Online Basics

Before You Buy: Check Expired Domain Names for Problems

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Category: Online Basics , Choosing A Domain Name



Expired domain names are Web addresses that didn't get renewed when the domain registration term came to an end. After a short waiting period, expired domain names become available to the public for purchase. The demand for these expired Web addresses has created a business in itself. When you buy expired domain names, you can gain immediate page rank and "link popularity" – in other words, you can capitalize on what the previous site accomplished. In this way, expired domain names may help you start out closer to the top of search engine results pages rather than spending time (and money) clawing your way up from the bottom.

The potential advantages of pre-owned Web addresses make it easy to think of expired domain names not just "as good as new" – but as something even better. Yet while it's true that some expired domain names can help you get a jump start to online success, you'll need to do your homework to avoid choosing the used Web addresses that can cause trouble for your online business.

Before considering expired domain names for your online business, you should check domain names based on several key indicators of success with search engines and compatibility with your business.

Approval of Google®

Did the previous site stay on Google's good side? If it violated any of Google's strict guidelines -- including those against reciprocal linking or serial spamming -- it could be difficult (if not impossible) for you to get indexed on the search engine's results pages. Even emails linked to your domain will be blocked.

You can check domain names in the Google cache, a public, online tool that allows you to see what version of a page is currently in its index. Simply enter "cache:domainname.com" in the Google search box and you'll see a snapshot of the site taken by Google the last time it crawled the Web. This version of the site was used to generate the index results – if you can't find it, there could be a problem.

Nature of Content

What was the nature of the previous site's content? How could it help or hurt you? While it's important to increase traffic to your site, your focus should be on attracting traffic which is relevant to your business. You can check domain names in the Internet Archive, which stores copies of previous site versions dating back to 1996. You can view these sites by typing the domain name into the archive's Wayback Machine.

Quality of Backlinks

When it comes to link popularity, quantity is important, but quality is key. The search engines tend to stick to the notion that you're only as relevant as those sites with which you associate. Take a closer look at backlinks of expired domain names and avoid those Web addresses associated with spamming, reciprocal linking schemes and other. You can check domain names for backlinks by using an online tool like Google' backlink checker, which will provide backlink results when you type "Link:domainname.com" in its search box.

Transfer of Ownership

The WHOIS database is the ultimate resource for domain name information. Unless the latest owner used private registration, the WHOIS database should tell you all you need to know about ownership of expired domain names. One important answer to retrieve from the WHOIS database when you check domain names: How often has the site changed owners in recent years? Expired domain names with frequent transfers of ownership should be eyed with skepticism.

If you do register an expired domain name that has been banned by the search engines, you can appeal to have your new site included in the index – a process which can take time and money. It's much better to do your research and avoid used Web addresses which have the potential to damage your online business and your brand. The bottom line: If you're considering expired domain names, you must check domain names for a history of problems before you risk your online business' future.