A short guide on how to filter expired domains before buying them
The first question a customer asks us is “How do I know which domain to buy?” There are so many scammy domains out there with high page ranks, that people have purchased for large amounts of money, just to find out that the domain was worthless. That led to this series on articles where we help you know what to look at before you buy a domain.
This article is going to try and answer the following questions
- 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 page rank (or any other metric) is not going to drop after I purchase the domain?
- What metrics should I be looking at?
An expired domain is filtered based on its metrics. Most people use Page Rank. Some use Moz Domain Authority, while others use Majestic Seo Trust Flow. However, one thing that you need to know is that every single metric can be manipulated. It is easier to manipulate some (DA) and tougher to manipulate others (TF), but relying on a single metric is a fallacy.
Below we will list various metrics to look at. While looking at these metrics for a domain, if any of them seem strange, you should either discard the domain or look deeper into the back link profile and research further.
Search engines prefer older domains since older domains are more trustworthy. If the expired domain has not been dropped, it could retain its page rank and age. The domain age can be found from the WhoIs details for that domain. This is the date on which the domain was first registered. But this is not necessarily the date that the search engines use. If a domain has been registered – but a website does not yet exist at the domain, then the search engines may not take the registered date as the birthdate of the domain. In this case they would consider the date when the website was first crawled. You can estimate this date from a different source – The WayBack Machine. Wayback Machine is an internet archive dating back to 1996. You can use it to see different versions of a website since the time it was first crawled. It is best to use this date to decide the age of the domain (if it has not been dropped)
DomCop Tip#1: Look for domains that are a few years older, since it generally takes a while to amass enough page rank, but don’t fret if the domain is not decades old.
Page Rank (PR)
[Updated 9th March 2016] – Google has removed Page Rank from its toolbar. This means that every domain now shows up with Page Rank 0. With this change, thankfully Page Rank is officially dead (it had not been updated in two years). Please ignore the rest of this section.
Page Rank is the default metric most SEOs use to judge the value of a domain. This is the number given by the Google toolbar for any website and it ranges from 0 to 10. The scale is logarithmic – which means that a PR 3 is ten times better than a PR 2, a PR 4 is 10 times better than a PR 3 – and so on. What most people do not know is that the PR that is shown on the toolbar is not the PR that Google uses internally. Also, internally the page rank is being continuously calculated and used to rank websites on the search results. However, Google only pushes out this data to the toolbar every few months. Sometimes this data is old – so a domain could have had a page rank 6 six months ago – which now may have dropped – but the toolbar still shows the old PR 6. How the PR can be faked – The first method of faking a domain’s PR is to forward the domain to a website with high PR (say facebook.com). The next time Google crawls the domain – it will save Facebook’s PR as the PR of this domain and the toolbar will show the new high PR. This is easy to figure out – one can do so by simply typing info:domainname into Google’s search box. If the domain has been forwarded to another domain, that domain will show up.
As you can see from the screen shot above, the domain ‘uniteforchildren.com’ has been forwarded to the webpage http://www.unicef.org/aids/ A check on the PR of this domain will show a PR of 7 – however, this PR 7 belongs to the Unicef site.
In the above screen shot you can see how the result should look for a domain that is not forwarding to some other domain. The search for domcop.com shows the same domain https://www.domcop.com
Be careful to note the exact domain name that shows up in the result. Sometimes scammers will buy domains with a very similar spelling to a domain with PR and forward to it. At DomCop we automatically check this for you. Domains with fake PR are highlighted in red so that you can beware of them.
The second method to fake PR is to actually cause a temporary rise in the PR of a domain by linking to that domain from many high PR sites. What the scammer does is once the PR of the domain has risen due to the links, he will put it up for sale. Once the domain is sold and he has been paid, he will simply remove the links and the domain PR will drop. Since Google updates the toolbar PR once every 3-6 months, it may be a while before you know that you were sold a lemon.
DomCop Tip#2: Be wary of expired domains with PR greater than 6. You may see unknown domain names with PR 8, 9 or even 10. These are most likely scams.
Moz is a Seattle based SEO Software Company that provides metrics similar to page rank as well as details on back links. The various metrics to look at for evaluating expired domains are –
- 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. It is calculated by combining Moz’s link metrics into a single logarithmic scaled score. Moz uses machine learning to model how well the website will rank in Google’s SERPs. As their model will change with the changes in Google’s algorithm, the DA of a website will fluctuate over time. Due to this, it is best to use DA to compare two domains as opposed to using it to measure the value of a domain.
- 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.
- MozRank (MA) is a metric between 0 and 10 that denotes how good the back links are to a page. A domain with a large number of good quality links to its homepage would have a higher MozRank .
- Back Links data – Moz also provides data on the back links to a domain – you can see the total back links to a domain as well as the total back links that pass juice to a domain.
Moz tries to update its index every 4 weeks. This is much better than the page rank updates. As you start evaluating domains you will find that some domains with high PR have a very low DA and vice versa. In these scenarios it is best to research further to know why this discrepancy exists. It is possible that Moz does not have the domain in its index or it’s a scam domain. For further research on the back links of any domain you can check out Open Site Explorer
DomCop Tip#3: Look for domains with DA greater than 30. Good domains tend to have at least that much.
Majestic SEO Metrics
Majestic SEO is an England based SEO software company that has created the largest commercial Link Intelligence database. They crawl a billion URLs every day. They provide a few useful metrics to evaluate expired domains. They maintain two indexes – a historic index and a fresh index. While the historic index is updated once a month, the fresh index is updated daily. Check out Majestic SEO
- Citation Flow is a metric between 0 and 100 that predicts the value of the domain based on the back links to it. This could be used to compare the back link data between different domains. This would be similar to page rank and Moz domain authority.
- Trust Flow is a metric between 0 and 100 that measures the trustworthiness of the domain based on which websites link to the domain. If the links come from trustworthy sites then this number goes up – deeming this domain as trustworthy.
- Back Links data – Majestic SEO provides back link data – total back links, total back links from unique IPs, total back links from unique subnets and total back links from EDU and GOV domains.
DomCop Tip#4: Keep an eye out for domains with back links from EDU and GOV domains. Google is mighty partial to links from them.
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.
- Keywords – The number of keywords that the domain ranks for.
- Monthly Organic Traffic – The estimated amount of monthly traffic you would get by default on this domain.
- Cost of traffic – The estimated cost of purchasing the same traffic that the domain gets now. This is a good number to look at when you are evaluating paying for the domain. Keywords with high CPC and search volume would increase the cost of traffic.
SEMrush also provides a list of all keywords that the domain ranks for, along with current search position, CPC, volume, competition and the domain URL that ranks. Not many expired domains will have SEMrush data since the domains are most likely not being used and the traffic will have fallen off. This metric is not a must have. Check out SEMrush
DomCop Tip#5: 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 data is old or if Google has changed its algorithm since the time the data was captured.
SimilarWeb is an awesome research tool to help discover the most important traffic insights for any website, making web analytics simple and accessible. Using SimilarWeb metrics you can analyze the domain’s traffic and identify growth opportunities. The SERP data will also tell you if the domain currently ranks for any keywords and is a good estimator of the traffic you can expect from it.
DomCop Tip#6: At DomCop, we prefer SimilarWeb Rank to Alexa Rank in comparing between various domains.
Compete is a web traffic analysis service that publishes the approx number of U.S. visitors to the top million web sites. They compute this data directly from ISPs and application service providers.
DomCop Tip#7: If you are looking for US based traffic the Compete traffic data is worth looking at.
Alexa (an amazon.com subsidiary) maintains ranking data on all the websites in the world. The ranking algorithm is based on the total amount of traffic over three months from users that have the Alexa toolbar installed. 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 only 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, the metrics can be used as a secondary set of metrics to check up on the other metrics.
- Alexa Rank is the rank of the website from 30 million websites in the world. The lower the rank the better. Ranks below 100,000 are supposedly very good.
- Top Alexa Rank is the highest alexa rank that the website has reached.
- Rank Delta is the difference between the previous rank and the current one. This measure helps determine whether the traffic has been increasing or decreasing over the last 3 months.
- Alexa provides Country specific rank. If a domain ranks high in a specific country, this is mentioned. This is useful when you are targeting traffic from a specific country.
- Related Sites – Alexa provides a list of related and competing sites. This is a useful list of sites to have to determine the industry of the domain.
DomCop Tip#8: 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.
Back Link Data
Back links determine the page rank of 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 which 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 and Majestic SEO. 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 should give the links you find through the Google link operator as higher priority, you should also check the back links from Moz or Majestic SEO.
To see the value of the back link you need to check on the following:
- Follow v/s No Follow – We need to check if the link allows the page rank juice to pass through to the domain. If the link has a rel=”nofollow” attribute, then this will not contribute to the page rank of the domain. It is still good to have the link – but this link should not be considered in the page rank 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 page ranks 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 the chances are that it will still exist six months after you have purchased the domain.
- Page Rank – Check the page rank of the page with the link on it.
- 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 in 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.
If the domain has a high page rank and you believe there are not many valid links which would give it such a high page rank, then the domain may be a scam.
DomCop Tip#9: 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. At DomCop you can see data for the top 100 links to each domain. The useful data to check here is whether the link is a no follow, from the same domain or ip address or c-block, whether its a link or a 301/302 redirect or a meta refresh, the domain and page authority as well as the rank juice passed through the link
One important check to make is whether Google has indexed any pages from the domain. While some domains will have a single page indexed, you should be vary of domains that have zero pages indexed. This maybe due to a manual or algorithmic penalty on the domain due to black hat seo tactics. This is extremely important to check if you plan on using the expired domains for pbn seo
DomCop Tip#10-: If a domain is deindexed, you should be able to see clear indication of black hat seo. However, if there are no clear indications, this could be due to an algorithmic penalty (which could be reversed)
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 http://wayback.archive.org/ and check the different versions of the domain since 1996. At DomCop we already get the data from WayBack Machine – so you can see the last crawled site data on our website itself.
DomCop Tip#11: Google gives contextual links more weightage. If you are buying an expired domain for linking to your money site, then definitely look for a domain from the same sector/industry
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 that this was a website that was functioning and was shut down or just died. The important social networks for sharing are Facebook, Twitter, Reditt, Linked In, Digg, Delicious, Stumble Upon, Pinterest and Google +1. Don’t get carried away by a domain that has a very large social count number as these are extremely easy to fake.
DomCop Tip#12: Not all social networks are important. If your website is image heavy then Pinterest shares would be beneficial, if its business oriented then LinkedIn and so on.