One reason to buy a used domain name is to inherit backlinks. Another is the name itself. Especially if it represents your business or contains key keywords.
Whatever the reason, buying a pre-owned domain should be done with caution. A domain name with a spammy history of search engine optimization can mean big problems if the acquirer gets past Google’s penalties for redirecting backlinks.
So before you invest in a used domain, do these three tools:
- wayback machine,
- Domain IQ,
domain name tool
1. Wayback Machine for Relevance. It is important to know the content of the previous site. Because that association is hard to overcome, especially if you’ve been active for a few years.
The acquired domain should be closely aligned with your current (or future) business. Avoid taboo topics.
Wayback Machine, the largest free archive of web pages, is perfect for that purpose. Enter the domain you are considering and see years of records stored. Check out the changes during that period, including the new owner. It helps to analyze the repetition of the About Us page.
2. DomainIQ on relevant websites. Domain record verification is difficult given stricter domain privacy laws and registrars’ default privacy settings.
Nevertheless, some tools keep a record of them to facilitate review.
DomainIQ is one such tool. The free version reveals the number of sites associated with the domain (with a snapshot), when it was registered, and any ownership changes.
For more details, upgrade from $24.95/month. Avoid sites with poor content or networks of interlinked sites.
PublicWWW is another useful tool for identifying your network of sites. DomainIQ uses ownership to find associated domains, while PublicWWW looks at sites with common code such as Google Analytics and AdSense.
Search PublicWWW for a brand name or previous owner’s name and the tool will find all sites that mention that brand name in their code.
3. Backlinks and traffic Ahrefs. Google claims to know (and consider) when domain ownership changes. However, in my experience, poor link building practices used by previous owners tend to negatively impact an acquirer’s organic search rankings. Stay away.
There are many ways to find low quality backlinks. I prefer to look at the anchor text and identify spam links by:
- A large group of backlinks with the same anchor text (often reading unnaturally).
- Anchor text that exactly matches the searchable keyword.
A natural backlink profile consists of your brand name and common words. Ahrefs is a paid tool that facilitates anchor text analysis. Enter your domain name in Site Explorer and navigate to Anchors in the Backlink Profile section. The report includes the number of referring domains, with the most common anchor text listed at the top.
Ahrefs also provides a snapshot of organic traffic over the years in the “Overview” section. Check out that report too. Look for a sharp drop in organic traffic. This may indicate a manual action by Google, which is difficult to resolve.