Using Expired Domains for Search Engine Optimization

Sometimes if you are looking for a domain, one piece of sound SEO advice is to not get a brand new domain name. Instead, you’re advised to get an expired/deleted domain name with a reputable or clean history in the search engines. This domain is considered “aged” and can have related back links with some good history attached to them.

This means that expired/deleted domains can have some value in them. It is just that the previous owner is not fully aware of the importance of having an authority site and trusted domain. So the original owner changes their plans, and just lets go of the domain when more important life and work priorities come along.

This happens often; there are some really great bloggers and writers starting their own domains and for some time their sites start to grab attention and popularity. After a few years have gone by, however, some bloggers lose the habit or interest in maintaining their own website, because they are doing another job outside of the Internet, and do not have the time to update the site anymore.

Some domain owners sell their domains at a lower cost, while other owners simply delete their domain or let it expire, and do not renew it anymore. There are a lot of domain owners like this on the Internet.

So how can the serious/full-time search engine optimization professionals and webmasters take full advantage of this situation? If those less serious domain owners let go of their domains, how can serious professionals grab it as early as possible, nurture it and grow it until the domain reaches its full potential for search engine rankings?

The answer to this question is the subject of this article.

For those that do not know the details of what happens when a domain expires, below you’ll find a step-by-step explanation to help you understand the processes such domains go through. These are important processes if you plan to register deleted/expired domains.

1. First, while the domain is not expired, visitors can access the website’s content, and there could be back links to that website (to say nothing of the traffic coming to it as well). The domain is registered with a certain registrar (GoDaddy for example), and the content is hosted by some web hosting company. The website operates normally.

2. When the domain is expiring, the domain registrar will send a notice to the domain owner to renew the domain. This sending of notices, though, is subject to the policies of the domain registrar.

The owner of the domain will also see this warning inside his domain control panel.

3. Once the domain is expired, a warning will appear when anyone visits the website, saying that the domain has expired. They can no longer access the content that was there before, except by using Google’s cache.

4. Being expired does not actually mean you can immediately acquire or register the domain. The original owner can still renew it during a sort of grace period. This period is around 40 days.

5. After the period of 40 days, the domain enters what we call a “redemption period.” The original domain owner can still register the domain, but now there is a penalty charge imposed. The penalty depends on the registrar.

6. After the 40 days redemption period, the domain enters the “locked” state. This locked state lasts around 5 days. Since it is locked, the domain owner can no longer renew the domain or do anything with the domain.

7. Finally, after 5 days, the domain is officially deleted and dropped from the ICANN databases. At this time, anyone can register the domain under their own name.

Some registrars or domain registration companies allow you to “back order” a domain. This increases the chance for you to acquire the domain right after the domain has been deleted.

Complications or difficulty in acquiring a domain may increase if the domain is a precious one and you have a lot of back order competitors. In this situation, the domain registrar/back ordering company will start a bidding competition, and the domain will be awarded to the highest bidder. Though again, this policy depends on the domain registrar.

Not all expired domains has SEO value attached to them. Your objective should be to get a just-deleted domain that has quality backlinks pointing to it. The more relevant these back links are to your website content, the more it will help your search engine optimization efforts. Remember, also, that the higher the amount of backlinks, the higher chances are that your website will receive ”referral” traffic from these back links.

It is most recommended to snatch and register only newly-deleted domains for the following reasons:

  • There are still backlinks pointing to them. When users click on those links, they will see no content (because the domain is expired). By serving new content, those users can now visit the website and possibly do business with you.
  • If you are late in registering a deleted domain, the higher will be the chance that some user might complain to the linking domain that the link is dead or the is page not found. Thus, the link will be removed.
  • Also, if you are late in registering a newly-deleted domain, someone else might register it, so you will lose your chance of acquiring that domain.

Please remember that some thought for the domain’s exact relevance should follow, before the domain has been deleted and after you have registered it. Even though you cannot own the previous content, you might contact the previous owner to purchase the content and have it uploaded to your new hosting server.

This works in some cases. But if it is impossible to retrieve the previous content, because the previous owner does not let you publish it under your name, or if you were not able to contact the previous owner, then you should start writing your own content or hire a writer to do it for you.

Continue the topic and relevance the previous website had; this is best for SEO. This is because the traffic profile, backlinks and search engines’ understanding of the domain are defined by the previous events (before the domain expired); to take advantage of that, you should continue to be consistent with it in the future.

If you do this, even though a new visitor to the website no longer sees the previous, expected content, he or she might still be very interested in the website if the topic is very similar to what it was before. If you can even post much better content, then you can expect a much better results than the previous owner.

It will not be as hard if the domain already has backlinks and some authority attached to it.

Okay, let’s get to the implementation of how you are going to find valuable, expired and deleted domains.

Step 1. Establish your main niche, narrow it down twice (or even more than that if you have much time). The purpose of this is that, if you cannot find the specific keywords using the domain name (which is important), you can search within a broader term.

For example:

Main niche: PHP
Specific niche 1: PHP Development
Specific niche 2: PHP tutorials

Step 2. You need to find expired domain names that contain those targeted keywords.

Go to this URL: http://www.justdropped.com/drops/

You can select whichever TLD you choose. For example, if you need a .com domain and are interested in knowing the latest deleted domains, you need to click the latest entry for .com deleted domains. As of August 14, 2010, this is the latest link:

.com Domain Names Dropping on 08-12-10 = http://www.justdropped.com/drops/081210com.html

Open the URL and you will see tons of expired domains on that day. Just wait for it to load completely.

Step 3. Start by searching to see if your specific niche keywords are available. In Firefox, go to Edit -> Find and then type the specific niche in the browser search box: phpdevelopment or phptutorials (as one word). You can also vary by adding a dash to the word, for example: php-development or php-tutorials

Step 4. If they are not available, type the main niche’s broader term; in this case, it is ”php.” Once a match is found, copy it to your notepad so you can use it for succeeding analysis. To find another match, click “Next.”

For example, there are two matches found:

phpfacil.com
phproyek.com

Step 5. If you think there are too few candidate domains, you can open another link. For example:

.com Domain Names Dropping on 08-11-10 = http://www.justdropped.com/drops/081110com.html

Repeat the process from Step 3 and Step 4.

For example, the following results are obtained:

buyphpmailer.com
dtphp.com
getphpscript.com
hsrphp.com
phpbb3-portal.com
phpcastro.com
phpdecode.com
phploginscript.com
phpsu.com

Step 6. It is now a good time to start doing a background check on each of those domains. This will take time, but is very important. To further shorten the list before you do a background check, remove those domain names which appear to be unattractive and less- brandable according to your plan.

The check points are as follows:

First, check to see if there are still some backlinks pointing to the entire domain.

Tools:
http://www.php-developer.org/backlinkcount/checkyourlinkpopularity.php

Enter the root domain URL (either www or non-www with HTTP). For example: http://www.phpsu.com/

A good point is that the above domain still contains an estimated 68 backlinks from other, unique domains. Of course, these might not be good links; but if you examine the other domains, you might find one.

Now, open the domain in the browser to double check that it is indeed expired. You will know if it is expired if you don’t see the expected content, and see only advertisements or links.

Third, double check the WHOIS if it is still available; sometimes, due to the back ordering technique, the domain will be immediately snatched by a reserved user before you can make an analysis.

Tools: http://www.domaintools.com/

Fourth, examine the site’s previous content for matching purposes. This is important; it will let you know how good the previous domain owner was in publishing content. You can also see if the content fits your purpose, and learn its archived history of pages (the number of months in the archive for example, lets you see the chronological changes that happens on the website).

Tools: http://www.archive.org/web/web.php

Just enter the complete domain (http://www.phpsu.com/) and then hit “take me back.”

Step 6. Once you have decided on the domain, you can now register it. Contact the previous owner to see if it is possible to acquire the content or start uploading your own content.

Step 7. Once the hosting has been set up, and the domain will be working once again. Research the backlinks using Yahoo Site Explorer to get the URL to where it points previously, then 301 redirect all of them to your website’s home page.

This will help visitors land on your home page instead of a “Page not found,” which is common for deleted and expired domains. It will also encourage search engines indexing your new website to award some link juice.

Step 8. File a Google reconsideration request for the new site in case some penalty occurred for it in the past.

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