The Definitive Guide
Buying Expired Domains
(Step By Step)

This is the most comprehensive guide on expired domains on the web.

So if you want to:

  • Find powerful expired domains at steal-prices
  • See practical examples of sustainable niche site-building
  • Vet and evaluate expired domains like a pro
  • Not to waste money on overvalued domains

Then you’ll love the detailed strategies in today’s guide.

Let’s dive right in.

Table of Contents

Prelude To Expired Domains

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of miracles expired domains can do to your SEO efforts.

Are you struggling to rank your websites on Google?

Does the whole off-page SEO strategy seem too intimidating? Expired domains might be your solution. 

I’ve been working with expired domains since 2015. I’ve invested thousands of dollars in experimenting and learning this aspect of blackhat SEO in the process.

I’ve not only made the most expensive mistakes in buying expired domains that were overvalued but also grabbed the undervalued ones at steal-deal prices.

I bought this expired domain for barely $125 on an auction and published a few articles. It started generating $250+ monthly in only 3 months

Buying Expired Domains For Affiliate (Results)

It had 3 mediocre articles ranked #1 for their target keywords. It brings in a consistent $800-1200+ per month after publishing some good content even after 1.5 years. 

Here’s the traffic growth in the first few months, according to Ahrefs:

Expired Domains With Traffic

Not too shabby, eh?

BUT…

Finding a “POWERFUL” expired domain can be tricky, and it’s easy to go wrong and waste thousands of dollars (as I’ve done in the past).

While I was brainstorming and researching for this extensive guide, I realized that the SERPs are littered with misleading and outdated information. That’s dangerous.

Hence, reading this guide shall be critical for deciding your fate in the world of expired domains.

Most of the niche sites I build today are built on powerful expired domains.

This gives me an unfair competitive advantage, and I don’t usually talk about them to the public.

You’re about to learn one of my best kept secrets on how I use expired domains most efficiently.

Fasten your seatbelts as I unfold the mystical path of one of the most elusive secrets of affiliate SEO success using expired domains.

Chapter 1:
Expired Domains 101

In this section, I’ll walk you through the basics of expired domains, including:

  • What are expired domains
  • Why use expired domains

And how they can do miracles to your SEO efforts.

What Is An Expired Domain?

You never really own domains. You just rent them for a certain amount of time.

Domains are “internet properties” on a yearly lease. The domain’s “owner” has to pay registrars a “yearly fee” to retain the domain name’s control. This duration can range from a year to even decades.

An expired domain is one whose “rent” AKA “yearly renewal fee” wasn’t paid, and thus the registrar ceased control of the domain from its previous owner after the contact ended. These domains are then sold on open auctions or left to expire.

Why Expired Domains?

A good expired domain is a domain that existed as a genuine website in the past and had authority links pointing to it. Google trusts it.

From a good age to high-quality backlinks that they’ve gained over the period of their existence, a good expired domain can save you months or even years in SEO efforts.

Here’s what nobody tells you.

It’s EASY to find expired domains.

But the real challenge; the pain point is:

Millions of domains expire every day, but in my experience, less than 0.1% of them will have any links worth any “SEO Value.”

You’ve likely seen people selling expired domains for $30, $50, heck, $100. Most of them are useless.

For example:

Here’s an example of the QUALITY of expired domains that I own.

A good expired domain has links from many authority websites. 

Here are some “do-follow” Referring Domains. Extended list here.

High Authority Links Expired Domain

Note: I’m showing the Historical view because most of the links are still live. However, since my domain doesn’t have those pages live, the links don’t show up in Site Explorer.

P.S.: If you find my domains, keep it to yourself. 😛

But do expired domains still work?

If you’re looking for those old school sneaky tricks, then my simple answer would be NO. If you’re talking about creative use and sustainable use-cases, I’d gladly tell you YES.

Some terms to understand before we begin:

  • Referring Domains (RD): Number of unique websites linking to a particular domain. It’s better to have 100 links from 100 websites than 100 links from just one.
  • Domain Authority (DA): Moz’s metric for how powerful a website’s backlink profile is.
  • Domain Rating (DR): A metric by Ahrefs for how powerful a website’s backlink profile is.
  • Trust Flow (TF): A Majestic metric indicates how trustworthy a website’s backlink profile is.

7 Reasons To Find & Buy Expired Domains

1. More Links At Less Price

Expired domains dramatically bring down the cost per link.

Consider the domain shown above. How much would you be willing to pay for that kind of links? With links from almost 4k unique websites, the domain is pure gold.

2. Get Free Content (Not Recommended For Long-Term Sites. Only PBNs)

You can restore the old site’s content from the WayBack Machine to save on your content costs. I don’t recommend doing this if you’d be using the domain as a money site.

Also, be sure to check if the content has not been reused by somebody else already.

3. Faster Content Indexing

In my experience, content gets indexed much faster when you’re building your site on an expired domain.

4. Lower Sandbox Period

Google has this “sandbox” period in which the new sites don’t rank for their targeted keywords for some time. However, when you’re using an expired domain, the sandbox period either doesn’t exist or drops significantly.

In my experience, it takes 3-8 months for an expired domain to show its full potential. Thus, you see results much faster; sometimes instantly.

For example, this site took off immediately.

Expired Domain No Sandbox

5. Virtually Eliminate The Need For Link Building

Numerous people and I have ranked websites with ZERO link building when building a site on a powerful expired domain. Writing good quality content alone does the job.

For example, I’ve built barely 5 links in 2 years for this website and it has been bringing in ~$1k consistently every month.

6. Existing Brand Searches

In my experience, existing brand searches seem to improve rankings much faster than websites where there aren’t any brand searches.

For example, one of the websites I own has ~4.5k brand searches.

7. Hijack existing traffic

If the expired domain you’re buying was receiving traffic before expiring, you could regain that traffic by restoring content, and improving it can instantly boost traffic.

If you’re building a money site, try to get the content written from scratch to avoid any mess in the future.

Understanding The Domain Lifecycle

gTLD Domain Life Cycle

This wasn’t easy to wrap my head around even after doing this for so long. So take this just as a basic timeline to understand the process.

The Domain expiration process of a typical gTLD can be understood by the below phases:

Domain Available

“Available” is the first stage where a name is not yet registered by anybody. Upon registration, the registration is valid for a period of 1 to 10 years.

Domain Registered

The domain can be registered for a max of 10 years at a time, which can be further extended as long as the owner keeps paying the yearly “renewal fee”.

Domain Expired

When the renewal fee is not paid, the domain is expired. The registrar informs the owner that their domain name has expired. 

Auto-Renew Grace Period (0 to 45 days)

After the auto-renew grace period, the domain is available for backorder by backorder service providers. The domain is put on Auctions (day 26 on GoDaddy, varies depending on registrar and TLD)

Redemption Period (30 Days After Grace Period)

The domain is now in auctions and available for backorder. If the owner renews, the domain is restored to the original owner with an additional “redemption fee”. If not, it’s sold off to the highest bidder.

Pending Delete Period (5 Days)

If the domain isn’t bought through auctions or backorder, the domain enters Pending Delete period. The domain renewal is no longer possible. 

End of Life — Domain Available Again

If the domain passes the above stages and nobody picks it up, it’s returned to the registry and the registry then releases the domain for public registration.

You can refer to GoDaddy’s domain expiration timeline to learn more. This may vary from registrar to registrar, but most of the timelines would be similar. Read official ICANN page here.

3 Ways To Buy Expired Domains

The 3 buckets your buying of expired domains would fall under are: 

1. Register Available Expired Domain Name

The most basic way to buy an available expired domain. This is however rarer than before as most of the domains with a “good link profile” would already be picked up by domainers in auctions or via backorder.

2. Backorder Expiring Domain Name

Backordering is the most cost-effective way to get expired domains if you have an automated system in place.

When you backorder a domain, the backorder service provider’s automated registration service will watch for the domain to drop and try to obtain the domain name for you as soon as it becomes available

If another company’s backorder service secures the domain, you won’t receive the domain. So it’s best to place backorders from several backorder service providers. More on this in chapter 5.

However, if you think you’d be able to backorder great domains manually, you’ve been misled.

The initial investment in time and capital is significant for setting up automated systems for finding and drop catching domains yourself. But, it becomes cost-effective at a large scale.

3. Make Offer/Buy On Auction/Marketplace

This is the best option for you if you’re willing to pay what the domain is worth. (Sometimes way more, sometimes way less.)

You can participate in auctions, make offers to private domain sellers or any other marketplace like GoDaddy Auctions. More on this in chapter 5.

Chapter 2:
How To Use Expired Domains

Now it’s time for me to show you exactly how to use expired domains effectively for maximum ROI.

After this section, you’ll be able to decide whether you should use the domain for:

  • Money Site
  • 301 Redirect
  • PBN

or something else. 😉

How To Use Expired Domains For SEO

Whatever you use your domain for, it is crucial to make sure that the domain is not toxic, i.e., it’s not considered a spammy domain or carries an undetected penalty.. There can be occasions when a very appealing domain can turn out to be toxic. However, if you follow my recommended checks, you’re unlikely to get a toxic domain. 

More on that in a moment.

1. Building An Authority Site

Building An Authority Site With Expired Domains

As shown earlier, building authority money sites can be a smart investment as you can solely focus on creating good quality content and on-page SEO instead of worrying about off-page SEO. 

I’ve been personally doing this with great success across various niches. The key factor to consider is that you should get a niche-relevant domain.

In fact, if you’re into website flipping, this can be your “secret sauce” for accelerated growth in creating and flipping websites—more on this in a moment.

2. For E-Commerce Sites

Even if you’re dropshipping or creating an e-commerce store, SEO can help boost revenue significantly in the long run.

Most e-com websites don’t focus on SEO and rely only on paid ads, which is a deadly mistake.

The good news is the expired domains can help you gain organic traffic even if you’re not particularly focusing on getting it. Good content alone does the job if you have powerful links.

3. 301 Redirect

A 301 redirect can be an easy way to pass some link juice to a new website or a blog.

Even though I personally don’t practice 301 redirecting, it can give your money site the “boost” it might need. 

However, I don’t recommend doing it right away.

This is one of the moments when I’d practice extra caution when considering the domain’s toxicity.

I’d recommend testing the domain with a few niche-related test articles to see how it performs (in terms of rankings) before redirecting it to your money site.

Furthermore, thinking that such a 301 would pass all the link juice can’t be further from the truth. Instead, I recommend creating relevant pages/category pages in order to conserve maximum link juice.

Do All 301 Redirects Pass 100% PageRank?

No. All 301 redirects do not pass 100% PageRank.

Make sure the expired domain you redirect to your money site has:

  • Lots of authority links
  • 500+ Referring Domains (Can be RD 100+ for lower competition niches)

Note that you shouldn’t be wasting the 301 opportunity redirecting a mediocre domain to your money site.

4. Sell The Domain For Profit

You must have seen a lot of people selling expired domains on the internet. This is just another form of domain flipping. But it’s not as easy as it seems. It is a labor-intensive, time-consuming process that might not be worth your time. 

You can sell these domains on several platforms like Flippa, Godaddy Auctions, Afternic, DAN, SEDO, etc.

If you spend a weekend finding a good expired domain for any of the other 5 cases, it might yield higher returns both in the short and long term.

But a word of caution: People selling expired domains on Facebook/Fiverr or any other place at $20, $50, or $100 — In my experience, a good number of them don’t know what they’re doing, and most of their inventory is junk. I’d not hesitate to admit I was one of them when I started with expired domains. 

So when you’re buying from somebody, make sure that they have stringent checks in place and have a history of delivering domains that bring results.

I’ll list some trusted sellers/marketplaces in the later section of the article.

5. Build A Niche Site & Flip It (Recommended)

If #1 was not the option, this is the option I’d advocate. Expired domains reduce the “sandbox” period significantly. That means you can rank content much faster (in low competition niches) and flip websites much quicker to build some decent cash for your main projects.

To the Indians reading this: Remember Freedom 251? It caught unprecedented media attention and gained links from virtually every news/media website you can think of.

Freedom251.com is a practical example of repurposing a domain and building an authority niche site on it. All you need is good quality content, and everything else follows.

Freedom 251 Niche Site On Expired Domain

Nonetheless, you virtually don’t have to worry about link building at all in the entire process.

Consider this: You bought an expired domain for $200 and scaled it into an affiliate/AdSense site that makes $300 per month in 5 months. (Very achievable)

If you sell this website on a website like Flippa, you’re likely to get 20-30x of its monthly earnings. That’s $6k to $9k in 5 months.

That was a conservative monthly earning figure. Scaling to $1k monthly in under 10 months with expired domains is achievable.

At a 20-30x evaluation, your site can sell for $20k to $30k in 10 months

That’s WAY MORE profitable than just selling domains.

Bear in mind that these aren’t my listings but public auctions that I’ve followed on Flippa.

6. Private Blog Network (PBN) + Link Selling

Buying good expired domains and building PBNs can quickly get expensive. However, if you’re into a serious business, link-renting can help you significantly bring down operation costs—many people who have huge PBN rent links.

This paves the way for acquiring even stronger domains in auctions and becoming the “invincible” site on the SERPs.

In fact, this is an excellent business to consider and is wildly profitable while you build your own PBN army.

A detailed guide on building PBNs is in the pipeline and will be published soon.

The Three Pillars Of Ranking

1. Good Content

I showed how I had 3 mediocre content ranked #1 for their target keywords in the intro. 

But here’s the big deal.

Having valuable, researched content published on your expired domain can bring significantly higher traffic and ROI than posting mediocre content.

Great content is a craft and the cornerstone of SEO success & conversions—not just a commodity to procure from the lowest bidder.

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

A page of content on my website ends up costing at least $50. More often than not, $200 or more. Content is what stands at the core of your blogging empire. Invest in it like there’s no other way out.

For instance, here’s how the traffic for one of my posts increased when I swapped it with new, researched, and truly helpful content.

Growth With Good Content On Expired Domains

2. Website Relevancy

More often than not, you’ll find powerful domains that aren’t related to your niche. Please don’t think about repurposing them to an entirely new niche or doing a 301 redirect.

Using a relevant domain is crucial and you shouldn’t ignore it.

But Prajjwal, I got a very powerful expired domain at a bargain price,” you say. 

The only problem is that it’s not relevant to my niche.

It is indeed possible to repurpose a domain for another niche. But first, you have to build a website which is very similar to the old one.

When the rankings start kicking in and become stable, you can begin putting content in the new verticals and eventually repurpose it completely. This can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year in my experience. I’d advise not to rush through this transition phase.

3. Quality Of External Links AKA Backlink Profile

The use of expired domains ticks the box of the most intimidating part of the SEO game, i.e., getting high-quality backlinks to your site. I have had my sites which ranked with ZERO link building efforts, with good content alone.

On some sites, I’ve had a poorly-written, rehashed content rank on the first page. But that can only take you so far. Rankings will inevitably drop.

Ranking #1 is not important. Maintaining it is.

This has helped me find unknown low competition keywords in the niche with minimal trial and testing efforts. Once such sites begin touching the first page, I get the content rewritten and maintain my rankings.

Chapter 3:
Finding The Most Powerful Expired Domains

This is the most creative part of the process.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to find powerful expired domains with the authority links you’ve been craving.

“Premium” domain sellers will hate me for sharing this, but here you go!

How To Find the Most Powerful Expired Domains

Searching for a powerful expired domain is a creative and laborious process and can often leave newbies in utter confusion.

Any method to find expired domains that are shared publicly will eventually be overused to death and thus, rendered useless

I’m sure you’d have realized this if you’ve ever tried finding expired domains using other people’s method(s).

Contrary to what some misleading articles might want you to believe, the process of finding powerful expired domains is difficult and time-consuming. And if you’re following the same method as hundreds of other domain scavengers, you’re going to have a hard time.

As I said earlier, 97.9% of the domains I scrape are either useless in terms of links or spammed to death. Thus, finding that good domain is like finding a needle in the haystack. You might have got that “powerful” domain, but it’s not easy to point out which one is the “one.

The Fundamental Way To Find Expired Domains

There’s no single best place to buy expired domains for everybody. Where you’d buy your domains would depend on your budget, expertise in finding and checking domains, time commitment and risk appetite. 

OPTION EASE TIME DEMAND COST DOMAIN QUALITY
ExpiredDomains.net Easy Quick Low Low
SpamZilla Easy Moderate Moderate Medium-High
Auctions Moderate Slow Moderate-High Low-Moderate
Custom Automated Systems Most Difficult Slow Low (High initial cost) Low-High
Finding Expired Domain Methods

So, you’d have two broad options:

  1. Find, Check, Evaluate, Bid and Buy Yourself
  2. Get a Broker With Established Expertise In Doing The Above

Remember when I talked about wasting my money buying expired domains worth thousands of dollars only to find out they were not as good as I expected?

Finding the right domains is a time-consuming process involving a certain level of luck and comes with inherent risks of the domain being penalized or spammed.

  1. If you’re going the first route as I used to in the past, of doing everything yourself, Godaddy Auctions, DropCatch, ExpiredDomains, and SpamZilla might be the place for you.
  2. If you want to save time and minimize risk in hunting and mastering the entire process of finding, evaluating, and purchasing expired domains, Domain Coasters or SERP Names might be your choice. More on this in chapter 5.
Expired Domain Scraping Fundamentals

A few key points before we begin:

  • Your crawler’s report will always yield better results than a pre-crawled report since your crawler will yield fresh results exclusive to you.
  • The power is in the seed list of crawl URLs and you need to be creative here. Else, it’s going to be garbage in and garbage out.
  • Automation to a certain level is very important if you’re following a DIY path. You don’t want to be wasting time manually checking thousands of expired domains.

But First, get a good SEED List of niche authorities.

A good starting point to find niche-relevant authority domains is by looking at a list like this.

Let’s say I want an expired domain in the Finance niche, and I found thesimpledollar.com

To find more related websites in the niche (according to Google), I can search:

related:thesimpledollar.com

related query Google

And Google will give me the websites it thinks are related to thesimpledollar.com

A few checkpoints for selecting the “seed” domain:

  • DR 40+
  • 2+ years old
  • 100+ Pages
  • 500+ RD (Ideally 1k+)

Lazy Crawler Method: How To Find High Authority Expired Domains FAST

You’ve probably seen people charging at least a couple of hundred dollars for a domain; sometimes thousands of dollars with links from such authority sites.

“Premium” domain sellers will hate me for sharing this, but here you go!

Let’s say you want an expired domain with a link from bbc.com

Step 1: Go to Ahrefs Site Explorer and plug in bbc.com

Step 2: Click Linked Domains in the left navigation panel, under the Outgoing Links section

Step 3: Select “Dofollow” from the Link Type dropdown menu

Alternatively, you can select “Broken Links” from the left Navigation pane instead of Linked Domains. Try both to see what works best for you.

Step 4: Click Export on the top-right of the table and do a full export.

Step 5: Download the report and open it in Excel.

Get ready for some excel wizardry (I have automated systems in place for the rest of the steps)

Step 6: Click Filter Under Data and apply the following filters:

Domain Rating between 10 to 50

Organic Traffic less than 30,000 (These numbers aren’t accurate in this export)

Apply Filters

Now you’ve narrowed down the domains from 115k to 40k.

Step 7: Check domains for availability using a bulk domain checker and check the available domains with batch analysis again since the values in the previously exported report aren’t accurate. (Hint: Get creative here!

Backordering domains and finding out whether they are in auctions already will be a good move 😉)

Step 8: Spam check the available domains thoroughly according to Chapter 4.

Step 9: Buy/Backorder/Bid

Now that I’ve shared this publicly, don’t try finding a domain with this method by plugging in these authority sites.

You can’t beat any automated systems’ pace (build one if you can). What you can do however is find niche authority sites and try a similar approach. If you have the same method as thousands of other people reading this, your effort is going in vain.

I’ll discuss more sources for buying expired domains in Chapter 5. I will add many more ways to find powerful expired domains in the article soon. I wanted to get the article published asap and kick the perfectionist in me to get things rolling first.

Chapter 4:
Effective Vetting Of Expired Domains

Now it’s time for the most crucial part. Analyzing and spam-checking the expired domains.

By the end of this chapter, you’d develop an intuitive understanding of what separates a good and a spammy domain.

Furthermore, I’m going to show you practical examples for each case.

11 Things To Check Before Buying Expired Domains

Checking the domain thoroughly before buying is critical. Never buy an expired domain just because it looks good on the surface. I’ve purchased worthless domains at premium prices when I was on a constant spree of acquiring expired domains. Result? Thousands of dollars were wasted.

Before buying an expired domain, put some (actually a lot of) research into it. Here are some of the top things to look for—the do’s & don’ts while purchasing an expired domain.

1. Referring Domains & Overall Link Profile

This is the main thing you should be looking for even before considering buying an expired domain. You see, we’re buying an expired domain for that very reason—links. And those links better be really good if you’re paying the price.

Ideally, I buy domains with high do-follow Referring Domains (number of unique websites with a do-follow link to the expired domain) of 50 and above. Most of them are 500+ RDs.

Word of caution: Domain sellers might redirect several domains to the domain being sold to you to increase authority referring domains. They’ll eventually drop off and be of no use.

Make sure you visit the linking page and check that they are direct links to your expired domain.

SPAM Checkpoint: This is what a spammed website’s RD velocity looks like. Notice the sudden spike in RDs recently.

Spotting Spam With Referring Domain Velocity

If the domain has been spammed in the past, this is what the RD graph might look like:

This is what one of the worst might look like: (I’d probably not check the domain any further after seeing this RD graph)

Spotting Historical Referring Domains Major Spam

2. Authority Links to the domain

For me, links from authority sites (not just from name-brands) but other niche authorities is an essential deciding factor before buying an expired domain. Even no-follow authority links like that from Wikipedia are good. The domain RDs I shared at the beginning of the article is usually expensive to get.

Below is one decent expired domain I had bought at the registration price. But such gems are a rare find at registration price.

3. Historical Traffic

Most people underemphasize this factor. I generally buy only the expired domains that have had some organic traffic in the past. That’s a reassurance that the link profile might still be capable of generating traffic for good content in the future as well.

Word of caution: A sudden decline in organic traffic may be indicative of a manual penalty due to which the domain might have been left to expire.

However, that can be caused when the domain was redirected to another domain, like bestwaterpurifiers.in was redirected to kitchenarena.in and it’s safe to use such a domain. (Don’t restore old content in such a scenario as it might still be in use)

Expired Domains With Historical Traffic

Here’s a new website being built on an expired domain. (Currently making ~$250/month

When done right, here’s what you can expect (my results):

Successful Expired Domain Niche Site

4. Archive of the domain

This is probably the most critical step in the manual spam-checking of the expired domain. The Wayback Machine snapshots give you an idea about what the website was like and whether it was used for spamming in the past.

WayBack Machine (Archive.org)

Word of caution: Bear in mind, many spammers block the WayBack Machine crawlers, and hence, you might see a clean WayBack Machine history while that might not be the case. If the domain was not dropped, but it’s snapshots are missing/blocked from Wayback Machine, I’d advise some extra caution before pulling the trigger on the domain.

Red Flags:

If you’re getting a 403 Forbidden in the archive, it’s likely that it was done on purpose. Most of the domains I’ve found with a 403 Forbidden in the history were either used as PBNs or were spammed.

WayBack Crawler Blocked Error 403 Forbidden

For example, the domain sewingmachineexpert.com shows me a 403 Forbidden Error in the last year of its existence. The domain was previously used for spam.

5. Age Of The Domain

Most of the expired domains I buy are at least 2 years old. For some startup domains, it might be just a year old. But greater than 2 years is good to go. The higher the age, the better. Most of my domains are at least 5 years old.

You can use a bulk domain age checker like this one. It’s been around for a long time and does the job well.

6. Unwanted/Spam Backlinks

For this section, I scraped 1,500 domains. 97.9% of the domains I scraped were either useless or spammed to death. Those people who say that expired domain flipping is an easy business sound outright misleading to me.

Spam-checking is the most challenging thing for any newbie looking to buy expired domains.

Needless to say, you must check that the domain doesn’t have any spam links. Links from p0rn, casin0, or any gambI!ng sources should be absolutely avoided. Other common spam might include sale, c!aI!s, v!agra, payday loans, etc.

I could have an entire post on spam checking, but I’ll save it for another day.

Below is the same PBN domain I referred to above that was hacked and spammed recently. You don’t want your anchors to look like this.

Spam Check With Anchor Text

7. Google Index/Ban

How to check if an expired domain is penalized or not?

I’ve been asked this question multiple times.

Unfortunately, there’s no sure-shot way to tell if an expired domain is penalized or not before you buy it and check on Google Search Console. However, you can get hints by doing the following:

Domain Is Indexed: The domain is less likely to be penalized if it’s still indexed in Google. However, it’s not a guarantee that it won’t be penalized if it’s indexed. The expired domains might not be penalized but may remain deindexed because it expired a long time ago. 

However, I’ve bought indexed domains in the past, which turned out to be penalized. The smaller ~$250/month site I’ve shown above was built on a penalized domain, which passed the reconsideration request. But such results are far and few.

To check if a domain is indexed or not, you can search:

site:expireddomainexample.com

Google Deindexed Expired Domain

Domain Didn’t Lose Traffic Before Expiring: This is another instinctual way to figure out if the domain was penalized. If the traffic declined suddenly before the domain expired, it is likely to have been penalized. The exception here might be where the expired domain was redirected to a new domain.

Note: Once you’ve bought the domain, you can have a Google account with an alternate persona where you penalty-check the acquired expired domain. Avoid using your personal account.

8. Repurpose Count

I don’t see people talking about it as much as I’d like to. Historical relevancy and use-case of the expired domain is important. If a domain has been used for different niches in the past, it might not be the best choice. (check on WayBack Machine)

If the domain has been used for vastly different topics every time it dropped, you might face a higher sandbox time if you build a site on that domain. In some cases, the domain doesn’t even rank for easy keywords or the rankings suddenly drop after a few months.

Furthermore, the domain might have undergone a manual penalty. (I’ve recovered and used such domains effectively, as said earlier)

9. Link Sources & Redirect Chains

This was one of the lessons I learned after buying a thousand-dollar domain and realizing I just flushed money down the toilet.

Whenever you’re buying a domain, make sure that the domain has links coming directly to your domain.

Confused? Let me explain.

When you check the Referring Domains and see lots of good links, you should go one step deeper and check to make sure that they’re not 301 redirect links from another domain.

For example:

This was around a thousand-dollar domain and the links inevitably dropped off as most of them were redirect links.

Links Lost
How to check this?
Step 1: Go to Ahrefs Site Explorer and check the “Referring Domains” section from the left navigation panel.
Step 2: Click on the number corresponding to the “Links to Target” column to see the links as shown in the screenshot.
Alternatively, you can go to “Backlinks” section from the left navigation panel, and in “Link Type” column, select “With redirect chain” to scan for such links.

“Prajjwal, that’s obvious. How come you are so careless that you didn’t even bother to check if the links were pointing to your domain before spending $$$$?”

When you’re checking thousands and domains and are on a bidding spree, some things/steps might slip through the cracks.

I hope you’ll not waste another thousand dollars after reading this.

10. Copyright Strikes

This and the next checkpoint are to be done once you’re almost convinced to buy an expired domain. Furthermore, checking any copyright strikes and assessing if any strike negatively impacted the corresponding timestamp’s organic traffic is a good practice.

The Lumen Database is a good place to check for any DMCA takedown notices or complaints.

Copyright Strikes Lumen Database

11. Applicable Trademarks

Before buying a domain, especially an expired domain, check if the domain name isn’t trademarked (or contains a trademark).

This might not be so important as a company that didn’t have the money to renew their domain most likely won’t sue you for using their name.

Some domains are dropped for the very same reason—they contained a trademarked name, and the owner had to surrender the domain on trademark infringement grounds.

For example, you’re not allowed to have a domain that has the terms “Amazon”, “Kindle”,  “Google”, “Apple” or any misspelled variations.

A simple, free Trademark Search can help you. However, that might not be enough, and searching for similar trademarks in your country should be done.

Trademark Search

An example of building a niche site on a trademarked domain is apolloedoc.co.in

I don’t recommend it though.

Common Myths

Spam Score

Moz Spam Score

Moz’s Spam Score is just a penalization risk indicator; i.e., it is indicative of how likely a website is to be penalized under a manual review based on their correlation data. It’s not a penalty confirmation. Most spam score flags can be removed by tweaking your website.

Moral of the story: Spam Score doesn’t matter in most cases.

You can use SpamZilla’s spam scores to get a better idea of spam.

Chinese/Japanese Links

This is one of the most controversial topics. I personally don’t prefer going with domains with many irrelevant foreign-language links. However, if they’re relevant to the domain and are far and few, you shouldn’t care much about it. I’d say that an err on the side of caution saves the day.

Drop Count

I’ve heard some people talking about drop count being a factor to consider. In my experience, it doesn’t matter. However, most of the domains I’ve acquired have a drop count under 5.

Ideally, if there are more than 3 drops in the last 4-5 years, you need to have a closer look. Better safe than sorry.

A dropped domain loses its SEO value: This has been a common misconception that the domain’s link equity is “reset” when it drops. That’s not true in my experience. I’ve seen this being disproved domain after domain.

However, with aggressive competition, it’s next to impossible to find a powerful dropped expired domain. Almost all domains are bought by auction bidders or drop catchers before it drops.

Google Index Means No Manual Penalty

I’ve seen this coming from some prominent people. An indexed domain doesn’t guarantee that it’s free from penalty. There’s no sure-shot way to know whether a domain was penalized or not. You can only make an educated guess by looking at historical traffic and website history on Wayback Machine.

You can eliminate this risk by buying domains from vendors who guarantee replacement/refund if the domain is penalized. If you’re finding domains yourself, there’s no way to avoid that risk.

Previously Redirect Domains Can't Be Used

I used to avoid previously redirected domains until I accidentally acquired one and it worked out. I tested this again and a previously redirected domain doesn’t seem to lose its SEO value in my case.

Let’s understand this with the help of my use case:

The domain ProductName.com was redirected to BrandName.com and ProductName.com was eventually expired and I caught it in auctions. This domain had acquired links from some authority websites. I posted affiliate content on this domain and it ranked fast.

Metrics — DA/PA, TF/CF, DR/UR

Google officially removed support for Pagerank Toolbar back in 2016 after ceasing to update it for many years.
PR (Page Rank) was the only accurate indicator of a domain’s link equity.
However, SEO Tools like Moz, Ahrefs, Majestic, and many others came with their own version of Page Rank to mimic how powerful Google might consider a domain’s links to be.

This begs the question, how accurate are these metrics, and should they be trusted?

When you have a lot of domains to filter, you might consider adding filters of these metrics. However, the metrics like DA/PA/DR/UR/TF/CF shouldn’t be a deciding factor while buying an expired domain. They just act as a good entry filter amongst millions of domains. These metrics can easily be manipulated.

I only buy a domain with DA 10+ and DR 15+.

I personally like to sort my list by RD (Referring Domains) or DR (Domain Rating, Ahrefs), check historical organic traffic, anchor text cloud, and then finally check the archive for any spam. This is the bird’s-eye view, but you get the point. 

Metrics aren’t the most important thing as long as the domain has good links and historical organic traffic. That doesn’t mean that metrics don’t matter. Metrics are great for filtering thousands or millions of domains and saving time. The only thing to keep in mind is that metrics shouldn’t be the deciding factor for buying an expired domain. Metrics are a filtering factor and should be used for that only.

Chapter 5:
Important Tools Of The Trade

Before you begin your hunt for expired domains, you must be sufficiently equipped for the battle.

Here are some tools to reduce friction.

Important Tools For Finding Expired Domains

Free Tools

Paid Tools

Chapter 6:
Where To Buy High Quality Expired Domains?

Let’s close out this guide with the list of the best marketplaces/services to buy expired domains.

16 Websites And Marketplaces To Buy High Quality Expired Domains

ExpiredDomains.NET

ExpiredDomains.NET Free Expired Domains

ExpiredDomains.NET is probably the best free resource for finding expired/auction domains. It comes with its own limitations, but I can’t ask for more at that price.

They release a HUGE list of expired/auction domains every day. If your timing is right, you can even grab some good domains at registration price.

Make sure you’re registered on the site as it gives you many more filters/options to choose from.

Furthermore, it’s best to check for domains as soon as the lists are updated since good domains are quickly taken. Check the list of each TLD and category here.

ExpireDomains.NET Update Interval

SpamZilla

SpamZilla.io

SpamZilla advertises a huge domain database. However, with basic metric filters, the list drops to under 4 figures; sometimes just a thousand.

SpamZilla integrates metrics from Ahrefs, Majestic, SEMrush, Moz, Alexa and some internal metrics to make filtering domains a wholesome experience.

SpamZilla is a good place to find expired domains because of the sheer amount of filters and quick spam check, archive snapshots available. SpamZilla might be your best bet if you occasionally scrape expired domains and don’t have robust systems in place.

Here’s a great tutorial from Nathan Gotch for finding expired domains using SpamZilla.

GoDaddy Auctions

Godaddy Auctions

Most of my powerful domains are procured directly from Godaddy Auctions. I’d strongly advise that you set a maximum budget for a domain even before you start bidding, as I’ve often overpaid for domains succumbing to the bidding war.

Note: Don’t start searching for domains directly from GoDaddy  Auctions, else you’d be lost in the ocean of domains with virtually no filtering options. If you can’t afford a paid tool, go with at least the ExpiredDomains.NET filters.

SERP Names

SERP Names

SERP Names has one of the most refined catalogues for expired domains in my experience. With hand-picked domains and action plans for select inventory, the overall user experience is complemented with Sumit’s (Founder)  guides and case studies.

You get the important metrics and filtering options by category.

Here’s the best part:

You get to see the domain, check it thoroughly till you’re satisfied before you purchase it.

Domain Coasters

Domain Coasters

Domain Coasters has the best bang for the buck inventory. Anybody entering the world of expired domains who don’t want to shell out a fortune on expired domains can try their service.

The domains are thoroughly checked for spam, and they replace any penalized domains. The domain names are hidden from the public in the interest of the buyers’ privacy.

However, before buying the domain, you can click on “Reveal” to view the domain before buying it.

DropCatch

DropCatch

DropCatch is by far one of the most consistent backorder services I’ve used. However, the platform is riddled with fake bidders and the fact that they push the domain to public auctions if multiple people backorder a domain. This happens almost always with me which increases my domain acquisition costs significantly.

SEO.DOMAINS

Founded by Kalin Karakehayov, the SEO.Domains marketplace is a large buyer and dropcatcher of expired domains, both .com and country ones.

Since not everything sells fast, the choice is huge and given time to dive in you’re sure to find something good at a bargain.

As the domains are so many they are not so pre-filtered so you better check them for spammy past just in case (though most are clean).

Serped.net

SERPED brings a variety of expired domain finding tools to the table. The Auction Master lists all domains on auction and detailed metrics for each domain in a single place. You can find domains from:

  • GoDaddy Auctions
  • NameJet
  • SnapNames
  • Name.com
  • Dynadot
  • Sedo
  • Droplists
  • Pheenix
  • Fabulous

You see important metrics from Moz, Majestic, and its age, current price, inbound links, etc.

You can even set up filters to receive email alerts when new sites or domains that meet your criteria get added to the list.

SEODN.COM

SEODN

SEO DN, or SEO Domain Names is another good marketplace for buying expired domains. You get to see the domain names with all data before you buy it.

DynaDot is a decent marketplace for expired domains, but I’ve not got consistent results here. The backorder service almost never catches the domain, so don’t rely on DynaDot for it.

Overall they have some good domains at a reasonable price if you’re willing to dig for a reasonable amount of time.

DomCop

DomCop

DomCop, like SpamZilla integrates metrics from various providers like Majestic, Moz, Estibot, Alexa, SEMrush, and DomainScope. The Ahrefs data is depreciated.

DomCop also gives you a crawler (Guru Plan and above) to crawl websites and find domains that you otherwise won’t. 

NameJet

NameJet is another backorder service that I use for buying expired domains. But here’s my use case:

The main factor here is that NameJet allows you to place a backorder request even when the expiry date of the domain is way ahead in the future. Thus, I’ve caught domains that I had added 1-2 years ago in the list using NameJet.

SnapNames

SnapNames

SnapNames is better known for its backorder service. SnapNames advertises an inventory of over 30 million domain names. Even though they have a huge marketplace, I haven’t had much luck getting powerful domains there.

RegisterCompass falls in the same basket as DomCop. It integrates data from Majestic, Moz, SEMrush, and Alexa.

It’s not the best, but definitely worth a try.

Namecheap

NameCheap is not talked about so often when it comes to expired domains but I’ve been able to find some powerful domains here.

Flippa

Flippa

Flippa is one of the biggest marketplaces for buying and selling expired domains as well as other webs properties.

I personally prefer buying starter sites from Flippa rather than expired domains since buying expired domains here is a bit expensive.

Name.com

Name.COM Aftermarket is another marketplace for finding and buying expired domains. It has a comparatively smaller inventory, but it’s there nonetheless.

Conclusion

So that’s it for my guide on Expired domains.

Now I’d like to hear from you.

What’s the first thing that you’re going to try from today’s post?

Do you want to scrape some juicy expired domains with the Lazy Crawler Method?

Or maybe you want to try auctions?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

Don’t forget to join my Telegram Channel where I share exclusive tips with my subscribers.

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