A reader sent me an email with this question:
I've heard about buying expired domains, but I can never get a step-by-step covering how to find an affordable domain, checking if the domain is any good, and then using that domain to boost my other domain's SEO. I would pay money for a full guide on how to do this. Perhaps there's some savvy SEO that would like to put together a guide? — Jim
Ever wondered how all these startups get to buy expired domains with strong backlinks? I will show you how to do that, without using any paid tools. Whether you're looking for an expired domain for your startup, SEO portfolio or to create a PBN (which I don't endorse), I got your back.
Table of Contents
If you fail to pay for your expiring domain name, it will go into grace period. It's a time which usually lasts about two to four weeks, depending on the registrar, when you still can pay for the domain to get it back. After that, the domain enters the redemption grace period. It's a 30-day period when you can still get your domain back, but you will have to pay an additional fee to ICANN.
After that period, the domain is dropped entirely, and anyone can claim it for a regular registration fee. That's where services which monitor expired domains come into play.
I've been asked, "How long after a domain expires can I register it?". The simple answer is - usually after about 6 to 8 weeks, once the previous owner stops paying for it.
For years my go-to expired domains tool has been ExpiredDomains.net. It's a 100% free tool that stores and analyzes a huge database of dropped domains, daily. There are no limits or quotas and they are never asking for any payments. Our website is not affiliated with them in any way and this article is not an ad. The owner makes a few bucks every time you register a domain through their affiliate links.At the time of writing this article, the site has a database of 1795922 (that's almost two million!) .com domains available for registration right now. The only thing you need to do is to create a free account on the site, so you can save your searches and access their full database and filtering. I've been using them for years and never got a single spam email.
It's actually very easy. Once you create a free account and verify it, go into the deleted domains section. It shows all TLDs combined of domains dropped in the last 7 days. If you go into a particular section like deleted .com, you will we able to see older dropped domain names too.
Once you're in, you need to filter through millions of domains. I usually filter down to 50 to a 100 domains and then go through them manually using an external SEO tool like Ahrefs or Serpstat.
In the filter section, I usually use the following settings to filter signal from noise:
After applying I went from 1175558 to 98 domains. Majestic trust flow filtering is especially useful, as it filters out all these sites that have mostly spammy backlinks, pharma, and adult sites.
Bonus tip: you can filter domains based on if they have links coming from Wikipedia (section Adwords & SEO in the filters.)
Let's take a look at one of the domains I've chosen -- BeardedMagnum.com. The first thing I always do is go to Serpstat and Ahrefs and check if the domain reputation data aligns with Majestic data from expireddomains.net database. Now, if you don't have access to premium SEO tools, there are lots of freemium opportunities on the market. As far as I know, Majestic, Serpstat, and Moz allow for a few domain lookups with a free account and there are others.
After that, I will check how many referring domains are there and how legit they look. Expired domains tend to lose backlinks over time, so I rarely register domains with less than 10 incoming referring domains.
The next step is checking anchors to see if they are not spammy. I'm looking for anchors that a human being would create.
My last step is going to archive.org to check what content was hosted on that website, was it legit and if it aligns with my plans for that particular domain name.
The domain had pretty good metrics for a reg-fee pick. It looks like at first it was a private blog, which then has been revived and turned into a low-key PBN. Finally, I decided not to register this one.
There are two reasons I hunt for expired domains. The first one is I'm always trying to keep a strong portfolio of around a dozen brandable domains in different niches for startups that I work on. Starting out with a nice gTLD with several solid backlinks sets you off on an easier first few months with Google -- your website will be treated much better in comparison to having a fresh domain name.
The second reason is SEO. Dropped, valuable domains can be sold, used for 301 redirects to get the SEO juice or used for PBNs. I will go over these topics in my next write-up.
Yes, expired domains are still working... if you use it in the right way.
Does domain authority get passed on if the domain and all subdomains and links are 301 redirected to another domain / single page of a new site or does the content have to be preserved to maintain the DA?
Google confirmed on multiple occasions that link juice is being passed from old links.
Just from my personal experience, I can tell you that it's worth to buy expired domains for new websites, as is for PBNs, and as 301 redirect to boost new sites a bit. 301s have to be topically relevant and have clean backlink profiles.
In my case, I always check the following metrics:-
Also, it is up to you whether you want to use the domain for a good cause or use it as a PBN.
After a domain expires, it goes into a "Redemption Period" where the owner has a chance to get it back in case they hadn't noticed the 47 emails from their registrar telling them it was going to expire. The period varies. I know the last one I picked up was in redemption for 70 days, but it was at a non-us registrar. Many are 40-45 days.
Contact the current registrar, ask them what their redemption period is. Add those days to the listed expiry date and watch it every few hours if possible from the day before that date to the point it gets deleted.
If it's a popular word/phrase you may have competition and someone may have a bot trying to register it, in which case you might be out of luck. Be very careful if you try to use a service that offers to buy it up for you. Some will see that there may be an interest, buy it, advertise it, then auction it off among you and anyone else that's interested.
Look into domain backorder / sniping / drop catching services. Shouldn't be much more than the normal price. Or just be ready the second it expires to be it again directly.
Personally, I've let a lot of unused domains expire and I often see them get purchase immediately after. So make sure your domain names are always renewed if they are important!
Check out Snap Names and place a backorder. If it ever becomes available it will try to buy it immediately. There are 3 major sites that do this but snapnames has been the best for me.
Also don't do any searches or hits on it. The owner or registrar may be tracking it and renew it thinking they will sell it to whomever keeps looking it up.
Google doesn't penalize people for almost anything. They are still a pretty dumb company in many cases. Also, this prevents negative SEO.
Google never deindexes formerly expired domains or penalized 301s.
It'd be all fun and games blocking expired domains until Google gets it wrong for a big company who renews their old domain - or buys an expired one for a name to expand their brand.
Then that company will go to the press and make an accessible story to the public about Google censoring them or whatever - and Google won't be able to explain how dropped domains for SEO works to your average Joe.
They'd need to explain links and how they work for SEO, what SEO is and how that all affects a sites authority in the algorithm - which no one will care enough about to listen to them. They'll just brand them as against free speech and move on.
If you work with the idea that most people don't know dick about SEO, Google's methods are really hard to explain to them in a soundbite.
I never check domains with these pricky fucks. I switched over all my domains a long time ago when they backed SOPA or whatever the hell it was. Fuck them.
Godaddy does a scam that has been going for over 10 years. When you check a domain name they sometimes reserve it and try to sell it back to you for a premium price. Scum of the domaining business.
Godaddy is also more expensive than others.
Namecheap all the way.