In the SEO world, the topic of using expired domains has always been a point of debate and contention.
To date (July 2019), using expired domains are still a commonplace tactic for many SEOs, but it is becoming harder to do correctly with increasingly diminishing returns.
It has never been more important to make sure you do the process correctly.
What are the Best Tools to Identify Expired Domains?
As with many SEO processes, identifying the correct tools and knowing how to use them is the first important step.
Here are the tools I use to find and analyze expired domains for a possible purchase:
DISCLAIMER: There are more tools than just the ones listed below, with similar or better functions both paid and free. This is my just process.
Although there are plenty of options out there for an Expired Domains Search Engine, I tend to fall back on the free option.
With ExpiredDomains.net, you can search the database for expired, deleted and marketplace domains pending expiration. Depending on your need or expertise, this is a great place to start.
I recommend anyone that has just started building out their first PBN (Private Blog Network) to use Expired Domains first.
How to Use the Expired Domains Search Filter
"One of the greatest benefits of using ExpiredDomains.Net is the Search Filter."
There are literally millions of domains you can search for. It's best to narrow your search down to exclude potential spam as best as possible.
Here are one of my saved searches as an example:
Column 1 (Common)
Domain Name Settings:
✔️ no consecutive Hyphens
✔️ no Adult Names
Dictionary Word Domains:
✔️ 🇺🇸 English
✔️ only Available Domains
✔️ 200 Domains Per Page
Column 2 (Additional)
Column 3 (Adwords & SEO)
✔️ Domain Pop 10 to 500
Column 4 (Majestic)
✔️ Ext BL 20 to 2500
Using this search filter, I've immediately narrowed my domain search from 1.2 million domains down to 1,900 domains, simultaneously increasing the quality of my domain search.
I use multiple search filters every day; and although this one is my default, I use this search filter for a few reasons:
It strips down the amount of spam domains by only searching for .com .net & .org TLDs
However, that alone is not nearly enough.
I've also blacklisted any known 'adult' sites, as well as double hyphen domains (strong correlation with spam).
I primarily do SEO in the US, so I make sure I use the English function and I only want to search for available domains.
Last but not least, I don't want just any domain. This is why I tweak the RD/BL Ratio settings to find a domain that has a higher potential to not be spam.
This is why you'll see my max settings to be set at a 'healthy' .2 RD/BL ratio with the minimum amount of links set to 10 referring domains and 20 backlinks.
I change the link settings up ALL the time, so this is not set in stone. These are just the settings I like using for my first stage of browsing.
Below are the filtered search results:
As the last step, I will tend to order the domains list by "Unique Referring Domains" or DP (Domain Pop).
With a narrowed list, I will start to move into the analyzing process with the next tool.
One of my favorite tools to use during the Expired Domains Process is Ahrefs.
They are a software toolset for Backlink and SEO and PPC analysis. They also come in handy for keyword research and competitive analysis.
Here's how I'll use Ahrefs with the list I gathered from ExpiredDomains.Net:
I will scroll down the list. This time, I chose to analyze Abcchamber.org. I copy+paste into the Ahrefs dashboard, and these are the results:
At first glance, I can see that the domain ABCCHAMBER.ORG has a URL rating of 8/100 and a Domain rating of 19/100. The domain only has 47 backlinks pointing to it from 22 different other referring domains (unique websites).
I can see the historical backlinks were as high as 3,900. For me personally, the stats aren't really there. It wouldn't be a powerful site, and probably not something I would use, but for the sake of this article I will continue to use this domain as the example for this research analysis.
Next, I will want to look at the anchor text to check out the website:
At first glance, all the anchor text used in the backlinks pointing to ABC seem branded and or natural. Except, at the bottom when I see irrelevant anchor text:
- 'garage doors'
- 'cutting grass height'
- 'cost hot water system'
Even though they each claim to have only 1 backlink, that has cause for further investigation.
I want to be as thorough as possible. The next tool I will be using to double check domain metrics and anchor text is SEMRush.
SEMRush has only grown in popularity and use in the past few years among the SEO community. However, recently they have added even more tools to their arsenal.
This includes the very useful 'Social Media Toolkit', which I have found useful for tracking and analyzing competitors' social following.
But, for the purposes of the Expired Domain Research, we will be analyzing the ABC domain with the SEO Toolkit Dashboard:
Under Domain Analytics > Backlinks:
I plugged in AbcChamber.org and these are the results. SEmrush states that the 'Authority Score' is 26. Which is not bad for an Expired Domain on its' own.
But it's not that simple. With a mere 1.3% RD/BL ratio, the anchor text still needs to be analyzed:
And here we have the full story of the anchor text coming from the backlinks through the historical data in SEMRush:
- 43% - garage doors
- 4% - Cutting grass height
- <1% chinese text (major red 🚩)
(The reason we don't see this in Ahrefs is because I don't pay for the historical data plan -- plus I like using two different softwares to check for analysis blind-spots)
At this point, the anchor text has proven very helpful that this domain is no longer beneficial to use an expired domain.
The Anchor text has been deemed spammy.
But just to prove it to you, I will run the domain through the next tool:
The Wayback Machine is an AMAZING TOOL!
I will never understate it. It's free to use.
Here's what it is:
Essentially, the Wayback Machine is 'the internet archive'. It crawls and stores websites periodically. It has a database of over 371 billion web pages saved.
Let's take a look at what our ABC domain looked like:
You will see that the Wayback Machine has crawled and archived the ABC domain several times over the last 17 years. Let's take a look at what the most recent crawl looked like:
It looks like the most recent crawl has been used for a Chinese website. This can easily explain not only the Chinese anchor text but the other irrelevant anchor text as well.
"It's official: the domain that has expired has already been utilized for spam."
Well, you simply start all over in the analysis process. Go back to your deleted domains list and try again.
The process takes around 1-2 minutes per domain if you know what you're doing.
Last but not least, I wanted to give an honorable mention to MX Toolbox.
If your domain passes the 'sniff test' we just put it through, you will want to double check and make sure the site wasn't blacklisted.
Crafty SEO's (domestic and foreign) can still hide their spam tactics and the site that looks great on paper or through backlinks can still have been de-indexed by Google.
Use the 'Blacklist Check' tool to double check the domain isn't de-indexed for spam:
The Long and the Short of It
- Expired Domain Research can be time consuming, costly and risky if not done correctly
- Stats are just vanity metrics (mostly)
- CHECK ANCHOR TEXT
- Always Build out based on relevance to original industry
- Tools are friends, not foes
Here's an SEO meme I created that summarizes "Expired Domain Research"
I enjoy writing on topics such as SEO, Lead Generation and Digital Marketing Trends.
If you got value from this article, I would love for you to tweet me @RichPriebeJr and let me know your biggest takeaway 😉