In my path through working on various online businesses and helping friends building brands I have learned about hundreds of clever strategies to get results faster. One of the most powerful strategies of eons ago had to do with buying expired domains and restoring or releasing complete new websites on these URL’s. You see, as I have said before building a new website and anchoring it on the web can be a pretty challenging and time consuming task. It can take months if not years just to see an influx of impressions on the search engines, which leads to clicks that culminate in valuable traffic. The competition is fierce in every niche.
Based on all the research I have done for you and my own experience. I recommend you to focus on relationship building instead of cheating the rankings by building Private Blog Networks PBN’s using expired domains. Think about guest posting and pitching high quality articles to roundup websites to promote your projects. While using PBN’s could work for a few years, eventually your website will be penalized, getting reset. Losing most of the traffic and income opportunity and it will never reach it’s true maximum potential. In the end, you will be better off by being patient and actively promoting your content. The result which will pump organic traffic for a very long time and putting in your hands a digital asset which can eventually be sold for substantial sums of money. Being patient is key as black hat SEO techniques only last for so long…
NOTE: Time ago when people bought expired domains, the entities would retain all properties. Among them Domain Authority (DA), Page Authority (PA), Google Pagerank, Domain Age and Backlink Portfolio. This is no longer the case. SEO’s have found, only Expiring Domains retain all these properties, a move to make it harder for SEO manipulation. Benefits which remain are: backlink portfolio and finding easy to type URL’s for target niche ending in (.com). On the negative end many expired domains that still show great metrics have been used for spam or been penalized. Finding good ones takes luck, testing and effort.
Today I want to tell you how leveraging expired domains can make or break your online business. In all honesty, nobody can predict who the Google algorithm will penalize. But I can show you some evidence they are penalizing heavily the webmasters who build websites using expired domains. This strategy which used to work like a charm is now very risky. Here are other alternatives.
If you read the forum thread I linked to, you will realize there are so many factors. At the current state with BERT and artificial intelligence becoming a core part of the Google algorithm there is a lot of fluctuations of rankings. Some websites see increases in traffic of two fold or more, while many others are seeing 30-90% traffic lost. At the current state, even fully white hat websites are getting hit but I would expect long term these sites will spring back. SEO strategies of yesterday work at times and fail at others. It has become a bit like gambling.
Using Expired Domains and PBN’s is a Gamble
Let’s see where the practice evolved from… below is an old video on this very topic. Remember Private Blog Networks (PBN’s) are being heavily hit as of the end of 2019.
NOTE: PBN can stand for PUBLIC Blog Network or PRIVATE Blog Network. Public networks often times, are lower quality and using those comes with bigger risk. PRIVATE networks are created purely for personal use. Most SEO’s who use this type of strategies build high quality private networks. However… the Google algorithm has been catching more of these. Perhaps is better to stick to the ten commandments of link building as I have done for myself.
If you are starting learning SEO or digital marketing from scratch and trying to build digital assets like social media profiles, ecommerce stores, Web 2.0 blogs and posting your website to various online directories you will realize depending on the chosen industry it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to achieve desirable results. This is why SEO’s and digital marketing strategists are always looking for loopholes or advantages they can use in order to leapfrog the competition and boost ranks of WorPress web properties faster.
Today I want to tell you about hunting expired domains and how it has become a black hat technique perhaps you want to avoid completely. I want to give you my unbiased perspective on this topic so you can make an informed decision for yourself if this is a good strategy to move forward with the aim to build your business. First let me give you a little background, then we can jump to some conclusions. Please tell me what you think on the comments section I always appreciate feedback.
Let’s start with the very basics. Since 1989 the Word Wide Web was created with the purpose of allowing the exchange of scientific data between universities and institutes located in distant geographical locations around the globe. The plan had never been to bring the Internet as we know it today for everyone to use. Yet here we are, 30 years later looking at the exponential expansion of the internet. Since the internet is so rich in information, it is also rich in opportunity for those who can find and take advantage of them.
SEO’s Try To Game Google But This Hurts Clients
So at one point or another SEO’s and digital marketing strategists started to realize there were very reputable government institutions which would create websites and let the domains expire for multiple reasons. Among them, perhaps the specific institution in questions was no longer needed, or there was no budget to continue that specific government plan. Think of Obamacare for example. Once it gets eliminated is very likely this website will expire into oblivion. A website of this magnitude and recognition will probably remain locked, for nobody else to be able to access or be able to buy. But this is not the case with smaller governmental projects fewer people know about. Some of them are sold by mistake to the public in auctions where expired domains are sold after their grace period has elapsed.
NOTE: Normally regular people should not be able to buy expired .gov domains. But still, there are ways around this black hat SEO’s take advantage of. The reason for this is because .gov websites rank easier and produce bigger authority signals due to bigger trust.
Either way, a similar situation can occur to education (.edu) type domains and private institutions that go out of business. Sometimes it is big corporate websites which end up filing for bankrupcy and their websites become expired domains. Think of Enron for example. If big businesses like Enron can fail, there are countless of smaller businesses with (.com) domains and great niche keywords that go out of business. Many of their domains expire, making it possible for someone else to buy it for cheap and use it for something else. Just this happened to one of the main competitors my last employer once had. They filed for bankrupcy. Their domain at brightsettings.com is currently in limbo. I don’t like when someone goes out of business but I worked super hard to grow the company that employed me at the time.
Some people ask me what is .com and what is the importance of it. This technology is what is known in networking as a top level domain which is used for commercial purposes. Since the beginning of the internet most businesses have been using .com, so people have been trained to type a URL and end it this way. Due to the expansion of the internet, the best domain names are already taken so new top level domains are becoming popular like .co and .io. However, data shows .com is still preferred and the reason these domains are more expensive. You should use it so that more people can find your website.
Thousands of high authority domains expire every month and are waiting to be found.
In other instances there are important one time corporate and community events which are held like marathon runs, art expositions and obituaries to name a few. Publicity and advertising is done using social media, local news, online magazines, TV shows and *often times* a website which is built specifically for the event in question. Given these are one time events upon culmination many of the websites are no longer needed so eventually the domain will expire and find it’s way in a public auction. Big one time events like this collect hundreds or thousands of reputable backlinks from authority sites which possess great of SEO value. A recent event which comes to my mind is Mr. Beast 20 million trees. I’m sure many websites and web 2.0s were built only to help promote this monumental accomplishment, to give a new set of lungs to our planet planting 20 million trees.
Some domains expire by mistake as it almost happened to the DallasCowboys. Other times, it is the webmaster maintaining the website who for unfortunate reasons passes away. At times, some people working on their websites just don’t see the results they want fast enough. They quit within 3 to six months of launching their blog or ecommerce store and move on to something else before breaking free from the Google Sandbox. In the case of my friend kolinbryce for example, he found a better business model to generate income. So his clothing store which grew fairly well is no longer taking business. It would be smart of him to keep the domain so it doesn’t get taken.
Another common reason why we see an increase in expired domains has to do with the spread of hacked websites. The fact is these days even the most reputable archives to find good plug ins like it is wordpress.org, may be hosting plug ins, themes, and templates containing backdoors and malicious code to take advantage of the user installing the plug in or theme. One way they take advantage is by injecting code on the websites to build backlinks to boost rankings for a certain website or set of websites. Other times the idea is to create redirects so the traffic is sent from the target website to some other destination. Given the fact some of these plug ins with malicious code are downloaded hundreds and thousands of times the overall impact can be really big.
There is no such thing as “free”. Often “free stuff” comes with downsides like having to invest precious time or compromising your digital assets.
Learn How To Recover From Google Penalty
In fact, sometimes it happens that websites which have been altered with malicious code end up penalized by Google. At this point many of the webmasters choose to ditch the site completely and either construct a new one in a new URL, or re launch the old one as it was in another URL in hopes it can rank quickly. The Google algorithm is unpredictable, but most times it won’t rank as easily because the content is not new. Although, as I have seen for myself old content which is cleverly reused in such as way as to provide better user experience than the previous website did, does have a chance of ranking better. I think the reason for this is because the Google algorithm measures positive and significant user engagement/interaction which is vital to rank new assets.
This is why some SEO’s out there have procedures they follow to find websites which have been hit with penalties and work to get it removed. The result is such domains can spring back and recover a big percentage of the old traffic. Of course, to do this requires skills, connections and probably some influence to get someone at Google to remove the penalty. Some SEO agencies like Moz and their contributors are really good at removing penalties for their clients. I have been involved in some projects where the main task was to figure out what caused a penalty in the first place and take all the necessary steps so it would be removed.
Don’t Mess With The FTC…
Another common way domains expire and are sold back to the public is when affiliate websites are made which break Federal Trade Commission (FTC) terms. Often times when the FTC goes after these entities, the websites are taken down and a legal disclosure is put in place. The case then may take months or years on trial until a settlement is reached. Eventually the domain will expire and someone else can buy it.
NOTE: Can you believe the FTC imposed $5 Billion Penalty on Facebook for consumer privacy violation? Holy crap. This is the reason why having a degree and working a 9-5 is always the best plan B. When things seem to be going alright the FTC could dismantle any company. Even the tech giants.
All of the examples I have given, is just but an small subset of ways you could get your hands on great expired domains. Sometimes is the carelessness of a webmaster as they lose their password and they don’t find a way to recover the site. Other times it has to do with political circumstances as it happened to Venezuela which used to be a prosperous country filled with private businesses running on the internet. Since their currency has devalued so much, many of the websites Venezuelan entrepreneurs used to run have become part of the public domain and can be found at auction for other people to buy for cheap. The fact is people from Venezuela are turning to playing Runescape as a way to survive hyperinflation of their currency.
Many of the domains I have described have many benefits including:
*Older domains tend to have more reputable backlinks pointing to them, (especially if it was a corporate site or STARTUP)
PBN’s Domain Fastrack Is Only Temporary…
I think you get the point. Good expired domains gives you the ability to teleport in time and reap the rewards of the time commitment, energy and effort someone else put so you can advance your project faster.
However, there are some negative sides capitalizing on these opportunities. Buying expired domains used to be a gray hat technique which most digital marketers could implement with little risk. Some of the best digital marketers I know which have outstanding reputation even buy expired domains on a continual basis with the purpose to redirect this traffic to their web properties. At times is not even about the traffic potential and instead is about transferring link juice and making their websites more authoritative.
Among the negative aspects to using expired domains as part of your strategy:
*Some expired domains with a good backlink portfolio can cost hundreds or multiple thousands of dollars to buy
*It takes certain time commitment and tools to figure out if an expired domain is worth buying.
*As of Recently Google has been penalizing heavily those websites which take advantage of expired domains to create Private Blog Networks PBN’s for their SEO strategy
To that last point above you can read more about what has been going on here. The post is dated 2014, but a new wave of the same is happening and multiple forums are discussing the situation. Most webmasters keep this stuff secret. In particular, many SEO’s have noticed that expired domains which were bought in the last three months and built onto, are the ones which have been getting the worse thin content penalties. As a result, this is one of those strategies which is really risky. It can work and it still does work for many people but Google is making it harder to utilize it. The more time I invest with different SEO communities the more I realize this is sort of like a war that is going on. SEO’s try to outsmart Google and then an algorithm is deployed to obliterate practices which exploit loopholes.
As of right now Google can’t possibly move away from using backlinks as one of the main ranking signals. This is because backlinks are at the core of how the Google algorithm works since the very beginning. However, artificial intelligence may have a big role in being able to spot PBN’s and link manipulation. The goal at this point for them is to serve the absolute best content (in their view anyway), for a particular topic or query. With the Natural Language API they are moving away from keywords and now is about context and meaning. Although keyword research still works, if the user intent matches with the page the web visitor landed onto. Something I found which I did not know is that back in 2013 it was easier to access keyword data which then became encrypted.
Personally, I would rather build something to last very long. In the long run, it will be better and produce better results. That’s why I’m not taking advantage of some of these strategies I know. However, at the same time I can see how some SEO’s and digital marketers exploit these opportunities for months or years while they can. Then once the website is penalized they just start another project and repeat the same process. A business model like that may not be optimal but it does produce results and this is the reason technical SEO’s take advantage in the first place.
Pretty much the way they think about is. If the last project produced sufficient income, then they can pay freelancers to write the content they will need for the new site once the old one is penalized. Since they have the funds to get other people to complete the project they gamble. This is the kind of gamble that works out if there is a good business model behind it which produces substantial income. The reality is, many people try to exploit Google Search but it will only continue to get harder to do so as the algorithm evolves with artificial intelligence. The stakes become higher. There will come the time most people gaming search engines will end up losing everything unless they pivot and start experimenting with different business models which do not rely on Google.
The best advice I can give you is to work very hard and use strategies to target keywords nobody wants to invest time into. Stay purely white hat in your approach. In time, these keywords will rank better and generate more traffic. Ultimately the valuable traffic will last for years and you won’t have to put up with the risk of losing everything you built to a Google penalty or complete deindexation. Recovering from penalty can be really hard. I have had friends who had their websites wiped completely because they used strategies like PBN’s in their approach. The website would still appear in Bing or Yahoo but not on Google which would yield the biggest traffic share. I have lost some websites myself because I quit on them since at one point I was following advice which would have never worked. Luckily I have learned from my mistakes and now I know better so I share what I know.
In the future I expect more websites to be hit with heavy penalties. The current state had already happened in 2012, when Google took down a lot of PBN’s and websites linked to them. Luckily, as the search engines reroutes traffic where it should belong, new blogs and websites will flourish. So 2020 will be a year of great opportunity for everyone who wants to start an online business or blog. If you had been wanting to start online, now is a good time!
I hope you found some value.
Until next time.
PS: If you are trying to find expired domains for sale, there are countless of places on the internet you can find them. However, I would encourage you to buy a new domain and use some of the information in this blog to grow your skills. Digital marketing skills are in very high demand because businesses understand brick and mortar is disappearing in favor of ecommerce. The lifeblood of businesses is SALES. So in the coming years more businesses will hire Digital Marketing strategists and SEO’s especially those with good foundation of data science because we can produce sales. My encouragement to you! Don’t lose your progress by using black hat techniques. Stay white hat and enjoy the outcome for a long time!