The aftermarket domain name market is huge. Buying existing domain names that already have what we like to call “authority” can have great SEO performance benefits. But it can also be a complete waste of money and more headaches than it is worth too. Knowing how to research a domain name before committing to buying in an after market auction marketplace or even purchasing a business with an existing website or purely online business can save you a lot of time and money.
With the recent changes in the way Google penalise websites that break their Webmaster guidelines, a domain name that has a bad linking history or has previously used spam techniques to rank and manipulate the search engine rankings could lay in waste and never earn any search engine referral traffic for the new owner. The process of cleaning up the existing linking structure and regaining Google’s trust can literally take years and the investment made in domains like this may never be returned. So how can you research and make an informed decision of whether a domain name has previously had any issues? Here are a few things you can do to potentially protect yourself if you are in the market for a used domain name.
Simple Google Search
Using Google to do a search for the domain name and site content can provide a great insight into it’s potential. If the site currently has content on it do a search using the “site:” operator and see how many pages are indexed within Google. Then do a search using the “info:” operator to ensure that the domain name itself is the domain name that is listed within the results or if any redirections exist. I would also perform a simple search for the actual domain name itself to ensure it is ranking as the top result. If the branded search is not showing the domain as the top result, this is an obvious sign of a potentially existent Google penalty.
Google Webmaster Tools / Analytics
Google provide a great set of tools that deliver all sorts of information to the owner / administrator of a domain name. Google Webmaster tools is the way Google communicate directly with the site owner. You can look specifically in Webmaster to see if there is a manual penalty listed against it. Here is a link to find out how to use this method.
Using Google Analytics or other similar traffic tool you will be able to see irregularities and dips or drops in traffic at any point in it’s history. Using traffic reporting tools like this may take a bit of experience to see but is a great way to correlate certain algorithmic changes with traffic events.
Archive.org Wayback Machine
Archive.org is a great place to start to see if a domain name has previously had a website on it and what type of content was being used. You can go back in time and view the different versions of the website and see if there was any form of automated or spammy content hosted on it. Be sure to see if the content is really relevant to the domain name or the type of business that the domain name was hosting. Google tend to remove / deindex and penalise websites with a PageRank penalty if it has hosted spammy content.
This is one of the most important things when considering the true value of a domain name. Using a tool such as Ahrefs.com or any similiar type of backlink checker you will be able to research the backlink profile of the website. Things to really watch out for are the overall anchor text density, types of links (directories, forums, blog comments, Web 2.0 profiles etc) and link velocity. Links that have been built very quickly is a bad sign especially if they come from any of the just mentioned link types. If you do not know what a good link is, hire the services of an experienced search engine optimiser before you outlay any money on a used domain name.
If there is no history in Archive.org and no backlinks showing up in a link checking tool, chances are the domain is a new domain. Which leads us to the next step.
Check Domain Registration History
The best way to check to see if a domain name has previously been registered, how many owners or whether the domain name has been “dropped” is to use the tools at http://whois.domaintools.com. Do a search for your domain name and you will be able to see a brief history of ownership and other relevant information. In the past a domain name that was “dropped” meant that the backlinks that had previously existed would no longer count towards Google rankings. This is no longer the case and it is very important to know as many details as you can about your potentially very expensive domain name investment.
There can be many benefits of buying used domain names if the research and due diligence is shown prior to committing to the purchase. If you are purchasing a business that comes with an existing website, the value of the overall business could be affected if the domain name itself has previously been penalised and is generating no traffic or exposure for the business.
If you do have to do a link cleanup or repair the trust of the domain name in any way ensure that you are evaluating the expense and time that is needed to go through this process correctly. If you do have the need for an experienced SEO to evaluate a domain name potential or to provide Google Penalty removal services contact us today to discuss how we can help you.
Webpire Marketing are the leading digital marketing & SEO agency located in Hobart, Tasmania. We offer web design & online marketing services such as SEO, social media marketing & PPC to businesses of all sizes.