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How to Use Expired Domains for SEO

Leveraging expired domains is one of the most untapped and effective ways to accelerate SEO performance.

In this guide, I’m going to show you 4 ways you can use expired domains to get better SEO results. Then, I’m going to show you how to find and vet domains so you can get the most bang for your buck.

Let’s jump right in.

What Makes Expired Domains Worth Pursuing?

So, before I show you some ways you can leverage expired domains, I need to answer an important question: why are expired domains even worth using?

Well, the truth is that an expired domain unto itself has no value.

These domains become valuable when A) they have a quality link profile (with unoptimized anchor text), B) they are relevant to your website, and C) they weren’t previously used for spam.

This criterion may seem straightforward, but it can be challenging to find domains that actually meet it.

So, after I show you how you can use expired domains to amplify your SEO campaign, I’ll then show you how you find quality domains.

But first, let me show the 4 ways you can leverage expired domains for SEO.

4 Ways to Leverage Expired Domains

Here are 4 ways you can leverage expired domains to grow your organic search traffic:

1. Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are the most popular method for leveraging expired domains. The problem is that using PBNs is also the riskiest method on this list. I will tell you that I personally do not use PBNs. I was a PBN addict back in the day until I got obliterated.

Listen:

I’m not one of those SEOs that bashes other people’s methods.

If you want to use PBNs, that’s cool because they work.

But it’s my obligation to tell you that they come with substantial risk. Ultimately, your decision to use PBNs requires nothing more than risk/reward analysis. If you believe the “reward” (ie, organic search traffic) is larger than the risk of using PBNs, then go for it.

The truth is that you do NOT need to use PBNs to get SEO results.

That’s the one mindset issue I see with some die-hard PBN advocates… They become so obsessed with the whole process of using PBNs that they forget that there are other ways to rank.

In fact, I’ve seen threads of forums saying that “anyone who says they aren’t using PBNs to rank is lying.”

Having this type of tunnel vision will murder your success over time. We all are trying to grow traffic organically, so why wouldn’t you want to keep your tactics organic? Why would you want to be rigid with the tactics you use when SEO and business are fluid and ever-changing?

Anyway… here’s the truth:

You don’t have to use risky tactics to grow your organic search traffic.

Always consider the risk/reward of any SEO strategy you use. Don’t just think in the short term. Envision every possible scenario. Both positive and negative.

So, I’ve completed my rant, and as you can imagine, I’m not going to be showing you how to create a PBN.

The following three ways to leverage expired domains are much less risky than using PBNs.

2. White Hat Alternative to PBNs

If you’re more risk averse, then the White Hat Alternative to PBNs might be a better approach. The good news is that this method has practically zero penalty risk. The bad news is that it requires a big time investment because you have to perform outreach.

Time investment shouldn’t be too big of a concern because A) all other tactics will take a similar amount of time to execute, and B) you can easily create procedures and outsource these methods.

The process is simple:

  1. Find a relevant and high-quality expired domain
  2. Extract its backlink profile
  3. Find contact information for all the quality link opportunities
  4. Reach out and let the linker know that they are linking to a dead resource/website
  5. If they respond, pitch the idea of them replacing the dead link with a link to your website

This method works best if you are promoting a relevant SEO content asset.

3. The Merger Technique

The Merger Technique is my personal favorite method because it requires the least amount of effort but usually gets the best ROI and ROT. The most time-sucking element of this technique is the process of finding relevant, high-quality domains.

So, what is The Merger Technique?

Well, I have an entire guide dedicated to this tactic, but I’ll briefly explain it here.

The Merger Technique is the process of finding relevant expired domains with strong link profiles and then 301 redirecting them to your website.

I stumbled upon this tactic when I was working with a data center company that would frequently acquire other data center companies throughout the United States. Every time they acquired a new company, we would 301 redirect that company’s website to the appropriate local page.

For example, when they would acquire a Dallas data center, we would 301 redirect the website to our client’s “Dallas” landing page. This was incredibly effective in accelerating our client’s website authority. This made their SEO campaign a breeze.

The reason why the authority accelerates using this method is because of link quality and link quantity.

4. Niche Websites

This method isn’t necessarily a link acquisition method but more of a strategy. If you have ever tried to start a niche website, you probably have encountered what is often referred to as the “sandbox” effect.

In short, this means that Google inhibits new websites from performing well in organic searches until they establish age, trust, and authority.

If you have a new website, it can take months to get traction. One way to bypass this sandbox period is to start your niche website on an expired and aged domain. Just to be clear, this method is not foolproof, but it’s effective.

Okay, so now that you know the four ways you can leverage expired domains, let me show you how you can find expired domains. Then, I’ll show you how to qualify the domains you find.

How to Find Expired Domains

There are many ways and tools you can use to find expired domains. I could spend all day showing you what’s available, but it would be a lot more efficient if I showed you what I’ve personally used (and enjoyed).

Use Spamzilla

SpamZilla is hands-down my favorite tool for finding expired domains. Watch this:

How to Qualify Expired Domains

I briefly showed some qualification standards in the videos above, but I’ll get a little deeper here.

So, at the top of the qualification process, you want to examine the following:

What is the Domain’s History?

Go to Archive.org and examine the previous use of the domain. The ideal situation is that the domain’s previous use was the original.

For example, if they were a web design company, then the last version of the website should be a web design company.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you want to watch for domains that have been repurposed or used as a blog network. Some signs of a repurposed domain is when the topic isn’t relevant to the original or there is now a foreign language being used on the domain.

Most blog networks are easy to identify because the website will look generic, the outbound links will be irrelevant, and each piece of content will be on a different topic. What I just described is more likely for a public blog network.

Well-developed private blog networks could be harder to identify, especially if they exported the previous website from Archive.org.

In this case, just look for irregularities in domain ownership or overall changes within Archive.org.

One thing I mentioned in the videos above is that you shouldn’t immediately disregard a domain just because it was used as part of a blog network.

Why? Because you can still use the White Hat Alternative to PBNs!

Although the domain itself might be considered “toxic” because of its previous use, that doesn’t mean that backlinks going to that domain are toxic. That means you can extract the links away from that toxic domain. The best part is that you can leverage the fact that the domain is now a part (or was) a part of a blog network in your outreach.

Is the Domain Indexed?

If you’re going to focus on expiring domains in an auction, then it’s critical that the domain is indexed in Google. Some domains that have already expired won’t be indexed. In these cases, once the domain becomes “live” again, Google will usually reindex it.

That is if it’s a quality domain and hasn’t been used for any questionable objectives.

Does the Domain Have a “Clean” Link Profile?

I think the easiest way to audit a link profile is to understand what a quality link actually looks like.

A quality backlink will have at least one, if not all, of these qualities:

It’s from a closely relevant domain

Getting backlinks from relevant domains is the mecca of effective link acquisition. There are times when relevancy isn’t always critical.

For example, let’s say the expired domain used to be an SEO company. After reviewing its link profile, you discover that it has a backlink from the New York Times.

Is the New York Times relevant to SEO? No. But is the New York Times a trusted, respected, and authoritative source for information? Yes.

In this situation, relevancy doesn’t matter as much because the New York Times’ authority counteracts the lack of relevancy.

It’s from a “real” website

I’m not going to insult your intelligence and tell you what a real website should look like. You’re currently on a real website reading this article. This website you’re on has a voice, user engagement, and, most importantly, real traffic.

Use your best judgment (or your gut) on this because it’s probably right.

Its anchor text makes sense

It’s okay to have some keyword-rich anchors in the link profile. However, the keyword-rich anchors should make sense. I’ll use the “SEO company” example again.

Let’s say you are analyzing the link profile and find a link from joeschmoesblog.com. You then see that joeschmoesblog.com is linking to the prospective domain’s homepage with the anchor text “replica ray ban sunglasses.”

Does this anchor text make sense for a domain that was previously an SEO company? Absolutely not.

Use your best judgment here and always ask: “Does this make sense?”

One more important point is that the bulk of the anchor text profile for the domain should be unoptimized. You don’t want to work with a domain that’s been abused from an SEO standpoint.

The linking domain has authority itself

If the expired domain has many backlinks from websites that are not authoritative, then it might not be a quality opportunity.

And when I say not “authoritative,” that means the linking domains don’t have many backlinks themselves. This would be an indication the expired domain will have low trust and low authority.

A combination of low trust and low authority equals a weak opportunity.

Are the backlinks “sticky”?

You want to feel confident the existing backlinks have a high probability of “sticking”. Meaning that there is a low chance they will be removed.

An example of a backlink type that has a low probability of being removed is one from a dated article. On the opposite side, a backlink injected in a website’s footer has a high probability of being removed. That’s why I’m not a fan of leveraging domains that used to be web design companies (since that’s usually the bulk of their link profile).

Conclusion

So, that is all I have for you today. I showed you how you could leverage expired domains for SEO, I then showed you some ways to find expired domains, and then I showed you how to vet each prospective domain you find.

I hope you learned a thing or two, and thank you for reading!

Go here to find awesome expired domains now.

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Nathan Gotch

Nathan has led 100s of successful SEO campaigns in the most competitive verticals like SAAS, health, finance, and law. He's also helped 100s of agency owners scale by systemizing their SEO. Nathan is featured on Ahrefs, Semrush, and Search Engine Journal, and his YouTube channel has over 1 million views.

77 thoughts on “How to Use Expired Domains for SEO”

  1. Awesome post Nathan! I have a big question, i have an auction domain with nice profile to become a money site, with that said, it has many subdomains indexed in google, so. How should the redirection be done, only redirect the urls form the cpanel to my new wordpress without subdomains, or should i keep the subdomains an keep the project like the old one? Cheers.

  2. I just learned something from this article and it was explained so clearly, instead of let me keep this part secret. Got my homework to do tonight.

  3. Hi Nathan,
    Thanks for this info. I would to ask whether it’s safe to redirect a foreign language domain. for example, a Russian website being 301 redirected to an English website.

  4. you know what I truly liked about this article .. you spoke truly and discussed the grey methods most SEO bloggers don’t like to talk about because they looking for google satisfaction and want to show they are polite SEO boys while SEO more likely about what really works without getting penalized by the Googy monster … so thank you for speaking honestly keep the true way up

  5. Hi, thanks Nathan. Say your main website is about fitness, how do you filter out expired/expiring domains related to fitness category only? Thanks.

  6. Hey Nathan,

    Does the merger technique still work? What if I have a few relatively high da domains? Should I point them all at the new site or just pick one? Thanks!!

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