Expired Domain Treasure! …Or Trash?

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An expired domain name is a lot like a used car. You can’t really be sure who owned it and what they did with it before you came along. With a used car, you risk having some high repair bills — which is bad enough. But a used domain name can be much more expensive. The wrong name can cost you traffic, search engine rank, and respectability!

Who Let It Go – And Why?

Why did the previous owner fail to renew the name? There are plenty of perfectly innocent reasons. Maybe they:

  • Were too busy to keep it up
  • Couldn’t afford it any longer
  • Shut down the business
  • Simply lost interest

Those reasons won’t cause you problems. In fact, they may bring some legacy traffic to your site from previous visitors’ bookmarks.

But consider this all-too-common reason why owners relinquish their domain names: they’ve been permanently banned from the search engines as spam sites.

Search Engines Choke On Spam Sites

Search engines hate spam. It pollutes their search results, consumes storage space, and annoys searchers. Most take aggressive steps to identify spam sites and punish them. The worst offenders get the Web promotion equivalent of the death penalty: the domain name is permanently banned from a search site’s index.

When this happens, the domain is worthless to a spammer. All his hard work at fooling search engine algorithms, manipulating META tags, and digging in the link farm is worthless. So he abandons the domain name in favor of one — or more — that still bring traffic.

Soon, the domain name appears on the many lists of expired names, or pops up when someone searches at a domain name registrar.

A Very Costly Mistake

This is where you come in. You think you’ve found the name of your dreams and eagerly register it before someone else takes it. Fast-forward a few weeks or months, and your site design is complete. You’re ready to launch!

Naturally, you submit your site to the top search engines and directories and anxiously monitor your server logs for spider visits. But no spiders ever appear… and neither do visitors.

Why not? Your dream name has become every site owner’s nightmare.

Unfortunately, there’s little you can do about it. When Google bans a domain name as a spam site, the ban is permanent. It is possible to appeal the ban, but that takes time, effort, and good fortune.

Spam Warning Signs

Take your time when you’re buying an expired domain name or purchasing one directly from the owner. Your online identity is worth at least much research as you’d put into the purchase of a used car isn’t it?

Look for spam warning signs before you grab the perfect domain name from the expired names list.

Research the owner

Did he or she own just one domain name or one thousand? Be wary of owners who control huge numbers of domain names. It’s likely they’re either speculators or spammers who inter-link their sites in an effort to boost link popularity and confuse search engine algorithms.

Check the WayBack Machine Internet Archive

Their spiders crawl the Web and maintain a Web page “history” of how sites looked at various times from 1996 to the present. Type in the expired domain name you’re interested in purchasing and see how it’s been used in the past. You may be shocked.

The key here is to research, research, research before you buy.

Ask The Right Questions

Your visit to the WayBack Machine will help you answer the following questions:

  1. Did the domain name actually have a site or was it purchased speculatively?
  • What kind of online business was it?
  • What was the site’s search engine rank and link popularity score? Hint: if the domain was recently released, the previous site information probably still exists in search engines and directories. Some engines update regularly, while some seem to go for months between updates.
  • Those answers will tell you much of what you need to know. A domain name that has never had a site attached is probably pretty safe. So is a domain name with a legitimate business behind it. And if the previous site had a good rank and popularity score, you’re ahead of the game before you even start.

    You owe it to yourself and to your clients to know the facts before you buy. This purchase is much more important than a car. This is your online business — it’s vital to your future success!

    Larisa ThomasonLarisa Thomason
    View Author

    Larisa teaches college-level Web design and programming classes and helps private clients solve Web design and promotion problems. She specializes in non-profit organizations and political candidates. In addition, Larisa is a Senior Web Analyst at NetMechanic.com

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