Expired domains can be a powerful tool to jump-start a new website, or for long-term hold domain investors, but finding the right one can be like walking through a very expensive proverbial minefield. Many expired domains can help a new site skip the Google Sandbox and rank for relatively competitive terms right away.
Expired domains are gaining in popularity for a reason, as the right ones can do good work. The potential danger for beginners is not understanding the good backlinks from the bad ones, the domains that still have juice versus those that don’t.
There’s a lot of legwork that goes into finding and buying good old domains and making sure to get them for a reasonable price in an increasingly hot market.
What is an Expired Domain?
An expired domain is a domain name that used to be home to an active website, but the domain expired or otherwise wasn’t renewed. This means there is no longer an active website at that domain.
Potentially, that could make the now-available expiring domain worth a lot. The history of that old website, the backlinks that point to it, all point to the domain name. If the site had a long history and there were good backlinks this could make it the perfect way to jump-start a new site.
There are literally millions of expired domains out there, but only a handful by comparison that are worth pursuing. That still leaves thousands to tens of thousands of decent expired domain names that can provide some serious starting juice for a new site, or give SEO juice via redirect to an existing site.
4 Benefits of Buying Expired Domains
Buying old domains provides many benefits, but four big ones stick out.
Good branding is important. Some websites might have a memorable or recognizable name. Being able to harness that can be a major benefit of using an old domain name that became available.
This can come in several forms, such as:
- A locally famous restaurant that closes down, but that positive brand history is still there
- A professional-sounding website name with a website that had a history of traffic
- A domain name with a long 20+ year history of various sites up at that domain
Good branding can be a major benefit of going the expired domain route, as your site can “borrow” credibility and branding from the previous history of the old sites to boost your own.
2. Existing Backlinks
Backlinks point to the domain, so when a website isn’t renewed the domain name carries the strength of existing backlinks.
Some niches that many website builders have found success with are looking for defunct online newspapers or defunct restaurant websites. Both are sites that tend to get a lot of links when in existence, and some of them can receive some big hard-to-get backlinks.
The existing backlink profile is the most important aspect of expiring domains to most prospective buyers.
3. Existing Traffic
Existing traffic is a great boost to a website that’s just getting started. This might come from people typing in the domain name wondering what site is there or, more commonly, if they were familiar with the old site they might type in the name to revisit the old site or check on what happened to it.
That existing traffic is an opportunity to show Google value right off the bat, and it’s traffic that comes from other sources which not only diversifies from Google, but many SEOs believe traffic from multiple sources is at least a mild SEO indicator.
It’s also just existing traffic, and every bit of traffic further builds your brand and is a chance to make revenue.
4. Domain Age
Generally speaking, older domains are better. Having a long history in the search engines is a positive sign to Google and other search engines. This makes indexing new content easier, is at least a small part of EAT, and might even be one of the hundreds of factors that go into Google’s algorithm for ranking sites.
The sheer age of a domain can be a major positive, especially if the domain has 15 or 20 years of history that can be seen on the Wayback Machine.
What Can You Use Expired Domains For
Expired domains have a variety of uses, and offer a ton of value.
1. Building Authority Sites
This is one of the most popular uses for a good expired domain. If you find a domain that has a solid history and backlinks from major authority sources like The New York Times, Business Insider, or the giant brands in a niche, then that is a giant head start when building a new site.
A good enough backlink profile can tell an experienced site builder that building one of the top sites in a niche is 100% possible based on the juice from the expired domain alone.
Authority sites can be incredibly profitable and it’s far easier to build one-off of an expired domain than to do it from scratch.
2. 301 Redirect to Main Site
A 301 redirect is a great way to take the backlink juice from old domains that expired and to pass them forward to an already existing website. It’s important to make sure to have a good tech guy who can do this correctly.
When done right, that 301 will pass on that backlink juice to the expired domain to your current site, giving it a potentially huge boost.
3. Building a PBN
While using a PBN is a controversial topic among many in the website building/SEO community, there’s no question it can be incredibly profitable. Getting a backlink from a strong domain is going to be attractive to website owners, and PBNs can be powerful and profitable when done correctly.
4. Recover an Old Site
Sometimes you tackled a site that was too ambitious for your skillset or that you just didn’t have time for. It expired, managed to slip past potential buyers, and is sitting out there. Getting that old domain name back and rebuilding the site later can be a great use of an expired domain you know has some history/juice to it.
This also works if you had a site with great content that was hammered for past spam tactics and couldn’t recover. If the content was great, find a quality expiring domain to put that content onto.
This can give the site a new lease on life.
New domain name, new backlink profile, and focusing on quality content to avoid the old mistakes could make that hammered old website profitable at its new URL.
How To Find and Value Expired Domains
There are many expired domains out there, but not all of them are going to provide a great boost. Don’t overpay for expired domains with questionable backlink profiles, a spotty history, or a lack of decent high-quality backlinks.
While it can take a lot of legwork to find the best expired domains available, it’s worth it to get a great expired domain versus one that is “just okay.”
Certain backlinks are simply high quality. Backlinks from high domain authority sites with strong EAT carry a lot of weight and are good indicators that the history of the expired domain is likely a good one.
The more quality backlinks in a domain name, the better.
If an expired domain is still getting traffic, that’s a very good sign. It means the domain name is brandable, the recent site still gets traffic/attention despite no longer existing, or some of the backlinks still send traffic to the site.
Any one of these is a great sign that you have an excellent candidate for an expired domain and if all of them are true, all the better.
Using the Internet Archive (aka Wayback Machine) and other tools to take a look at previous content. You want to look both for the quality of the content being shown and the quantity.
How large was the previous site? How good was the content?
Use a tool like Ahrefs to see if there were specific individual posts that pulled in a lot of backlinks. Look at the URL and make sure to replicate those on your site when creating content. You want to make sure the links and direct traffic from old sources end up on an active page on your site.
Website history is a major part of finding a good expired domain. A good history can make a domain name very strong.
Things to look at for the domain history include:
- When it first appeared in search results?
- How many years has an active website been built on that domain name?
- Was there any history of spam, gambling, adult, or other sketchy content that could have penalized the site?
- How recently was a website active on the domain?
These questions can help figure out how the history is likely to affect the current effectiveness of an old domain name.
Google Index Status
When you type the domain name into Google do results still pop up? The longer a domain goes without any active site on it, the more link juice it loses from its history.
If a recently expired domain name is still showing up in Google search results, even if it’s just for the domain name, that’s a good sign it still has most of its power.
4 Best Places To Find Expired Domains For Sale
While there are dozens of potential places for finding expired domains, four stand out from the rest as being the best options.
1. GoDaddy Auctions
GoDaddy Auctions is a great place to find domain names that have recently expired and have just hit the open market, as well as a place where premium expired domains are often listed.
An annual membership costs $4.99 per year but is worth it for access to their active auction place.
Spamzilla is a great tool that finds expired domains and is constantly scanning multiple sources to see what’s available and be able to give the user the ability to sort them by niche, age, and other various factors.
This is a tool that is mentioned by virtually anyone who is spending a lot of time finding and purchasing expired domains.
Dropcatch is a publicly open domain marketplace that lists dropped domain names. These public auctions have thousands of recently dropped domain names, and plenty of gems mixed in.
4. ODYS Global
ODYS Global is a company that has focused on acquiring top notch expired domain names and then selling them to website builders. The benefit here is they are a team of professionals who focus on finding the really good expired domains, which saves a lot of hassle and risk for newbies on the due diligence front.
They even have a service to find an expired domain branded to a certain niche you’re looking for if their current stock doesn’t have anything that meets your current needs.
How to Buy Expired Domains
Buying expired domains isn’t difficult. This involves just following the process wherever you buy it from.
If you’re buying expired domains from an auction then you need to have the highest bid when the auction is over. Keep in mind that for a good old domain name flying under the radar there might be snipers waiting until the last minute to put in a big bid, so use the “Maximum Bid” tools when available.
If the name is in a marketplace see if you can negotiate the price to work out a deal. If the domain name slipped through all the cracks and is simply available, go immediately to your favorite registrar and purchase it!
The hard part to buying good expired domains actually isn’t the purchase but locating the best expired domains you can get a good deal on to actually pull the trigger.
Frequently Asked Questions
Several major questions come up consistently when looking at finding and buying expired domains.
Do expired domains still work?
Not only do good expired domains still work, but there are many professional SEOs and website builders who believe it works better than it ever has before. With all the additional competition, and Google’s
Can I use expired domains for SEO?
Expired domains are an excellent way to boost SEO. Starting a new site on an old expired domain means getting all the benefits of the backlinks that point to that domain.
You can also use a 301-redirect to boost an existing website by “passing” the juice of that old expired domain to your current site located at another domain.
How do I find out when a domain expires?
The ICANN Lookup Tool, often referred to as the “Who Is Tool,” will tell when a domain is set to expire. Most domain registrars have some form of this tool on their site, or you can follow that link to use it directly.
How long after the domain expires can I register it?
This will actually vary based on a variety of factors. If you had a backorder placed, then the domain can become open in as little as two weeks based on the registrar’s policy on expired domains and how much time they give previous owners to reclaim them.
If the previous owner had expiration protection then depending on the terms it could be up to 6 months before the domain becomes available.
Most of the time expired domains are open for backorders or open auctions in the 4-6 week range.
Expired domains offer a powerful way to get a big start with any new website, or to add extra SEO juice to an existing site. Learning to search through all the trash to find the treasure takes time and gets easier with experience. However, this is a skill that is definitely worth growing.
The right old domain can be the starting foundation, not to mention a huge difference-maker, for your next niche site project.