from the value (about 95% or so) of the old domain’s links (postscript: Danny Sullivan has recently blogged about expired domains and their link credit, and it appears that buying a domain and redirecting to your site for the link benefit may not work since the links may not pass credit from expired domains.)

CONS: 

  • Old branded anchor text pointing to your new site isn’t going to help as much as a keyword-rich anchor text
  • If the old site had a penalty (for shady link building, cloaking, spamming, etc.), the penalty could carry over to your new site (I can’t confirm this to be true, but a lot of SEOs I’ve talked to believe that this is a possibility, and some have sworn that they’ve experienced it firsthand, so I guess you just have to be cautious)

 

Option #2: Create a Microsite That Links to Your Existing Domain

The second option requires a bit more time and effort than a 301 redirect. You could do a mini overhaul of the site and turn it into a microsite for your main domain. This option is good for exact-match domains for your targeted keyword, and there are other reasons for going the microsite route that Rand’s highlighted in his post about root domains, subdomains, subfolders and microsites. This strategy also works better if the old domain has decent rankings for the keywords you’re targeting.

PROS:

  • Can cross-promote/cross-link to your existing site
  • More real estate in the SERPs means more branding and potential conversions for your site
  • You can do stuff on your microsite you may not want to do with your main site (e.g., launch silly viral content, experiment with a promotional tactic)
  • You don’t have to have a completely robust site; a lot of microsites are smaller and have a single focus (e.g., center on a quiz or a centric idea)


CONS:

  • Can be time-consuming to do an overhaul of the old site
  • Aggressive promotion and linking to the existing domain can seem spammy and you could get penalized for reciprocal linking or setting up a link farm
  • Your current site isn’t inheriting any of the old site’s link value that would have come via a 301 redirect
  • Microdomains can be used ineffectively (see Rand’s Whiteboard Friday about the microsite mistake)

 

Option #3: Overhaul the Old Domain and Operate It Independently

The third option is the one that’s the most time consuming but also has its benefits. It’s like having a successful restaurant and buying another restaurant and operating them simultaneously. They’re not the exact same restaurant, but both are popular in their own right and make you money. The same goes for Option #3. You could update the content on the old domain and sell the same products that you’re selling on your current site. If you can get both sites to rank alongside each other in the SERPs, you’re increasing your conversion chances and sales potential.

PROS:

  • As with Option #2, you get more real estate in the SERPs if you can get both sites to rank for your targeted search terms
  • You don’t have to work hard to brand the old site if it’s a generic, keyword-rich domain–you can just focus on getting rankings and conversions
  • The old site already has links pointing to it and is more established than starting with a brand new domain

CONS:

  • You have to ensure that the old site doesn’t mimic the new site and runs into any duplicate content issues
  • It’s time consuming to revamp and maintain the old site (you’ve essentially doubled your workload)
  • As with Option #2, aggressive cross linking between the sites can raise red flags

Your course of action really depends on how much work and effort you can put into the expired domain. If you’re barely able to maintain and optimize your current site, you probably want to just 301 redirect the old site (note: see my amended comment above about the link value not likely to be passed). If, however, you’re more creative and have some time on your hands, you can try your hand at crafting a microsite. If you really know your stuff and are experienced at making money off various websites, you’d probably do well with the third option.

 

What has your experience been with acquiring old domains?  Let us know.  More to come.

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