Thinking about buying a used domain? You better stop and do some research first. But before I go any further, take a gander at this:
We all know you can’t “reset the SEO” on a site but the question is still valid (though maybe not on a $5,000 spammed domain).
Is it in the index?
Seems like a duh statement right? Well, it is. Cutts’ video shows us the easiest, simplest way to check if a site is in Google’s index. And since we’re talking about used domains, unless they removed it via the robots.txt file there should still be some pages left. It’s a good sign to at least find something. Even if it’s just a one page offering the domain up for sale, that means the site hasn’t been manually removed by Google from their index.
Who had the site before the current seller?
Domainers are akin to car salesmen. More than likely the current sellers were not the original owners of the site (some are though) and they want to make the site seem like it’s perfect for you. Thankfully we don’t have to go through something like CarFax to figure out who had the site before they got their hands on it. The Wayback Machine is a great place to not only go check out the previous versions of the site, but a nifty way to check out who owned it before. Most legitimate sites will have some company information in the footer (or header).
If you find the site you’re considering purchasing in the archive of the Wayback Machine spend 10-15 minutes looking through the evolution of the site. Is it mostly “under construction” pages? Or is the site actually being maintained like it should be? If nothing fishy pops up, then great! Next see if there’s a company name listed anywhere. If so, look it up. I’m not saying you need to reach out to them, but do a little research. Are they a stand up company that just decided to rebrand? Or did they burn through the domain to make a quick buck?
What’s the quality of the inbound links?
Ahhh, here we go. I won’t spend much time here, but go run an OSE report or Ahrefs or Majestic SEO and see what crops up. It doesn’t matter if it was a legit site or a spammy site. It is going to have links. Make notes of the good links versus the bad links. If there are any good links make sure you reach out to those site owners to get any information changed you need or ask for an opportunity to get a new article written about you as the new site owners.
This is a chance to use the existing relationships the previous owners had to your advantage. That is, if the previous owners had a good relationship with those you are reaching out to. Otherwise while you may have some good links, you may also be inheriting some bad press. Which leads me to my next item to discuss.
What reputation does the site have?
More than likely the site isn’t a brand name (although it could be). Either way you will want to make sure you don’t have to deal with a bad reputation. Do a search on RipoffReport.com or search in Google for “(site name) sucks” and other negative phrases to see if anything turns up. Look around in industry forums and search for the site name. After the site name checks out, and if you’re able to locate the previous owner’s name, do the same for the site owner’s name. You don’t have to clean up their reputation, but it will give you a heads up of what kind of reception you could expect if you don’t make it known the site is owned and operated by someone new.
How much time do you want to put into the site?
It doesn’t matter if the site is in pristine condition or not. If you’re buying a used domain, chances are you aren’t paying a small price for it. It’s an investment. So kick the tires, pop the hood and check it out but the big question is, what are you going to do with it? If you’re going to pay a significant amount of money on something that’s going to require some restoration, is it going to be worth it in the long run? What are your goals? Will this domain help you meet those goals?