Expired domains are domains that have previously been registered but are no longer in use. Buying expired domains is an easy shortcut to giving your brand’s online presence an unfair advantage over other businesses starting out with brand new domains. In this guide, we’ll walk through all you need to know, where to find and buy expired domains, and pitfalls to look out for.
A not-so-fun fact – 33,000 new domain names are registered every day. And depending on how competitive your industry is and the quality and frequency of content you put out, it can take anywhere between 6 months to 1 year for a new domain to start seeing results, i.e. ranking on Google.
- Expired domains can provide an opportunity to leverage an existing backlink profile and boost your website’s SEO and visibility
- Assessing the value of expired domains requires careful consideration of the domain’s history, backlink profile, and domain authority
- Purchasing expired domains can be done through domain auction sites or by reaching out to the domain owner directly
- Utilizing expired domains can involve strategies such as building niche websites, redirecting traffic to your main website, selling backlinks, or building a private blog network
- You can use 301 redirects to point existing traffic on an expired domain to your own website if you don’t want to build on the domain
Finding Expired Domains
So how exactly do expired domains work and where do you find them? Also, how do you choose an expired domain? What criteria should you consider?
Expired domains can be good news if you find the right one, but on the flip side, not knowing the history of an expired domain you are buying can be more harmful than good. Here’s a breakdown of all you need to know:
Understanding the Expiration Process
When you register a domain, you pay for ownership of that domain over a time period – usually a year minimum. And like all leased property, the duration for which you pay will eventually be elapsed. Once that happens, you will be required to renew your payment to maintain ownership of your domain.
A domain expires
When the current registrant of a domain does not renew their payment, the domain expires and after a grace period becomes available on the market for any interested to take ownership of it.
Many people don’t renew their domains simply because they are no longer interested in maintaining their websites, because they forgot, or because they just don’t want to invest anymore.
The grace period
When a domain name expires, many domain registrars give a grace period which can span a few weeks to a year that allows the current registrant to renew their ownership of the domain even after the expiry date at a slightly higher price.
If the grace period expires and the domain is not renewed, the domain then undergoes a deletion process where the details of the registrant are erased and the domain is made publicly available for a new purchase.
Using a domain expiry checker
If there is a particular domain you have your eyes set on, using a domain expiry checker is one of the easiest ways to find out information on the said domain like its expiry date, current registrant info, its availability etc. These tools make it easy to find up-to-date information on a domain so you can plan your takeover just in time.
Different Sources for Finding Expired Domains
Now you know how expired domains work but how exactly do you find expired domains?
Simply going on a registrar website or the WHOIS directory to type a domain you are interested in is not the most efficient way to find a potential domain name. There are platforms and services that deal specifically with expired domains. Let’s check out some of them:
Domain Auction Sites
Domain auction sites are exactly what they sound like – websites where expired or about-to-expire domain names are put up for auction to the highest bidder. Domain auction sites are some of the best places to find domains as sellers come to a single place and you can find a vast library of regularly-updated domain names.
As it turns out, some of the best domain auction sites are also well-known domain registrars including GoDaddy and Namecheap. Some other very popular domain auction sites include Sedo, Flippa, and NamePros. Another great thing about domain auction sites is that you can buy many other digital assets including full websites, apps, and stores on them.
Domain Backorder Services
Domain backorder services have become a big trend in the web asset industry. Basically, placing a domain backorder is like an automatic preorder on a domain you are interested in that will execute immediately after the domain becomes available. So instead of having to manually monitor the status of a domain name, it is automatically registered to you once it expires.
Many domain registrars offer domain backorder services and are the most convenient way to acquire nearly-expired domains. Once a high-value domain expires, there’s a risk that another party is waiting to snatch it right up. So setting a domain backorder in place gives you the best chance to secure the domain.
Expired Domain Marketplaces
Very similar to domain auction sites (and many times, the same thing), there are platforms that serve as marketplaces exclusively for expired domains. Domain registrants looking to sell their expired domains and make some profit list their expired domains for you to bid on or directly contact them for.
Domain Scraping Tools
Domain scraping tools can also mean tools used to extract data from websites, as are popular among marketers trying to gather leads and contacts of executives at companies they have an interest in. But in this case, domain scraping tools are tools that can scan the web for available domains based on the search criteria you set.
They automate the process of scouring through the list of thousands of domains that expire every day and make it easy to find a good match with your needs.
Criteria for Selecting Expired Domains
Now you know how expired domains work and the tools and platforms available to help you find a great one. But how exactly do you choose an expired domain? What are some important criteria to consider that will help you decide whether one domain is better than another for your needs?
Some of the most important criteria for selecting expired domains include the domain relevance, its backlink profile, any existing traffic, the domain authority, and the domain’s history. We’ll now discuss each of these in detail.
Assessing the Value of Expired Domains
Like an appraiser using his big eye lens to check the authenticity of a rare item, you’ll have to know how to appraise an expired domain before buying it. Assessing the value of an expired domain is very important so that you get the best value for your money and avoid the risk of a low-quality domain.
Domain Metrics to Consider
Some of the most important domain metrics to consider when appraising a domain include the domain authority (DA) or domain rating (DR), page authority (PA) or page rating (PR), and the trust flow (TF) and citation flow (CF).
- Domain Authority and Domain Rating
The domain authority is a metric developed by Moz that’s simply a measure of how likely a domain is to rank in search engine result pages. It is measured on a logarithmic scale of 1-100. Most SEO tools today have a free domain authority check that helps you know the authority of a domain quickly. A domain authority score of 40-50 is considered average, 50-60 is considered great, and above 60 is considered excellent.
On the other hand, the domain rating is a metric developed by Ahrefs that measures the quality of a domain’s backlink profile and social shares. The more healthy backlinks a domain has, the higher the domain rating. The domain rating is also measured on a scale of 1-100.
- Page Authority
Page authority makes the most sense if you are buying a domain along with the whole website. The page authority is similar to the domain authority only in that it measures the ranking-ability of a single web page which will usually be a pillar page.
- Trust Flow
The trust flow of a domain or website measures its popularity and trustworthiness on the web-based on the number and quality of other websites and web pages linked to it. Search engines perceive web pages with more backlinks as more influential in their niches.
Importance of Backlinks and Anchor Text
Domains and web pages with great content can get to the first page of Google and other search engine result pages. However, to rank in the top 5 positions (where 79% of all the clicks go) a domain has to have a lot of high-quality backlinks.
Backlinks are links that point to a domain or web page from another webpage using anchor text. The link coming from the source domain is called an outbound link while the link coming into the destination domain is called an inbound link. The more high-quality backlinks a domain has, the more ‘trustworthy’ it is in the eyes of search engines.
Anchor text is used to facilitate outbound links by making important keywords clickable. When the anchor text is clicked, it directs the user to the page being linked to. Anchor text is usually formatted automatically in a different color (blue being the most common).
Check out an example of anchor text containing an outbound link:
In the above page snippet, ‘Link building is obviously much more nuanced than that’ is the anchor text and when clicked points to another page that explains link building in detail.
Checking for Potential Penalties or Issues
Ranking on the first page of Google is tough and getting to the top results is even more challenging because of the sheer competition. So, it is no surprise that many website owners try to take shortcuts to get their websites up there.
Many websites on the internet today engage in black-hat SEO practices including content automation, buying backlinks, keyword stuffing, link exchange schemes, falsely reporting competitors, etc. And these are all against Google guidelines.
Penalties and Bad Backlink Profiles
A Google penalty is a punishment given to a domain for engaging in these illegal practices or as a result of an algorithmic update. When issued a Google penalty, a website will usually experience a rapid decrease in traffic and lose its high rankings.
One of the most prominent black-hat SEO practices is buying backlinks. A bad backlink profile can negatively affect your website severely so it is important to vet a domain backlink profile before buying it. There are many backlink profile auditing tools on the market today with some of the most popular including SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz, etc.
Overall Potential and Relevance
You should also evaluate the overall potential and relevance of a domain before you purchase it. The domain’s history and age are some of the most important pointers for its potential to rank. You want to go for a domain that has not had a bad rep with Google. Also, older domains are less likely to be flagged when you start your backlinking strategy than newer ones.
A domain that has had a lot of traffic in the past is going to be easier to rank. You also want to make sure that the domain has not had any history with spam and wasn’t owned by a suspicious individual.
Purchasing Expired Domains
Now you know what to look out for when auditing a potential domain. Where to find them?
Different Platforms for Buying Expired Domains
As we discussed earlier, you have several options to bid and buy expired domains from. You could use a dedicated domain auction site, you could contact the seller directly, you could use dedicated expired domain marketplaces or a domain finder tool.
One of the best places to start is to first out the current registrar the domain is registered with. Many domain registrars have auction pages on their websites while others have specific domain auctioneers that they work with. This will help you know where to go.
Bidding on Expired Domains
Domain auction sites have become very popular among prospective webmasters. They work just like regular auction sites for any other product you buy online. The current owner or registrant lists the domain name up for sale and sets a deadline or expiry date for the auction.
Some important tips for bidding to note include you doing your due diligence as we discussed earlier to make sure the domain name you choose is best for you. Also, if the domain name you want is in high demand, you should be prepared to be outbid and ready to pay a higher price if you really want it.
Some foul practices to watch out for include sniping where participants wait until the very end of the auction and put a slightly higher price than the last bid just before the auction expires. However, many auction sites have a deadline extension tool to lengthen the auction expiry time to curb sniping.
Negotiating With Domain Owners
Let’s face it. Auctions can get very pricey and if many people are bidding, you may end up spending more than the domain is actually worth. It may be a good idea to contact owners of domains that have expired or are about to expire in order to negotiate directly.
If a domain owner hasn’t listed their domains on an auction site yet then you should be ready to make a great offer if the domain is really valuable to you. Make one good enough, and they may be willing to sell it to you right away without needing to list it at all.
Transferring Ownership of the Expired Domain
After purchasing a domain, it isn’t yours just yet – not in the eyes of the domain system anyway. To officially become the owner of a domain and have your details registered to it, you will need to transfer the domain. If you bought the domain on an auction organized with a registrar whose services you currently use, then the details may be automatically changed with no extra input on your end.
However, domain transfers are very common with new purchases. If you want to transfer your new domain out to a different registrar or you are migrating to a new hosting provider to better align with your plans for the needs of the business.
Utilizing Expired Domains
Redirecting to Your Main Site
The easiest and most straightforward way to utilize an expired domain you just bought is to simply use 301 redirects to point the domain to your current website. If you plan to use expired domains simply this way, you’ll need to focus on domains with a lot of existing traffic.
When you use a 301 redirect in your content management system, anytime a visitor types in the expired domain in their browser, they are automatically redirected to your own website. This is the most popular way expired domain names are used today.
A boost in traffic can bring a whole lot of good to your main website – higher rankings, higher domain authority, more conversions, and more business for you! This brings us to the next point:
It is incredibly important that any expired domain you are buying is very relevant to your business niche. The more similar the services or content you create to the kind that was on the expired domain, the more easily it will be to convert and win over the existing traffic on the expired domain to your business.
Also, domain relevancy serves you in preventing potential Google penalties. Having domains from industries not relevant to yours can give off the idea that you have engaged in link-exchange schemes which can severely affect your ranking potential or even have your website banned.
Backlinks top the list of Google ranking factors so backlink commerce is booming. While websites looking to buy an inbound link won’t tell you they want a backlink, they come under the guise of paying for a ‘sponsored post’. It is one and the same.
If your expired domain has a lot of traffic, you’ll likely have people interested in paying you to insert a link to their websites and in turn, boost their domain authority. As stated earlier, it is important that you only point to domains with content similar to your niche.
Using as a PBN (Private Blog Network)
We don’t recommend having a private blog network, PBN as it is considered illegal by Google, but here’s how it works. A PBN is a network of websites that you own and control for the sole purpose of linking back to your main website.
However, bear in mind that if Google finds out that you run a PBN you would likely get a heavy penalty. If you built a completely new website using your expired domain with genuine content and it makes sense to link to your main website for more information, it can boost your rankings.
Risks and Pitfalls
Buying an expired domain that ticks all the right boxes can bring you an incredible return on your investment. With a well-built expired domain, you can buy over precious traffic, backlinks, and add link juice to your current website. However, it is a double-edged sword. Buying expired domains can do far more harm than good if you don’t know what to look for. Let’s take a look at some of the risks associated with buying expired domains.
One of the worst kinds of expired domains you can buy are domains that were used for illegal or unethical purposes. Domains that were previously owned by shady individuals and were engaged in phishing, spamming, etc. will likely have been flagged by search engines and email providers.
Buying such domains can mean you will never be able to rank your websites as Google penalties can be very hard to shake off. Any emails you send that are tied to a domain with legal issues will also likely always end up in the spam folder of your recipients. It is just not worth it.
As we discussed earlier, Google is very strict with domains, thanks to how illegal practices abound. Now, here’s the thing. There’s no one-size-fits-all tool to know if a domain has been penalized by Google. You’d have to look for the signs.
One of the most obvious pointers to a penalty is a rapid drop in traffic. Using one of the popular tools we listed above, you can investigate the traffic history and see if, at any point, there was a significant drop in visits. This goes hand-in-hand with a rapid drop in domain authority and search engine positions.
It is very difficult to shake off a Google penalty (especially if it wasn’t from an algorithm upgrade) so most times, it’s not worth it to buy a domain that has been penalized.
Expensive Purchase Price
We all know how auctions work. The bids on an item can quickly add up until it has been listed at a price that’s several times more than it is actually worth. So when bidding for a domain, be careful to not go above your budget. If the bid price is getting too high, then you should just let it go. Many better domains will come later.
Many domain auction sites enforce a rule where you must pay if you win the auction or be kicked off the platform. So don’t overspend because you will be obligated to make the payment if you do.
Domains are an essential part of every online brand – whether you are an individual or an established business. And expired domains can be a very convenient way to catapult your website ahead of the competition and increase your chances of ranking high in search results.
However, while buying expired domains can do you a whole of good, they can also be incredibly risky. With all we discussed in this piece, you’d know what to look out for so you can choose a premium domain name and avoid any potential issues.
Next Steps: What Now?
- Discover ways to buy dropped domain names
- Learn how to host multiple domains on one server
- Transfer the domain to your preferred platform
- Use a 301 redirect to point the domain’s traffic to your own or…
- Move the domain to your hosting provider