#4 - Expired Domain Analysis, Red Flags 🚩
Interested in buying expired domains? Make sure you analyse them properly first..
Okay, it’s a bit later than promised, but I decided to write this over the weekend as I wanted to go a little more in-depth and show exactly what I’m looking for in an expired domain. Plus, Sing 2 was on at the cinema, so that had to take priority.
This is a genuine look at a few soon-to-be available domain names that expire within the next week. I’ll run through what I like about each of them, and then what I don’t like. Hopefully I'll include a few tricks that may be useful to you at some point!
In-depth Step by Step Expired Domain Analysis: The Basics
Firstly, I’ve covered bits of this in previous newsletters, but just a quick recap on what I generally look at when analysing a domain;
Consider whether the domain name is brandable or not
Make sure that it’s in a niche I’m interested in & want to build a site in
Put it in Ahrefs to analyse the link profile to see its “power/juice”
See if the domain has organic keywords still ranking in Ahrefs (not a necessity but preferred)
Check it in the Wayback Machine to see its history
Use Complete DNS to see when the domain has dropped
If it’s a former business then check for any trademarks
Links are the most important thing to consider when looking at expired domains. You may find the odd domain that has just dropped and lost a ton of traffic that can be quickly recuperated, and they definitely have value, but they're also pretty rare and often super expensive.
The main point of using an expired domain, for me, is to have backlinks that may be difficult to get yourself. It's one thing that you don't have full control over - you can always create content and edit your on-page structure, and making sure you're using internal linking properly or that your website is accessible is completely within your control.
What isn't totally in your control is getting links from specific big authoritative websites. You can buy links from Good Men Project and other similar sites, but if I asked you to get a link from the NY Times or another big publisher, would you even know where to start?
There are obviously ways you can get links from these bigger publishers - with PR or creating amazing content and praying people link to it(!). But, it's just not as easy as simply buying a domain with those links already in place.
As well as the links the site has, it's a good idea to look for something brandable - a domain that wouldn't look out of place if it was ranking next to the bigger magazines in the search engine results. Why? Again, just think about it logically - if the SERPs look like this;
..then you're going to stick out like a sore thumb. The domain name may not have a massive effect on your ability to rank well with it, but it'll definitely 1) look suspicious to potential visitors and competitors and 2) severely affect your ability to ever sell the website later down the line.
And finally, I also stick to re-building the site within the same niche as it was in before too. Yes, you can sometimes get away with posting completely unrelated content, but for me there's just no point when you can find a domain that has links from other websites that are super relevant to your niche (if you're patient!).
So, let's take a look at a few domains up for sale this week.
Available at: GoDaddy Auctions, ends 17/01 (in a few hours!) | Former Niche: Restaurant domain | Ahrefs DR: 34 | Top Links: NY Times, Thrillist
We can use Ahrefs to get a good idea about the domains backlinks - the first thing to check is the referring domains;
Not the most powerful domain but there’s some pretty good links in there. As well as this, most of the backlinks are directed at the homepage of the site, which means it'll be really easy to rebuild without the need for a ton of 301 redirects.
Another thing that I look for is that the website still has some organic keywords ranking in Google.
This isn't a must have for a domain to work, and I have used sites that have 0 organic keywords ranking - though I always check that the site is still indexed in Google (enter site:yourdomain.com into a Google search to check).
Having these keywords still ranking is a good sign and to me, it just makes sense to try and get one like this as opposed to an expired domain that's not been used for 20 years or redirected elsewhere for a lifetime.
These are just some of the good things about GoJackRabbitGo, but there are some bad points too.
If you’ve read my previous NL’s then you’ll probably know what I don’t like about it already - the domain name itself.
As I’ve said, I'm pretty picky & am looking for something with good links AND an amazing name.. could you turn GoJackRabbitGo into something semi-brandable to do with food? Maybe.
However, I think about it like this; if a Google employee saw your website ranking #1 in the SERPs for “best coffee machine”, would it be abundantly obvious to them that your site is probably based on an expired domain? With this domain, I think that it's probably a yes.
I’ve been bidding on expired restaurant domains the last month or two, here's a quick tip - this is actually the best way to see how valuable domains are and what sort of prices they sell for.
When bidding on GoDaddy, as soon as the sale finishes, you can no longer see the sale price of the domain. However, if you’ve already put a bid in on a domain then you will be able to see the final price in the “Didn’t Win” section of your bidding list.
You can see here the domains that I’ve put bids on but didn’t purchase in the last few weeks.
BonsaiKakigori.com, SmokyMtnOpry.com (a theater domain but very similar) + RockyPointRestaurant.com are all similar domains with keywords still ranking and pretty solid backlink profiles.
So, the trick is to get there early and put in a super low bid on the domain (I call it a phantom bid but I think I just made that name up tbh 😂). That way, when it’s finished, you’ll know what the domain sold for - this is really useful for seeing what the going rate is for domains in your niche.
We can see that these 3 domains sold for between $1350 and $1750. So, we can expect GoJackRabbitGo.com to go for somewhere around $1-2k, and if it goes way higher than that, then we know to avoid it as it's not worth the price.
In this case though, I wouldn't choose this for a long term play anyway. Everything else about the domain seems great, but I'm super picky with the name itself.
And after seeing so many different former restaurant domains getting chopped down by Google (read #2 if you haven't already), I'd only pick this one up for a short term churn and burn project or to use it as a PBN.
Available at: GoDaddy Auctions, ends 20/01 | Former Niche: Bike domain | Ahrefs DR: 29 | Top Links: Guardian, Bulb
Straight off the bat, this is a great domain name - it's extremely brandable and an ideal example of what we're looking for. This really comes under a "partial match" domain as it includes "bike" in the domain name, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The name is great, and the links SEEM to be okay too. If we look closely and not just at the biggest links, we can see there's a link from Bulb Energy company - this would be a great link for an affiliate blog about electric bikes!
Sidenote: I think Bulb actually went bust last year, so there's no telling how long this link would last! However, it's a good example that some DR30-70 links can also be extremely valuable, and not JUST the big DR90+ magazines and newspapers.
If we use the Wayback machine to take a quick look through its history, there doesn't seem to be any signs of spam over the last few years.
As mentioned, if you want to be safe then you should check each of the years that the domain was most recently active, just to get an idea of the content that was on the site. On the surface, this looks like it could be a great domain to pick up...
It's always a good idea to check more than just one or two of the links the domain has.
In Ahrefs, you can flick over to Historical Links; this will show the links the website used to have or are now hidden behind a paywall and are hard to access - it's a good idea to do this anyway, as pretty often you'll find that there are some links which Ahrefs says are Historical and lost, but actually aren't.
Looking at the links at little closer, we can begin to see that many of the links the domain has are actually pointed at yobike.co.uk, and not yobike.com, which is the one for sale.
BikeRadar would be a nice link for a bicycle website, but unfortunately it's pointed at the .co.uk version instead of the .com - they likely redirected the .co.uk version to the .com, and then eventually shut down and let both of the domains expire.
Quite a few of the best links for this site are actually redirected at the .co.uk - this is probably the reason the site has a DR29, and when you take away those links, it's actually a lot weaker than it appears.
Without the other yobike.co.uk domain, it's not worth nearly as much as they would be together.
Due to its brand-ability it's still not a bad choice, but I personally wouldn't pay more than a few hundreds dollars for it - it'll give you a quick start + an advantage against the competition, but it's not got many of those powerful links that we're looking for.
Comics and Cola
Available at: GoDaddy Auctions, ends 25/01 | Former Niche: Comics domain | Ahrefs DR: 52 | Top Links: Guardian, Mental Floss
A strong domain and a solid enough name, ComicsAndCola.com could easily be revamped into a geeky magazine, and if we look at its former life, that's pretty much what it was before.
If you take a look at the links in detail, sites like Mental Floss + IGN would be great to have if you want to build a geek site about anime, manga, Marvel + other related topics.
I'd probably start with recreating the older articles with the most links, then add 20-30 posts about comics and let it age a bit. You can see the pages with the most links in Ahrefs by going to Site Explorer > Pages > Best By Links;
Then, you'll want to enter these pages into the Wayback Machine and see the original content on the page;
You can see the pages original content here. If you wanted to rebuild the domain you can either; 1) use Archivarix or another tools to put the old site up quickly (it's not perfect but quick once you know what you're doing, 2) copy and paste the content into a fresh Wordpress install or 3) get new similar content written for the page.
Bear in mind that legally it's still their content so it's up to you.
The safest option will always be 3, but it can become a bigger project if the old site has a lot of pages to rebuild. If you decide to go with 1) or 2) then you should check whether the content has been used elsewhere on another site by entering a paragraph in "quotes" into a Google Search;
We can see the content is already indexed in Google on Pinterest, but that's totally normal to have some social media sites with your content on there, likely from a repost.
We're really looking for people that have lifted all of an expired domains content for their new website - there are folks that go around doing this with expired domains, as it's like getting free content (if no-one puts the old domain back up again!). If it is already indexed on other sites then I'd play it safe and get the content rewritten.
So, checking out the Wayback machine shows us that everything about this domain looks pretty good.
This isn't the worst example, but it's a good idea to always search the brand name in Google to see what comes up. In this case, in this post it says that the former owner of Comics and Cola shut the magazine down because she was getting hassle from other nerds, + it mentions potential sexism/racism too.
We can dig a little deeper and search the previous owners name into Twitter;
Seems there was some drama surrounding her and this website. Just something to bear in mind - you may need to explain to some passionate comic nerds that you're the new owner of the site.
Like I said, this isn't the worst thing to deal with, but back in 2018 I actually bought a site without doing a ton of research about it first - turned out it was a former startup that went bankrupt and fled the US after being accused of fraud & stealing millions of dollars..
SO.. double check the history of the site + any trademarks if you want to ensure there's no issues or negative press associated with the brand.
I love this one and think it could make for a great Den of Geek style website. If I didn't have a million other sites to work on I'd think about picking it up myself - it's only really the issue with the previous owner that stops this one being a 10/10.
So, just a quick recap on what I've gone over here;
Find domains with nice links, a brandable name and relevant to your niche
Check the Historical Links in Ahrefs too
Organic keywords still ranking is a big plus
Use phantom bids to get an idea of domain prices in your niche
Make sure to double check everything!
There are lots of domains out there with good links, but you do need to dig a little deeper most of the time to see whether it's worth picking up or not! Thanks, any questions you know where I am! 😊 current plan moving forward;