Tips on Buying Expired Domains

If you already know about the these metrics that I’m going to talk about below, then you can ignore this :). However, if you have ever still had questions on what different metrics mean, dig in!

The first question people ask is “How do I know which domain to buy?” There are so many spammy domains out there with high domain authority, which people have purchased expensively, just to find out that the domain was worthless. That led to this post where help you know what to look at before you buy a domain.

I am going to answer these frequently asking questions:

  • Why do I need to know about these metrics?
  • How do I evaluate an expired domain? What price should I pay?
  • How do I know whether an expired domain is a scam?
  • How do I know that the domain authority (or any other metric) is not going to drop after I purchase the domain?
  • What metrics should I be looking at?

Moz Domain Authority that usually people use to filter, while others use Majestic Trust Flow. However, one thing that you need to know is that every single metric can be manipulated. It is easier to manipulate some metrics (DA) and tougher to manipulate others (TF), but relying on a single metric is a fallacy.

Below I will list various metrics to look at. While looking at these domain metrics, if any of the values seem strange, you should either discard the domain or look deeper into the back link profile and research further.
1. Domain Age (Age ain’t just a number here)
Search engines prefer older domains since older domains are more trustworthy. If the expired domain has not been dropped, it could retain its age in the eyes of the search engines.

There are three “ages” that we must consider, which are :
The domain age from the WhoIs details. This basically counts from when the domain was last registered. If a domain drops this number is often reset.
The domain age from Wayback Archive. This counts the age from the first date that the Wayback Archive crawled the website. If a domain did not have a website, then this age might be much smaller than the WhoIs age.
The website age from Wayback Archive. This counts the age of the last website that was put on the domain. This is very useful number to know whether the domain was regularly used.

  • Look for domains that are a few years older, since it generally takes a while to amass enough authority, but don’t fret if the domain is not decades old.

2. Moz Metrics (Slow death of the best?)
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric between 0 and 100 that predicts how well a website will perform in SERPs. DA can be used to compare one domain against another. Page Authority (PA) is a metric that denotes the chance of a specific page to rank in the SERPs. This is similar to the DA for the domain – however it is a metric for the home page of the website. In an ideal situation these two values should be very similar to each other.
DA/PA tend to be very popular metrics to gauge the value of a domain. Unfortunately they are also extremely easy to manipulate. For some reason, the other Moz metrics like Moz Rank and Trust Rank that are equally good, have not found popularity with domainers.

  • Look for domains with a DA greater than 30. Good domains tend to have at least that much.

3. Majestic Metrics (My Favorites!)
Trust Flow and Citation Flow have gained in popularity over the last few years. While the Citation Flow is a measure like Page Rank and is very easy to manipulate, the Trust Flow is a much tougher metric to manipulate and has therefore become the default metric that is looked at first.
However, an even better metric that is harder to manipulate is the ratio between the Trust Flow and Citation Flow. Most real domains will have a TF/CF of slightly more than 1, while scammy domains have a ratio much below 1.

Another really great metric provided by Majestic is the Topical Trust Flow Category. This shows information about the niche that the back links to the domain are from. Real domains tend to have back links from only one top-level niche, while spammy domains have back links from different niches.

  • It is virtually impossible to manipulate the combination of TF/CF ratio, Topical Categories and Trust Flow. With these three numbers you can filter out most of the fake domains.

4. SEMrush Metrics (These are useful)
SEMrush provides SERP data for domains. This data essentially tells you if the domain currently ranks for any keywords and is a good estimator of the traffic you can expect from it. They offer the number of keywords, monthly organic traffic volume and cost (based on keyword CPC and volume)

  • The cost of traffic definitely helps justify the value of the domain. However, run a few keyword queries on Google to check up if the SEMrush data is accurate.

5. SimilarWeb Metrics
SimilarWeb provides metrics for domain traffic and its rank compared to other domains in the world, and in its niche. While the traffic numbers might be a little off, it is a great way to compare between two domains.

  • I prefer SimilarWeb Rank to Alexa Rank in comparing between various domains.

6. Compete Metrics (only for the US)
Compete provides the approximate number of U.S. visitors to the top million web sites. They compute this data directly from ISPs and application service providers.

  • If you are looking for US based traffic the Compete traffic data is worth looking at.

7. Alexa Metrics (overrated!)
Alexa maintains ranking data on all websites in the world. The ranking algorithm is based on the total amount of traffic over the last three months. They take data from a sample population and build the rankings off that.

The rankings are not accurate enough as the sample population is biased (data is taken mostly from those with the toolbar installed). Also they can be easily manipulated by increasing the number of visits to a domain after installing the toolbar. However, since Alexa rankings have been there for a long time, they are quite popular among users.

  • Do not take the ranking and traffic seriously. The ranking is a nice number to have, but not something to solely base your purchase price on.

8. Back Link Data (This is everything)
Back links determine the equity passed to the domain and therefore checking the back links to a domain is paramount in determining its true value. However mere back link counts are not enough. Many domains will have loads of back links that will disappear soon after you purchase them. The trick is to find out which back links look like they will stay once the domain has been purchased.

You can check the back links from Google, Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs. Google would obviously be our first choice. However, Google does not show very accurate data on the back links. Sometimes it may show no links at all. Therefore, although you ought give higher priority to the links you find through the Google link operator, you should also check the back links from Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs. Ideally you should do a check using all three.

To see the value of the back link you should check the following:

Does the link really exist? You need to visit the webpage that links to the domain and view the html source code (Right click -> View Source/View Page Source). Search for the link in the html code. If you are unable to find the html link or the link is a JavaScript link, then you should ignore this link and the rest of the steps.

Follow v/s No Follow – We need to check if the link allows the link equity to pass through to the domain. If the link has a rel=”nofollow” attribute, then this will not contribute to the link equity of the domain. It is still good to have the link – but this link should not be considered in the link equity calculation ahead.

Contextual Link – Is the link surrounded by many links or by text? If the link is surrounded by a lot of other links (like a blog roll) then it’s possible that entire set of links have been posted there in order to simply increase the link equity of the various domains. If the link is surrounded by text and is part of an article then the chances are that this link is genuine – which means that it will probably still exist six months after you have purchased the domain.

OutBound Links (OBL) – Check the total number of OBL on the page. A very large OBL would mean that the PR juice that would flow would be a very small fraction of the domain PR. Additionally, search engines categorize pages with 100 or more OBL as back link farms.

Website Category – Check whether the website seems to be part of the same category as the domain. If the domain seems like a blog about computers and the link is from a page about golf, this link may not be valuable.

  • This step is the most intensive step of the lot. Therefore, keep it as the last step after you have filtered the list based on other metrics.

9. Google Penalties (Beware of the animals!)
One important check to make is whether Google has indexed any pages from the domain. While some domains (namely in GoDaddy auctions) will have a single page indexed, you should be wary of domains that have zero pages indexed. This may be due to a manual or algorithmic penalty on the domain due to black hat seo tactics. It’s also possible that the domain expired a long time ago and the site has been completely de-indexed from Google.

  • If a domain is de-indexed, and there are no clear indications of black hat seo, you could register it and put up a single page website. Wait for a few weeks to see if it gets indexed. If the site does not get indexed within a few weeks, do not spend any more effort on it.

10. Domain industry/sector
Most often people buy expired domains for a specific industry or sector. It is therefore useful to know what kind of website existed on the domain before you purchase it. It could be a site that does not fit into the category or industry that you want. The best way to check this is to go to the WayBack Machine and check the different versions of the domain since it was first online. Also check the Topical Categories and see whether the links to the domain are from the same niche as shown on the Wayback machine.

  • Google gives contextual links more weight-age. If you are buying an expired domain for linking to your money site, then definitely look for a domain from the same sector/industry

11. Social Stats (Sharing is Caring?)
We do not know how much social sharing affects SEO and domain rankings. However, if a domain has been shared across multiple networks it might be a sign of legitimacy for the search engines. Of course, don’t get carried away by a domain that has a very large social count number, as these are extremely easy to fake.

  • Not all social networks are created equal. If your website is image heavy then Pinterest shares would be beneficial, if it’s business oriented then LinkedIn and so on.

Phew .. hard work to find “good” domain, isn’t it ? 🙂 .. Later, I will continue some related post. Hope it helps.

PS : Google has removed Page Rank from its toolbar. This means that all domain now shows up with Page Rank 0.  With this change, Page Rank is officially dead, thankfully 🙂