The Basic Problem with Buying Expired Domains for SEO
In this post I am going to show you how to find good expired domains with the least amount of your money invested.
To see the basic problem you run into when trying to find high authority expired domains, let’s compare it to buying a pair of shoes.
You go to your favorite shoe store, you look for your size, which is let’s say 8.5 if you are in the US or 40 if you are in Europe. You try it on, it will hopefully fit. If the numbering of the company is a bit off, it will be either a bit to small or too big, you will look for the next size up or down, see if the shoes are comfortable. End of story.
However, when you shop for an expired domain, you deal with metrics like backlinks, domain pop, Trust Flow, Domain Authority. These unfortunately don’t exist in the touchable universe, unlike a pair of shoes, these are only in the cyber universe. Additionally, these metrics were created by different companies that are not the company that is actually going to rank your site.
This opens the door to several “hallucinatory” realities on the subject, with the end result that without a proper guide you are likely to buy something that on the surface looks good, however when you build a site on it, it is useless, or even worse, outright harmful. Or you pay thousands of dollars for something on an auction that is mediocre.
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Some backlink tools will not even analyze the domain for you if there is no existing site with it, which in many cases makes make the tool half useless.
Another problem is that several of these tools require a $100 range per month subscription, so if you do not know what you are doing, you are wasting your money on the subscription and on domain names with hallucinatory links that only exist in the software’s database and do not help you achieve your goal, which is building a website or finding a quality domain to flip.
Backlink Checkers Are Inaccurate
To illustrate all this, I am going to give you an example. I was looking for expired domains connected with gifts.
I found the following expiring domain on an expired domain auction and I happened to use it for testing: UniqueGiftshopOnline.com
(Disclaimer: This is not a great domain name, because it is too long. I am just using it as an example.)
As I do not necessarily just believe all the numbers I see, I decided to do a bit of digging around with different software. This is what I found.
Moz, which I had been using as a free version, said the domain had 0 backlinks. Also, I had checked several other domains with this tool previously, and there were a suspiciously high number of zeros on the link count using this tool.
When I entered my own site, DayTradingBuddy.com, and Moz spit out a big fat zero for backlinks, I knew it was wrong. The site was my earlier unsuccessful attempt with expired domains in the Forex niche, but I knew from Google Webmaster tools that it had more than zero links. It was an earlier successful site that I bought based on its old age and apparent Domain Authority of 25, however after setting up the site and spending a bunch of time on it, it is averaging a visitor or two a day.
Therefore I entered these sites into Majestic.com.
It said External Backlinks for UniqueGiftshopOnline.com: 88
And Majestic also gave me over 100 links for DayTradingBuddy.com.
At this point I was looking for an answer for the difference, as the number of links were reported differently and this can greatly influence the success of buying domains. I found the following answer on MOZ.com:
“How does SEOmoz Crawl the Web?
“The reason that we don’t immediately crawl links we find during a crawl is because of scheduling. Any links the crawler sees must first go through the scheduler and be deemed important enough (we don’t want to spend time crawling spam or in honey traps). This means there may be a few days gap between seeing a link for the first time and when the link is actually crawled. Also, if a link is not in a high-ranking root domain (or in a root domain that has lots of links), then it may not even make the cut to be in the schedule.”
This is clearly the answer. While MOZ can potentially uncover good sites, it will tell you that sites that are deemed unimportant have zero backlinks when they do not, thus potentially losing good sites. Therefore searching for expired domains based on MOZ backlink count is not a good idea. (You can still use it to verify backlinks after you found the domains and the linking sites happen to be important enough to be in their data base.)
DA and PA May Be Incorrect
Also don’t forget, if MOZ doesn’t have the backlinks in its data base, its DA and PA will also be wrong:
“We calculate Domain Authority combining many of our other link metrics — linking root domains, number of total links, MozRank, MozTrust, etc. — into a single DA score. This score can then be used when comparing one site to another or tracking the ‘ranking strength’ of a website over time.”
I did some further research, tried some additional sites and software and I used the above mentioned sites for test.
Backlink Counts Are Incorrect
I checked BacklinkWatch.com. While it was giving me backlinks for many sites, I found that some percentage of the backlinks was completely nonexistent, and they site itself is promoting scammy and spammy affiliate programs, so I ruled this one out.
The next software I checked out was the free version of SEO SpyGlass. (You need Java to run it.)
Per SEO SpyGlass the expired domain UniqueGiftshopOnline.com has 27 links from 13 domains.
And DayTradingBuddy.com had 11 links and it disregarded the about 100 links that supposedly exist from YelowPages.com per majestic.
This got me thinking again. Which number is correct?
SEO SpyGlass uses the data base of WebMeUp.com, which has 642 billion links in its data base. Then it also verifies some of the data from Google, Bing, etc.
Then I checked how Majestic collects its link data. It has its own crawler that actually seems to be more thorough than Moz. To make things even more complicated, Majestic has two different data bases, a short term one that “forgets” a link after 90 days, and a historical one that keeps the data for about 5 years.
The Memory Effect
And this is where the penny dropped: The FAQs of Majestic.com were talking about a “memory effect” which it describes as a problem that every single link crawling operation has. Even Google.
Have you ever searched in Google and come across a result that pointed to a removed web page or website that has been discontinued? This is an example of the memory effect. Google also has an index that gets updated periodically based on its crawls, and when you search for a phrase, it gives you the results from its index and does not actually go out and search the web to give you its answer.
Additionally, I came across an article on MatthewWoodward.co.uk that compares the different backlink services, and he additionally found that these services were only finding about 10-20 percent of the existing links.
So the memory effect and the failure to crawl all sites regularly basically makes ALL of the link counts given by the different services incorrect.
Which Is The Right Backlink tool To Use?
While there is probably no perfect solution to this problem, the best resolution I came to is from asking the following question and answering it:
Q: When it comes to your site getting ranked in the search engines like Google, who makes the decision and based on what?
A: It is the search engines that rank your site, and they rank it based on the links in their own database.
So what does this mean?
Majestic.com is probably right, minus the memory effect, when it tells me it has crawled 88 backlinks to UniqueGiftshopOnline.com. But if you buy the domain, it will be ranked by Google and Bing based on the links that is in the data base of Google and Bing, which is probably somewhere in between the 27 and 88 links.
However there is no way to know exactly what Google, the biggest search engine sees, and its index is also faulty. Even in Google Search Console, which you can only use when you are the owner of the website, you will not see all your links Google is aware of. And Google will not be aware of the links you recently built but haven’t been indexed, and you will see removed links that are still in its data base.
Of course you can go out and manually check every single link listed in Majestic, see if you can find them, track them in an Excel sheet, get the missing ones indexed… but it is just too much work.
The main thing is that YOU need to understand or correctly estimate what you are buying and YOU need to have a plan what you are going to do with it, i. e. how YOU are going to make it into a profitable website that fits YOUR needs! And you’d better know your stuff!
I haven’t checked it out myself, but I am told that Ahrefs is the best baclink tool, with the highest number of backlinks in its data base. However it costs $99 per month, which makes it not viable for checking a few domains when you want to buy one.
My personal conclusion is that we would need to have a subscription to all these services to cross-verify data, which is also out of the budget of most people. I worked out my own compromise, which you can use if you want to.
My Method To Find High Authority Expired Domains
First you need to go to ExpiredDomains.net, and you need to have signed up for a free account, and you need to be logged in, otherwise you don’t see all the data available.
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Then you enter your keyword. Be advised that the narrower the keyword, the less authority the expired domains you find will have. In some niches you won’t find good domains at all.
In the search results, you sort by TF, and you check all the top domains you are interested in. Then you sort by CF, Domain Pop and Majestic Backlinks.
Then I use SEO SpyGlass (free version) to check the backlink structure.
(The full version gives you more data, like the quality of the backlinks and it does not have limit on the number of links analyzed per website. You can also save your projects in the full version. It is the lowest cost backlink checker you will find.)
SEO Spyglass will be showing less links than the reality. Later when I present the metrics I found for several domains, you will see that I would be completely wrong if I based my buying decisions on Majestic’s link count, which is even provided by Expireddomains.net.
I always verify the data that a software gives me and try to make an informed decision. I am not telling you that you need to check every single link (even though you probably should). What you should do is, once you did your pre-selection of domains, randomly select a few, maybe 5 links, find them manually and see them for yourself.
Doing this kind of verification, not just in link building but in any area of life, will give you extra information and knowledge that otherwise you would never get. This is very important.
E. g., In the above example for UniqueGiftshopOnline.com, this is is what I found:
Here is a linking page first (you can probably still pull up the page and verify what I am saying):
and then the actual backlink:
leaky toilet tank screws
Here is another linking page and then the link to the same domain: (link not there any more)
easy essay help
This goes into the second problem with expired domains, which is link quality.
Leaky toilet tank screws are not exactly on the subject of unique gifts and hiring essay writers either. You always need to look at link quality.
And look at all those spammy anchor texts about essays, course, final exams…
These are all from the time period when people were able to use ANY off-niche expired domain to boost their rankings.
Some of the things you will run into:
- High backlink count but all anchor texts in Chinese, Japanese or some Arabic language. I even ran into a link that had an anchor text that included something in English along the lines of Osama Bin Laden’s registered domain.
- Tens of thousands of backlinks, but they are all from a few domains, like two or three. Remember that Domain Pop (number of linking domains) is more important than number of backlinks.
- Links with anchor texts of porn, pharma, casino, Viagra, etc. A few years ago you used to be able to rank an expired domain for any keyword by pointing the right anchor text links to it, that’s why you get this kind of spam.
- Many times a domain name word could mean something else. E.g.: While searching for a domain name with the word “domain” in it I found several domains that were along the lines of “perfect domain” that had to do with the subject of a female body and had sexual links.
- Sitewide links. An example would be a link in the footer, e. g. “Powered by xyz.com”. These appear in the footer on every single page, inflating your backlink count, but they are useless for your rankings.
- Over-optimized anchor texts, e.g. the expired domain Personal-Domains.info has 280 links from 271 domains, but all anchor texts say www.Personal-Domains.info. Google penalizes this.
- Domains that were already used for redirect. In this case you will see something like this on Wayback Machine: “Got a HTTP 301 response at crawl time. Redirecting to …”
- Membership sites will have a huge amount of backlinks, but they will be pointing to hundreds of different sub-domains created for the different members. Also the content will greatly vary as the members all write about something else. In this case the backlinks will be highly irrelevant and will not help your rankings very much.
- Links from article directories, link directories, spam forum comments, sites where the last post was in 2012 and other sources that are penalized. Also unnatural link profiles, such as only 3 anchor texts for all of the links.
Forums are especially spammy. Even though they usually have a lot of backlinks, these are not worthy as domains and many times as backlinks either. Here is an example of a spam backlink from a Forum:
“Expired Domain Search says
“September 15, 2010 at 10:54 am
“Hi, at the moment I’m seeking with my iphone four new design suggestions and so I have uncovered your web page. Your design is definitely simple but also compare it for a posts. I consider I would use it for my primary draft. Thank you for this concept!”
Of course there is no person named “Expired Domain Search” (with a link to the site) and Google is aware of this kind of spam to the point where your rankings will be penalized if you allow such to occur on your own site. Also the site was the most horrible-looking website I ever saw.
Quality of Linking Sites
The final point I want to make about backlinks is the quality of the linking sites. Ideally you want links from trusted sites. If you cannot find such, you will need to do link building afterwards. (You will need to do that anyways.)
Trust is measured by the Trust Flow metrics of Majestic. Also SEMRush has a trust metric indicated in its backlink report. The point is that low quality sites have zero trust, high quality sites have high trust. You obviously need high trust links in addition to the regular ones.
Many people use metrics like Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Domain Authority, Page Authority for picking an expired domain. This makes things even more confusing. There is a whole debate about this, some people say you should only buy domains that have DA and PA, CF and TF over 15 or 20 or whatever and spam score whatever.
Others argue that these are not Google metrics and they fluctuate even within a few days time. You may have heard mention of the DA yo-yo. Also DA, PA, CF and TF all depend on what links the measuring software is aware of. If the links are not there any more but they haven’t been removed from the software’s database, you will get falsely better metrics than the reality. (DA and CF are even different for the www version of the same domain, many times higher than the non-www version.)
I cannot give you an answer if you should use these or you should not. However in my opinion, these are all just metrics that give you certain guidance. Look at their range, but not the exact value.
And do not lose sight of the fact that these come from a software’s perception of real linking domains and links, which could or could not be faulty. Manually looking at the quality (or lack of) the actual linking sites usually tells you the story.
Relevance of the individual links and anchor texts is very important. Is the visitor who clicks on the link going to find on your site what he is looking for? This is crucial in Google’s algorithm and the final purpose is always to ensure your visitors have the best experience ever and get helped with what they need.
You should get into niches where you can actually make a difference with your quality content or services. I also read somewhere that Google will not rank a small site in a niche like credit cards or Apple products. There are already big authority sites for such subjects and why would your little micro-niche site would get ranked for such? What value can a small Johnny come lately site add to the big boys?
Whether this is correct or not is not the point. Only get into niches and buy domains if you are sure you can be relevant and provide real value that is missing in the area and your site could become a real authority.
When the domain passed all the above, then I check DA in Moz and TF & CF in Majestic (free version). Make sure CF is not multiple times higher than TF.
And I also take note of the backlink count and the actual links listed in both of these programs.
With this sequence you only need to use your limited resources a limited number of times.
You can get an idea about TF and CF in ExpiredDomains.net, but be aware that this gets updated only when the domain is first uploaded, therefore it can go out of date. Also Majestic has a likelihood of having already deleted links in its database that can falsify the results.
What Are You Going To Do With Your Expired Domain?
Before you you put in all that time into hunting for expired domains, you need to have an idea what you are going to use them for. Otherwise you will find yourself going through the list over and over.
Your options are the following:
The most obvious option is to build your own own site fully from scratch just like you would be doing it with a freshly registered, never-before-used domain. Your purpose would be to build an authority site. Make sure the pages your backlinks point to actually exist, or are 301 redirected to a page with similar, so that the anchor texts people click on match the topic of your page. If you don’t do this, you will lose the benefit of the backlinks, as Google will treat them as a soft 404 (and not transfer link juice).
The next option you have is to “clone” the original site. You would reconstruct the site using WordPress and the content available in Wayback Machine. You would have the same URLs as the original site with similar content (you could get into legal trouble for stealing the content and using it straight.) Then you can add to your clone site using newly created content based on your keyword research.
You can use both of the above types as a money site or as a feeder site with a connected niche.
Expired Domain 301 Redirect
You could use a 301 redirect. Usually you have one domain that fits the main keyword or brand you are trying to use, but oftentimes these perfectly named domains don’t have many backlinks. You may consider using a similar or related domain that has a higher number of backlinks and merging it with your main site.
But you need to be careful, this is a bit gray hat.
This is based on the situation when one company buys another one and the two company websites get merged together. Content gets moved from one site to another and links get redirected.
Watch out, just plain 301 redirecting one site to the other one’s home page will not work. You need to make sure the links, anchor texts and target pages are relevant to each other, otherwise you lose the benefits of links due to soft 404 – and because of the bad user experience that will increase your bounce rate.
Many people use Private Blog Networks and link these to their money sites to increase its rank. Google started to crack down on PBNs. If you decide to use your expired domains as PBNs because of your own decision, be aware that the rules have majorly changed in this field and you cannot get away with a few pages of horrible spinned content, as Penguin or a manual review could penalize your site. Your sites need to be able to pass a manual inspection, at which stage you might as well just build real sites for real visitors and not just for Googlebot.
The last use of expired domains is to sell them as expired domains or sell them as reconstructed websites with a profit.
I recommend that you keep an excel grid on the data of all of your examined domains, with all metrics you check. Check all domains that seem to have great link count from the outside, even if you don’t see an immediate use for them. Many times things get re-evaluated as you go and domains that seemed useless may suddenly become useful, and doing a thorough job will make it unnecessary to go back again and having to redo the job.
Always look at the larger area and related, as this will present opportunities otherwise you will miss. E. g. when I researched expired domains, I also researched domains, dropped, deleted and even web hosting, as these are closely related.
Using SEO SpyGlass To Judge Competition
The first thing to do before you even go near any expired domain is check out the top sites in your niche to see what kind of link profile they have. This includes both the number or the quality of links. This way you see how many links you will need for your site and if you can get away with some lower quality links.
In Google, ExpiredDomains.net ranks on the top place for the keyword “expired domains“.
OK, so let’s input the name of the site, in order to see the competition. SEO SpyGlass will give you the following:
Look at the data at the following tabs of the software:
Look at the number of do-follow and no-follow links.
Compare the number of links with the number of domains the links are coming from. If you find a domain with 100,000 links from 3 domains, that is a bad link profile and you will see this right away.
Anchors and Pages:
Look at the anchor texts themselves. Most of them should be along the lines of the niche, but there should be a variation of anchor texts to avoid Google penalty. Expireddmains.net has a great link profile.
Here you can look at the specific domains that link and the pages it links to.
Here you can see the actual links, the anchor texts, the title of the linking page and the page linked to.
This was the number one on the list. On the other end, you can also check #10 for your keyword.
Again, you would input it into SEO SpyGlass. Again, take a look at the Anchors and Pages, Linking Domains and Backlinks tabs.
One point I want to make is that at the time of writing, this is the top 10.:
Expired Domains | Daily Updated Domain Lists for 386 TLDs
Buy Expired Domains: Metrics From Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, Estibot …
Expired Domain Search | DomainHole
FreshDrop.com | Expired or Dropped Domains | Domain Name Search
Expired Domains with PageRank, Alexa Rank, Backlinks and more …
List of EXPIRED DOMAINS with Majestic TF/CF & Moz DA/PA
Learn How To Find Powerful Expired Domains Step By Step
https://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk › Tutorials
Domain Auction | Buy & Sell Distinctive Domains – GoDaddy
Recovering expired domain names | Domains – GoDaddy Help US
How to Use Expired Domains for SEO – Gotch SEO
Do you see that there are only two in the whole list that are targeting expired domains with the keyword in the domain name?
Checking for Your Niche Expired/Deleted Domains
When I researched YourExpiredDomains.com, I went to ExpiredDomains.net and entered my keyword.
I kept track of my results in an Excel grid. To give you an idea, I have included here the grid for subject of Domains.
You can see the huge difference in link count between Majestic and SEO Spyglass. Expired domains without a website lose links, and these probably haven’t been cleaned out of Majestic’s index.
(Sorry that the table is stretched.)
|Domain Name||Status||Price||Majestic Links||SEO SpyGlass||SEO SpyGlass Analyzed||Notes|
|PremiumDomainServices.net||Deleted||196000||90000||6000||All Japanese anchor texts|
|vlogdomainnames.com||NameJet||Backorder||63000||9564||1600||Pharma anchor texts vicodin|
|Domain-Junkie.org||Deleted||61400||9471||881||4 referring domains|
|ByDomains.net||NameSilo||$50.00||54700||40131||5218||Many Chinese/ Japanese anchors|
|bestdomainameregistration.com||Deleted||8000||666||301||All Japanese anchor texts|
|SimpleDomainForum.com||Deleted||5700||2681||738||off subject forum links|
|BuyExpireDomain.com||Deleted||4600||1069||44||Only 5 domains, misspelled, Joggerstroller.net sitewide link|
|FreeDomainListings.com||Deleted||1500||1117||284||off subject spammy links|
|idomainbrokers.com||Flippa||auction||1200||343||122||expires in 2 months|
|Expired-DomainNames.com||Deleted||799||554||25||8 referring domains only|
|BuyDomainNamesForSale.com||goDaddy||$50.00||780||526||54||10 referring domains|
|ReuseDomains.com||Deleted||571||398||267||Links from GoFuckYourself.com|
Once you have a list like the above, I recommend going through each domain more thoroughly. You can crosscheck them with Majestic.com, SEMRush, pull up some backlinks.
Actually open the referring pages and see what the website is about, if the link is really there (use CTRL-F). When you do this, also look for content ideas, affiliate programs you can promote from your site, blogs you could do guest posts on. Keep your eyes peeled for other expired domains that are not on your list! This is a lot of work.
Also go to Archive.org and see what the website actually looked like when it was active. With the full version of Domain Hunter Gatherer you can actually download the old website with a few clicks. You can then use this to recreate the site by writing similar content, you can see the inside link structure and page titles.
Also, go to the Google Banned Checker and make sure the domain is not banned.
You can check the value of your domain at Estibot.
Where To Buy Expired Domains
What do you do with the deleted domains you come across? You can register these as a regular domain.
I know that most people have their favorite domain registrar they use, however I want to ask you to stand back for a moment and read the following.
Per survey, a majority of people want to register their domains as cheap as possible. This is especially important if you buy them in bulk for investing
Unfortunately the usual registrars you go to are not the cheapest. I went through the different domain registrars and I found that the cheapest registrar, with great customer service, is NameSilo.
- It has the lowest registration fees. A com domain costs $8.99 per year.
- At the time I am writing this, the com domain has a special at an insane $5.99!
- FREE Whois Privacy Forever, which is a $10 savings
- They never charge more for renewing a domain than it would cost to register that domain (with the exception of .mobi and special promotions)
- No hidden fees, which means the price includes the ICANN registration fee.
- Free domain parking
- Free Domain Defender Protection
- The Cheapest SSL certificates
- Check out the full price list here!
Use promo code yexpd to get another $1 off from the price
If you find a high authority expired domain in an auction, then you don’t really have much choice, you need to buy it from the marketplace/registrar you found it at. You can buy buy expired domains at GoDaddy Auctions.
Expired Domains With Domain Authority
You may ask if it is actually possible to find expired domains with high DA with this method.
You will not be able to for every single keyword. As I said, the broader the keyword, the better the chance.
Look at the one I just registered, using this method:
And the Majestic screenshot:
I bought it at a NameSilo auction, the domain didn’t drop. I made my bid on the last day of the auction, which is $1 on that day, there as no competition, and I paid a total of $9.99 for this domain.
The only problem I saw was that pretty much all the links go to the home page, which is not great SEO, but this can be diluted.
I wrote a post on a non-competitive keyword and it showed up on page #2 the next day… I am just working on adding quality content and I think it will be fine.
Where To Buy Expired Domains
DynaDot expired domain auctions – Expired domains with traffic
PBN HQ – You can buy expired domains at an affordable price
Scraping the Internet Yourself for Deleted Domains
Just to be complete, the last method of finding expired domains is scraping the web yourself. I am not going to detail this very much, but basically the idea is to find old pages, blogrolls, directories on the web that have a lot of links. You can check these with a broken link checker (not very efficient) or you can use a software to crawl and find the domains for you.
Domain Ronin costs $37 a week or $97 a month. It gives you all the metrics and even has a link spam checker.
Domain Hunter Gatherer – another software that is also able to find expired web 2.0 domains
So what are really your options when creating your domain list? Domain availability of course depends a lot on your niche.
- In the best case scenario you can find an expired domain with an awesome link profile and thousands of links.
- You can find a premium domain auction and buy a live domain for a few hundred dollars and verify its link structure.
- You can find a deleted domain with a few hundred or thousand links.
- You can find a deleted domain with a good keyword and no links, in which case you start from scratch just like when registering a new domain, but you can get ideas for availability from the list of deleted domain names.
- In the worst scenario, you can decide not to buy the domain that looked so good just by the name and its age, and you can save all the trouble you would have gone through!
Finding a quality expired domain is a lot of work and it is not easy. After going through thousands of domains I can spot the patterns much easier.
My experience shows that the best domains with tens of thousands of backlinks get snatched up before expiration, or become subject of bidding wars.
If you follow the above procedure, you will find a few occasional gems with several thousand backlinks. Most of the domains will be in the 50-150 backlinks range with some slightly higher and some with close to zero links.
Here are some actual examples with Archive.org screenshots and evaluation of what you can find for some keywords:
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I wish you the best luck!