The Wayback Machine is an archive of over 607 billion web pages saved at different points in the life of a website.
It’s also known as the Internet Archive or Archive.org, but most people just refer to it as ‘the Wayback Machine.’
It is a powerful and useful tool that anyone can use for free without a subscription or account. If you ever need to see the history of a domain or website, this is the way to do it.
As niche site builders, buyers, and sellers, we can use it for a variety of purposes that I’ll share with you in this article.
5 Ways To Use The Wayback Machine For Niche Sites
The Wayback Machine has been saving web pages since 1996, which is 2 years before Google was even online.
Google was first created back in August 1998 and the Wayback Machine first captured it in November of that same year. You can see a screenshot of the first version of Google in early 1999 above.
There were not many (or any) niche sites for affiliate marketing prior to 1996, so we can safely assume that you won’t be needing the history of any domains or websites prior to that.
Here’s how I’ve used the Wayback Machine Internet Archive in my business.
To Analyze A Site’s History Before Buying
Before buying an existing website off of Flippa, Motion Invest, any other website brokers, or through a private deal, you need to check the website’s history.
For example, I recently purchased a site that shares coding tutorials. Before committing to buy the site I need to see if the domain had previously been used for anything else.
The Wayback Machine shows a blip in 2013, but this isn’t actually a capture. There’s nothing to see there and no other ‘captures’ until 2018 when the original creator of the site start it.
I also checked the ICANN register which told me the domain was first registered in 2010, however, it wasn’t used for anything until 2018.
I checked the 2018 version of the site and saw that it was essentially the same site as I was buying. There weren’t any other negative iterations of the site that could be potentially toxic.
Other things you can check on the Wayback Machine when buying a site:
- That there were no spammy outgoing links
- To consider the original content quality and evolution
- To ensure the domain wasn’t originally redirecting elsewhere
To Analyze Aged Domains For Redirects
If you are looking to buy an expired or aged domain to build a new site on, or if you are intending to redirect it to an existing site, you need to check its history.
For example, I purchased the domain FlipFilter.com to redirect to TheWebsiteFlip.com.
The domain was relevant, both in the actual name and in the original content that was on the site. It was originally used as a tool to ‘help you buy, sell, or flip websites and internet businesses.’ It’s doesn’t get much more relevant than that!
Plus, the main benefit was that it had a number of high DR links pointing to it. I wanted to pass that authority through to The Website Flip.
I used the Wayback Machine to:
- Ensure the domain hadn’t been used for anything dodgy (adult, gambling, drug, etc. content)
- To see how many iterations it had been through (had it been dropped and picked up before?)
- To see how long the site had been sitting there waiting for a seller
In the case of Flip Filter, it had been parked with a ‘for sale’ sign for a number of years, which isn’t always a good sign. However, because of the relevance of the previous content and the quality of the backlinks, I decided to go ahead and buy it for a redirect.
Analyze Your Competitor’s Strategy
You can use the WayBack Machine to analyze your competitor’s strategy over time.
For example, if you are new to a niche and trying to work out which affiliate offers to present to your audience, you can check out sites that have been in the niche a lot longer.
Look back a year or two and ask the following questions:
- Are there programs they used to promote but don’t any longer?
- Are there affiliate offers that they did not present often a year ago, but now have double down on that program?
- Have they always run display ads, or have they run them in the past and removed them?
The specific details you are looking for will depend on the niche you are in, but there’s always something to learn by looking at how a niche site’s monetization methods have changed over time.
As an extreme example, the Wirecutter started off as a tech review site linking to Amazon. Today they review everything from t-shirts to watering cans and they link to a huge range of retailers. It would be interesting to analyze which programs they are linking to the most.
For Encouragement And Inspiration
Every niche has one or more massive sites that seem to dominate the top spots.
You can use the Wayback Machine to see what those sites were like when they first started. It can be very encouraging and motivating.
For example, this is what Niche Pursuits, one of the biggest players in the online business niche, used to look like when it first started back in 2011. There was a lot of ‘selling used clothing’ content!
Keep in mind that even the biggest niche websites were once nothing and that it’s only through hard work and determination that they’ve got to where they are today. There’s no reason why your niche site can’t also grow into something much more significant.
For Information No Longer Live On The Internet
Lastly, sometimes you want information about a product, service, or something else, but it’s no longer available online.
If you know the general date that the information was online, you can look it up in the Wayback Machine.
For example, I have a niche site that markets a certain set of tools. Many versions of these tools are no longer for sale new. They have been discontinued, updated, or changed in some manner.
However, these older models still have a lot of search volume. With a display ad strategy, it makes sense to write articles on these products, even if I can’t promote the usual affiliate offers.
I can look at the original manufacturer’s website in the Wayback Machine and get all the information I need to write up an accurate overview of the tool.
Alternatives To The Wayback Machine
Here are three Wayback Machine alternatives that you can use to find information before buying a site or domain, or to help you as you create content and monetize a site.
Stillio is a paid service that will take screenshots of current websites.
You enter the domain/s that you want to track, whether it is your own or a competitor, and set up your desired screenshot frequency. Stillio will then begin archiving those web pages for you.
It’s a website change tracker, but you can’t use it to retroactively track websites as you can with the Wayback Machine.
Stillio can also be set up to save Google search results, which isn’t something that the Internet Archive does. It’s one way that you can track ranking movements, though I’d argue it’s not the best way!
Ahrefs is a great website and domain analysis tool.
While it’s not going to give you a visual of what a website’s design has looked like over time, as the Wayback Machine does, it does give you access to a ton of info that you find there.
Ahrefs can show you:
- Estimated traffic numbers over time – usually it’s clear if a site has been hit by a penalty
- The website’s backlink profile – one of the most important things to consider when buying a site
- The keywords it is ranking for and has ranked for in the past
To be honest, Ahrefs is the first place I go when analyzing a website or domain. Estimated traffic and referring domain information are the most important metrics, after site earnings, of course.
The ICANN Lookup is another way to find information about a domain.
Just enter a domain into the search box and it will come back with some basic information, including:
- When the domain was first registered
- When it was last renewed
- The date that it will expire (if not renewed)
- The domain registrar
Some similar services, such as Who Is Domain Tools, will also tell you how many times registrars have been changed, and whether or not the domain has ever been dropped.