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
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?
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).
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?
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
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?