More Pre-Owned Domain Strategies

More Pre-Owned Domain Strategies

I’ve previously discussed some aspects of buying pre-owned domains. There have been some ups and downs to this for me, the biggest being that I’ve got a truck load of domains to develop. Here are a few things I’ve observed over the past few months of buying these expired domains that I think some of you will find interesting. Are you ready to ramble?

 

PageRank: Real and Faked

Real and Fake Pagerank

As you may know, Google recently did a major toolbar PR update. However, if you’re using Freshdrop.net you may have noticed that the PR displayed on their table still shows the old value. You should always check the PR against what is currently on the site, not what is being shown on the table. Also, bear in mind that PR will probably drop after the transfer since you’ll tend to lose old links. Link building will be critical in order for you to maintain the PageRank of the domain you’ve purchased.

Fake PR generally means that the owner of the site boosted their apparent PR using a trick to cause the Google toolbar to retrieve the value for a different site. However, I’ve found that this can also be set to ‘Y’ if there is a problem with the page, such as an application error, or a redirect to a hosting company’s home page if the current domain owner’s hosting account has expired at the same time as their domain. When I’m looking at the closeout bin I’ve started including the Fake PR sites, particularly when I’m looking at older domains.

Is It Indexed?

Indexed Domain

One thing I look at when considering a pre-owned domain is if the domain is currently indexed in Google. If it isn’t this could mean that the site hasn’t been active or just parked for quite some time. Unfortunately, buying this domain could be just like buying a brand new domain when it comes to getting indexed and dealing with the sandbox. You can check this from Google by entering site:yourdomainname.com (no http).

 

Going WayBack

Domain in the Past

As I’ve mentioned on other occasions you should use the WayBack Machine to explore the history of the domain you’re considering purchasing.

You want to avoid domains that have a bad history such as spamming or showing adult content. For example, some people who bought a pre-owned domain like this have had their accounts canceled with the eBay Partner Network or get turned down by other advertisers. It seems once a domain is on this list it can be hard to get it off the watched list.

Another advantage of looking at the history of the site is that it might suggest some monetization ideas, good and bad. It may give you some insight into why the site didn’t perform well for the previous owner and why they’ve decided to let it go.

Who Are You?

Bad Guy Domain List

There are other two primary tools I use to further investigate a domain that I’m considering buying.

The first is Whois by Domain Tools. This site is easily assessable via the SEOQuake browser toolbar addin. It will show you the basics about the domain and if the domain is officially blacklisted by Google. It will also show you the current ownership of the domain. There are extras you can buy but the free stuff is generally enough.

The second is dnScoop. This site will give you additional information such as a more accurate, in my estimation, domain age and PageRank. It will also tell you the number of Yahoo backlinks, Alexa and a vague estimate of the value of the domain.

Buying Domains That Have a Live Site

Angry ex-domain owner seeing red

Most of the Freshdrop Closeout Bin sites you’ll find will only have a GoDaddy Parking Page. However, on occasion, you’ll find some that have an active website on them. This could mean that the current domain owner doesn’t know that their domain is about to expire. While this may not mean a lot to a person who had set up a site to announce a wedding 6 years ago, it can be critical to a business. Maybe somebody in IT or accounting forgot to pay for it or perhaps the auto-renew credit card is no longer valid. Whatever the case, they’re about to lose their domain that some portion of their business depends upon.

When this happens and you’re the buyer, guess what, they’re probably going to think you’re a hacker who stole their site until they figure out that someone at their company screwed up. When that sinks in you know it’s not their fault that the domain expired because they had the wrong contact information or an invalid credit card on file. It’s your fault or maybe GoDaddy’s.

If you don’t buy private registration for such a domain you may as well expect an angry phone call, legal threats and the like. The bottom line is that if you buy private registration you can avoid this kind of unpleasant hassle. While you may lose such a domain through ICANN arbitration, eventually, few small to mid-sized companies will go to that amount of trouble.

OK, I’m done rambling about domains this time around. Do you have anything you would like to say about your previously owned domain buying experiences?

 


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19 Comments »

Comment by Minnesota North Stars Jerseys
2008-08-07 12:12:06

I’ve had two previous owners contact me so far; neither was interested in buying back the domain.

One problem I have found is that if I buy a “name” type domain — BobSmith.com for instance — and then set up the obvious email address bob@bosmith.com, I then begin getting the previous owner’s email. I’ve begun using addresses like hellobob@bobsmith.com to avoid that … in a couple of cases, it’s been a bit voyeuristic and uncomfortable to get someone else’s email.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-07 12:39:31

Hi Minnesota,

I’ve had a couple as well and the last one is what prompted my red guy picture.

I haven’t had that happen with the email with personal name sites. I do get some misdirected mail here on OpTempo that should be going to a different TLD. I usually use a catch-all email address so that I get everything and filter out spam using both server and client side tools.

 
 
Comment by chris
2008-08-07 13:34:37

Op,

So how do you handle the sites with the angry owners? Sell them the name back, take over the site, what?

Comment by jfc
2008-08-07 13:42:01

Hi Chris,

Once they settle down and realize that they made the mistake by not renewing their domain and that it wasn’t GoDaddy who screwed up nor are you trying to steal/hack/whatever their domain they’ll come to some agreement to buy it back. I suppose they could go to court or ICANN arbitration, hire a lawyer, try to prove cybersquatting and the like. That would take a lot of time and money, something a small business or individual can’t usually afford.

 
 
Comment by Candle Monkey
2008-08-07 15:49:59

Hi Frank,

I pop onto freshdrop every couple of days. I’ve scored a few good domains that way. I actually already do much of what you suggest when I’m researching a domain … but, it’s nice to see your post validating that I’m doing it right.

As for the last part of your post …

Any thoughts on just contacting the current owner before the transaction goes through?

I guess the question would be, does the potential “karma” of helping someone to see the error of their ways before it’s too late, outweigh the potential monetary gain of picking up a “live” domain name?

Just thinking out loud.

Todd

Comment by jfc
2008-08-07 16:04:07

Hi Todd,

I suspect that many people will believe that you’re trying to scam them if you were to contact them concerning an expiring domain that they owned. Some labor under the misconception that they’ve bought the domain permanently. I kind of go with the idea on this that “no good deed goes unpunished” in this area.

 
 
2008-08-07 18:36:37

That’s been my experience with a 5-year old domain: it hasnt had a site on it since 2006 and its prooving hard to get up the serps
Lissie

Comment by jfc
2008-09-03 07:53:29

Hi Lissie,

I had one like this too. It took longer to get Google to recognize its new content than it has for me to get brand new domains indexed.

 
 
Comment by chris
2008-08-07 19:07:23

I actually let a number of domains expire on GoDaddy and then decided that I really wanted them back. failed to renew a domain that I really wanted once. I called GoDaddy and they told me that it was too late to renew but they could get them out of domain limbo for like $80 each. I said no thanks and then, months later, I got curious.

I was a little disappointed to find that the majority of them were back out there for $6.99 each.

Turned out that no one was able to buy my domains and then re-sell them for enough to retire to the French Riviera after all!

Humbling.

 
2008-08-08 00:25:57

I also own too many domains thanks to Freshdrop. But by reading here and there and everywhere I am coming up with some ideas on how to turn them into income sources. Better to have too many than too few. Thanks for the research details…I had not been doing many of these steps - yet.

 
Comment by Paul U
2008-08-08 10:31:57

I’m just thinking to have as many domain as possible.

thanks for this posting!

 
Comment by Luxury Paris Hotels
2008-08-09 07:38:59

Freshdrop is the biggest procastination site out there - so much more fun than actually getting links!

 
Comment by Rhys
2008-08-10 00:45:56

Hi Frank!

It’s enormous fun buying and regenerating expired domains from GoDaddy, right up until the Big G does a new PR round, and all the wheels fall off!

I’ve just had my enthusiasm rained on, when, in this last round, my sparkling new sites with PR3 thru to PR6 and some interesting traffic all got zapped down to PR2 or even PR-.

I believe the cause of this was that a lot of that PR factor was related to internal site links that could not be duplicated when the site was re-launched after the expiry; so of course, G couldn’t follow/confirm them, and they stopped contributing.

The only good news in this is that my ‘good’ sites that I linked to from these renewed ‘expired domain’ sites all got a PR boost (My new flagship blog in now PR2).

 
Comment by entrepreneur blog
2008-08-10 11:41:41

Talking about buying a live site i have heard that sometimes the owner will offer you some money to have its site back. I read somewhere that a site owner offered up to 500 dollars for what was once its site but the guy refused to sell him back. I hope he’s still happy of the choice he made!

 
2008-09-03 07:23:29

I’m addict now. Just bought my first two pre owned domains. After seeing what’s out there on freshdrop I doubt I’ll ever buy a brand new domain again. Now I just need to find time to do something with the new domains I bought, lol
Gotafish

Comment by jfc
2008-09-03 07:56:55

Hi Gotafish,

I’ve bought a few new ones where I needed to have a particular keyword in the URL but it’s been about a 20-to-1 ratio of old to new domains.

 
 
Comment by papia
2008-11-01 17:45:08

It’s true that one should check a lot of factors before buying a preowned domain. Among them, apart from checking if it ranks #1 for domain name itself, the ranking of the domain without its extension (i.e. .com extension) should be checked as well. If the domain fails to rank high without its extension it has probably a google penalty and it is not worth buying. Freshdrop is a great site, but some extra research is needed before buying a domain.

 
Comment by Funny Junk
2009-03-09 09:10:58

These are all good tips for people who buy previously-owned domains. I can see the wayback machine being of good use, you don’t want to buy a domain that already has a bad rep.

 
Comment by Lorecee
2009-06-03 21:37:10

Has anyone ever actually paid the monthly subscription to FreshDrop? I’d pay $10 a month to be able to copy and paste the domain text into my browser window instead of type it by hand, but not $32.50. Any other benefits of membership?

 
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