How To Analyze Expired Domains – Step-By-Step Tutorial
Finding high quality expired domains and putting together a PBN from them is one of the best ways to rank websites nowadays. And while placing the backlinks on these domains is an easy job, identifying a quality expired domain requires a lot of in-depth research.
Today, I will walk you through the entire process of analyzing an expired domain and then making the decision of whether or not to purchase it. Without a further ado, let’s get to it.
What You’ll Learn
- Quick intro – a short introduction to what we will be doing and how we will find expired domains to analyze.
- Step-by-step tutorial to analyzing expired domains – I will take you through each and every single step required to professionally analyze and determine whether an expired domain is worth your money.
- List of deal breakers – if you identify any of these, do not purchase the expired domain.
- Summary – wrapping everything up in a few paragraphs…
There are tons of expired domains lurking around the Internet and there are many ways to find them. You can use a website such as expireddomains.net or one of the many other approaches that marketers have come up with.
For this tutorial, I will simply use one of the best SEO tools on the market to quickly and easily find niche relevant expired domains – Domain Hunter Gatherer (our review and tutorial).
I have already covered in a previous tutorial how you can find expired domains using only free tools, but that method takes time and I have none to spare. Also, keep in mind that DHG will find expired domains that I can register for the price of about $10 as opposed to auctioning for one and spending a couple hundred or much more (based on its quality).
So, what I will do is basically find some expired domains using Domain Hunter Gatherer and then pick one that I initially like due to its more general metrics i.e. PR, Age, TF, CF, etc, and then take it through the step-by-step analysis which will determine whether or not I really want to purchase the domain.
Now, I will just fire up Domain Hunter Gatherer, enter my keyword, and wait for it to finish finding available expired domains. Simple as that:
What I love about DHG is that it gets all the initial domain metrics out of the box – no need for you to have a Moz or Majestic account. Those stats that you see are enough to incline you towards a domain for further analysis.
Now, there are several uses you can make out of an expired domain and those include:
- PBN site – you can either add it to your own private blog network or join one via FBN (here’s how).
- Money site – this can be (depending on the quality of the expired domain) a very high quality money site, a lower quality money site (like a product(s) review site), or simply a site that can be used for offering different kinds of services to people.
- Resell for profit – the last option you have is to simply auction the domain somewhere and sell it for profit.
Now, in just about 5 minutes, Domain Hunter Gatherer found a total of 1772 available expired domains, so we have more than enough to continue our tutorial. Let’s start analyzing.
Step-By-Step Tutorial To Analyzing Expired Domains
Now, before we single out a domain for the in-depth analysis part of our tutorial, we first need to look at the general metrics of all the expired domains that Domain Hunter Gatherer found for us.
This means simultaneously taking into account PR (not so reliable), Moz stats (not so reliable), and Majestic stats (most reliable), while at the same time taking note of the domain name itself.
Step #1: Analyzing General Domain Metrics & The Domain Name
The first thing I do when Domain Hunter Gatherer finishes the expired domains search is to sort the results table by PR. While PR is certainly not even close to a 100% reliable metric nowadays, it is still somewhat of an indicator.
Public PR hasn’t been updated since 2013 and won’t probably ever be updated again according to Google, however, they do still update it in the back-end for SEO purposes.
This means that if we find an expired domain with PR, that same domain must have, at some point in time, been doing well for itself in order to get that PR (prior to 2014). The other thing we get from this is that a domain that shows as PR 0 or has undefined PR, might actually be a higher PR on the back-end since it might have gotten its good backlinks after 2014.
So what I do to cope with the unreliability of PR is to first sort the results by PR and then I sort them by Majestic TF and CF as well as CF/TF ratio. Moz stats are there only to show if a domain actually has backlinks. Nowadays, Moz basically gives more PA and DA to domains that have more and more backlinks. I don’t think it cares that much about the quality of the backlinks, thus making it an unreliable metrics source.
In the end, I am looking for the perfect and well balanced expired domain with a good PR (maybe 3 or more) and great looking TF and CF which means them being close to one another and preferably both two digits while at the same time not having too many backlinks (like thousands or hundreds of thousands), which basically indicates that the domain is of good quality and might qualify for the in-depth research that is coming.
So, after performing these techniques on the expired domains DHG found for me, I have stopped myself on the following domain for further analysis: hdfilmsitesi.gen.tr. Let me explain.
Even though this domain has a ton of backlinks (30k+), I picked it out because of its domain name and the fact that it (most probably) was a movies and TV series streaming site in the past which totally justifies this amount of links. I also picked it out because it has this many links (which gives me a lot of room for research) and the fact that the TLD of the domain is not a standard TLD (not that it matters in terms of rankings) will give me a lot more options for research so I can show you guys both good and bad signs in an expired domain.
If you are not aware, streaming sites on the Internet have a lot and I mean a lot of backlinks created prior to each episode or movie upload – I’m sure you’ve seen those pages with a billion relevant keywords to the movie and its embed on the page or a few links to the streaming site itself where you can watch it.
The other reason I chose to go with this domain is because it has a great looking balance between TF and CF even though it has so many backlinks. In situations with this number of backlinks, in most cases, you would see TF to be 2 or more times lower than CF, which is an indicator that the domain was blasted with a lot of low quality backlinks.
But there’s a saying and it goes like this: until you see the backlinks for yourself, you won’t really know what you’re dealing with. So let’s do it.
Step #2: Analyzing Majestic Stats
The second step of the expired domain analysis and the first one from the in-depth part of the research is to take a good look at all of the Majestic stats:
First thing we notice is the good balance between TF (21) and CF (19). While a great initial sign, TF and CF are merely a summary of the domain’s metrics. In order to really see what it’s made off, we need to look at the more in-depth data below.
Step #2.1: Analyzing Majestic Backlinks Numbers
We see a total of 34,549 backlinks and only 152 unique domains which is a really bad sign (in most cases). This means that on each of these 152 domains, there are on average, 227 links pointing at this website. So this metric is not good at all. But let’s give it the benefit of the doubt as it is a video streaming site and in between them, they are all connected and link to each other, so that might justify this huge amount of same domain backlinks.
Then we will look at the stats right below the current backlinks of the domain i.e. “In the last 5 years” section. We see that the domain had a little over 1 million backlinks from just 1k unique domains so it has probably been dead for a long time.
Another thing we will look at before moving on the more detailed stats is the “Link Profile” diagram on the right. We see that there are quite a few backlinks above the line in the middle, which basically represents the perfect balance between TF and CF. There are also a lot of backlinks below the line, but that is something you will see in most cases.
Step #2.2: Analyzing Majestic Backlinks Breakdown
Our next stop is the backlinks breakdown pie chart and the anchor text distribution data. Let’s begin with the first. We see a good and a bad sign there. There are almost only text links, which is completely expected for this kind of site, but the both good and bad sign is the fact that there are almost only DoFollow backlinks. Why is this bad?
Well, it just seems unnatural for a domain to have 99% DoFollow backlinks especially when they are this many. But, when we remember that it had only a bit more than a hundred unique domains which the backlinks were coming from, it all adds up.
Another good sign we see from the backlinks breakdown is the fact that most links were still live at the last crawl with only a few getting deleted. Next thing we do is look at the anchors.
Step #2.3: Analyzing Majestic Anchors Data
Right off the bat I see good signs. The top anchor is a branding anchor which is great and the rest of the anchors also seem to be in good ratio. I would have loved to see even more branding anchors and lesser keywords, but again, it is a movie streaming site so that justifies.
I’m sure that you have by now noticed that the website was in another language, namely Turkish, and by translating some of the anchors, I see that the website was streaming foreign movies.
Now, the fact that this website was in Turkish means that probably all of its links are also surrounded by Turkish content and are posted on Turkish sites. That ultimately means that we cannot purchase the expired domain and start adding English content to it as that would defeat the purpose. Moving on.
Okay, we’ve seen some good signs and some bad signs from this domain, bit it’s time to really see for ourselves. Next thing we are going to look at is a few of the backlinks themselves.
Step #2.4: Analyzing The Backlinks Themselves
All of the backlinks listed in the table below the backlinks breakdown and the anchors pie charts are from Turkish sites that also have good TF and CF as well so everything is looking good here. One of the backlinks was from a Turkish news media site with PR 6 so this website must have been doing well at some point to be featured on there or it was simply featured for piracy issues, I don’t know.
Step #2.5: Analyzing The Pages
The last thing we need to look at in terms of Majestic stats are the pages of the website i.e. the pages that once existed and were indexed. Many people ignore those, but they shouldn’t as I’ve seen many sites that easily tell what they were about by the pages that they had.
You can spot low quality sites which have page URLs that include numbers and weird symbols while the higher quality sites will have a well organized structure of pages. Also, the pages table shows the individual TF and CF of each page and the number of backlinks linking to each of them.
In our case, the pages look great with most of the backlinks pointing to the homepage of the domain as expected. Actually, the TF and CF of the homepage is estimated to be respectively 34 and 36 which is really good.
Now, you can go even more in-depth on Majestic by reviewing the individual anchors, backlinks and referring domains from their respective tabs, but generally, the overall stats portrayed on the summary page are enough to let you know if you really want to further investigate this domain.
Step #3: Analyzing Moz Stats
Although as I told you, Moz stats are not really that reliable nowadays, the results from the Open Site Explorer (OSE) can still give you some clues for the quality of the domain. I generally look at PA and DA still as well as the spam score of the expired domain:
There is no need to check on backlinks via Moz as it discovers only a fraction of what Majestic does. As you can see, Majestic found more than 30k backlinks pointing at our domain while Moz – only a little over 1k. Spam score is looking good although it is only taking into account those 1k URLs that it is aware of.
Step #4: Analyzing The History Of The Expired Domain
Now, so far we have gotten an idea of this expired domain and the backlinks it has including a guess of its niche before it went dead – you never know for sure until you look at the archives.
So, what I do is head over to the Wayback Machine and I review the many captures of the website over time. The first one I see is from November 25, 2011 and it looks like a plain website (without any CSS) with several movies listed for streaming including Kingdom Of Heaven – what a great movie:
The next capture I check on is from November 2, 2012 and now the site looks like a real genuine movies streaming website. It has CSS loaded this time and everything else looks in place:
Moving down the story line to 2013, it appears that the site was most active in this year as there are many captures and also, towards the end of 2013, it appears that they either changed just the theme of the site or perhaps it changed owners at that time – we will see that in the next step.
Moving on to 2014, I see that for a brief moment, the site was changed to the porn niche which might be a huge deal breaker if there were links created to the site at that time. It seems that the site was in that niche from January 2014 to around August 2014 after which it switched to the previous niche it had – movies streaming, but still kept erotic films as a category.
Finally, at the end of December 2014, it seems that the website was completely deleted and in the beginning of 2016, its owner didn’t renew the domain thus it is now expired. Throughout 2015 all the way until the domain was dropped by the registrar, there was nothing on it.
And that’s it pretty much for the Wayback Machine step. If I were to be asked which is the most important step of the expired domain analysis process, I would say that it is this one as it really shows you what was hosted on the domain throughout its history.
Step #5: Analyzing The WHOIS History Of The Expired Domain
The next step of the expired domains analysis process is to check on its WHOIS history. I have a saying that expired domains are similar to second hand cars in the manner that the more previous owners they had, the more is the possibility that the expired domain is in bad condition. That is not necessarily always the case, but it sure is something I have picked up on, so be careful, especially if there were changes in niches throughout the history of the expired domain.
Now, to check how many owners an expired domain has had, simply go to Domain Tools and enter the domain name in question:
As you can see, there has been only one owner of the domain since it was created which is great. If there were more, you would see multiple IP changes in the “Whois & Quick Stats” section including number of registrars and hosting history.
Another good thing about Domain Tools is that you can view the screenshot history of the domain. As opposed to the Wayback Machine which could miss pictures, CSS styling, etc, and not build a complete picture of the website as it looked, the screenshots from Domain Tools show the entire page as it was captured on a certain date.
Step #6: Analyzing Google Results
Right before the final step of the expired domain analysis I would go to Google and check whether there are some results showing up when I search for “site: domain name”:
Being inactive for more than a year, it is normal for the site to be completely de-indexed by Google. It is a good practice to perform this step as sometimes various results show up such as the domain being auctioned on a site like Flippa, which can give you some clues as to what price they were requesting for it as well as daily unique visitors and revenue (if any).
Step #7: The Final Verdict – To Buy Or Not To Buy?
In the last step of the expired domain analysis process, I like to assess everything that I have analyzed. So to summarize what we found out from our in-depth research of the expired domain, we list out the information we gathered:
- The website was in the movies streaming niche.
- It had a lot of backlinks (over 30k), but still had a good TF (21) to CF (19) ratio indicating that the overall picture of the off-page portfolio is not that bad.
- Only a little over 100 unique domains were the sources of the links which is not good at all. This low number of unique domains also led to the fact that 99% of the backlinks were DoFollow which is not natural at all, but not necessarily a deal breaker in this case.
- The anchors distribution looked well with most of them being branding and generic anchors, however, I would have loved for it to have a little less percentage in the exact matches.
- After checking out several of the backlinks, they appeared to be of good quality and natural creation and not by some automated software.
- We confirmed that the language of the website was Turkish (as its TLD suggested) and that most of the backlinks came from Turkish websites.
- We can assume that the rest of the backlinks were also created manually since we know the amount of unique domains that are the sources of these links.
- The website seems to have had a good structure of pages including logical naming conventions of the URLs.
- The Moz stats also look good with a low spam score of just 2, although Moz metrics are not that reliable at all.
- We then saw and confirmed that the website was a movies streaming website by looking at its records in the Wayback Machine. We also saw that at one point it changed completely to a porn site, which was a very bad sign (I don’t like sites that have changed their niche over time unless the one who did it knew what they were doing), but then it got changed back to what it was including an erotic movies category. In late 2014, the website was completely deleted and remained so until its registrar drop in early 2016.
- After the WHOIS check, we confirmed that the domain had only one owner in its history and that it hadn’t changed hosting or IPs.
- Finally, we saw that Google had completely de-indexed the domain.
So, taking those 12 points into account and keeping in mind the 3 general uses we can make out from an expired domain, I can easily conclude that this domain would not do me any good. Now, I could have concluded this a lot earlier, namely, when I saw that the content of the website was in Turkish, but hey, that’s my case.
Plus you know, I wanted to show you as many parts of the expired domains analysis as possible. There might be people out there that need a Turkish movie streaming website for their niche PBN or maybe even for a money site as the domain doesn’t look bad at all considering the fact that you can purchase it for its registration fee only.
And it’s the same process for any expired domain that catches your eye. Basically, the most important things that it needs to cover are:
- Must have good quality backlinks – preferably not too many and not too many from the same domain.
- Must have only same niche backlinks – what happens many times is people who don’t understand how this expired domains thing works purchase an expired domain just because it was PR 3 or 4 or something like that, and then they use it for whatever without taking into account its history. The result is a mess so you want to stay away from such expired domains.
- Preferably, it must have a good and sensible domain name that is relevant to its niche – this one is not 100% mandatory, but in my opinion, it is also a rule that an expired domain worth purchasing must cover nowadays.
In the end of this expired domains analysis tutorial, I won’t be making any purchases for obvious reasons – maybe the domain can be resold at a higher price since it seems to be a legit domain, but I just don’t have the time to deal with it right now.
Point is, I think that you guys should now have a good idea of what to look for when analyzing an expired domain you are interested in, which was the main purpose of this expired domains tutorial.
List Of Deal Breakers
As promised in the beginning, in this section I will list all of the things that I think are deal breakers when it comes to purchasing an expired domain you are analyzing. Here they are:
- Really bad TF to CF ratio – if you see a domain that has something like 0 – 3 TF and 15 or more CF, then run away. In some cases, there might be exceptions, but generally, this is a sign of too many low quality backlinks.
- Too many backlinks from the same domains – again, there are some exception to this rule as we saw and you need to take into account the niche of the domain before dismissing it over unique backlinks, but generally, too many backlinks from the same domains is a huge turn off.
- Old school anchors distribution – if a domain you like has something like 50 or more percent in exact match anchors and little to no branding anchors, then leave it. It is probably a pearl from the old times when exact match spam was taking websites to the top positions overnight.
- Niche changes throughout its history – when you are checking the domain on the Wayback Machine and you see that it has changed niches during its existence, don’t buy it unless you are absolutely sure that the backlinks have been managed properly.
- Really bad and niche irrelevant domain name – nowadays, Google puts a lot of weight onto relevancy. And for whatever purpose you are going to use the expired domain, you want it to seem completely legit which means having a sensible and logical to its purpose name.
If you were to take one thing from all this expired domains analysis stuff then it should be this – do not jump to conclusions no matter what you see. There are many different niches out there and many different purposes an expired domain can be used for, so always keep that in mind when performing the in-depth research on it.
Bottom line is, expired domains are one of the best ways to “shortcut” your way to top positions on the search engines, but only if you know how to find the ones that will actually get you some results. And now you do.