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.

Exclusive: Download the expired domain vetting checklist to make sure you are getting the best expired domains on the market. It’s a free download.


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 were relevant to your website, and C) they weren’t previously used for spam.

This criteria may seem straightforward, but it can be challenged 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 overtime. 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.

If you are willing to accept the risk of using PBNs, then you should check out Matt Diggity’s blog because he’s the top dog when it comes to using private blog networks.

The following three ways to leverage expired domains are much less riskier 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 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 to 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. With that said, you can read more about this strategy here.

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 search 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 show you what I’ve personally used (and enjoyed).

1. Freshdrop

Here’s over-the-shoulder video showing how you can use FreshDrop to find quality expired domains:

2. DomCop

Here’s over-the-shoulder video showing how you can use DomCop to find quality expired domains:

3. ExpiredDomains.net

Here’s over-the-shoulder video showing how you can use ExpiredDomains.net to find quality expired domains:


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 can 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 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 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, has user engagement, and most importantly, has real traffic.

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

It’s 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 judgement 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 unauthoritative, then it might not be a quality opportunity.

And when I say “unauthoritative”, 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 to “stick”. 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 can 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.

Hope you learned a thing or two and thank you for reading!

Have some questions? Leave a comment below because I answer every single one.

Comments

  1. Hey Nate. What do you think about the static PBN’s with only 5 pages (home,about,etc…)? I’ve seen some competitors who do this, while others just plug in a WP site.

  2. Nice article, Nathan. I’ve used your #4 tip for several affiliate sites, as it is a great way to hit the ground running with an aged domain that already has a relevant backlink profile.

  3. Hi Nathan,
    Please add the search box to blog for the easy navigation, I love the way you explain things. But sometimes I need your old blog posts which I find difficult to search.
    Thanks,

  4. nice post. Query about the 301s though… is there a limit to how many expired domains you can redirect to your site before google gives you a penalty…?

    1. Hey there,

      It’s hard to give an exact number because it’s going to depend on your website’s authority. Just use your discretion and don’t go too crazy (less than 5 safe is probably a safe range)

  5. Great post Nathan. I really enjoy reading your articles.
    I have a couple of questions about the Merger Technique:

    1. To minimize any possible risk is it better to use a buffer site (e.g. a link shortener like bit.ly) pointing to my money site and then 301 redirect the expired domain to that buffer;
    2. If I find an expired domain with good metrics, how long should I have to wait post registration in order to put the 301 redirect?
    Thanks
    Argie

    1. Hey Argie,

      Thank you for the comment!

      I wouldn’t use a buffer if the domain meets the criteria because it would dilute its effectiveness. If the domains aren’t as high-quality or relevant, than it might make sense to use a buffer

  6. Hai Nathan, great post as always. 🙂 I used your method to find one expired domain, the domain was registered in 2013 and expired in 2014. it had relevant content and 5 backlinks. the citation flow is 6 and the trust flow 0.
    could you please tell me if the trust flow is 0 would this domain be not a good buy. thank you very much.

    1. Hey Joanne,

      I would focus more on the domain’s history and the actual link profile. Don’t be persuaded by third party metrics

  7. Thanks, Nathan for such an informative article. I’m going to implement #3 tactic for my niche site. Hopefully it will work for me 🙂

  8. Excellent post Nathan.
    I have the idea of making PBNs but now i will definitely choose the alternative because it looks like new and interesting as well.
    Thumbs up bro for the article.
    Thanks Nathan

  9. Great Article…. I apply this technique on my site, but yet domain rating is not added in my main domain…. Please tell me sir, how much time it will take?

  10. I love your post .. wish you a good day. I have 1 things to ask you.
    1: that is to use the old domain name 301 on the new domain (how much is safe 1 or more 1 domain )
    Thanks !

  11. Hey Gotch, I 100% agree with you on this article. Many SEOs rely on 1 type of link building as they should be focusing on many different link building strategies such as PBN building. It is better to diversify your link portfolio in Google’s eyes to get you that 1st page ranking.

  12. Hey,
    Whenever i get stuck at any point in SEO, I always come to GOTCH SEO. And every time I found valuable solutions for that problems. This guide on expired domains gives every single information that you should know about expired domains.
    Thank You Nathan!

  13. Thanks for the information. I am yet to venture into this. I have bought a few expired domains. Hopefully, i will gain enough experience.

    Once again, many thanks for the indepth information.

  14. Hi
    I have an expired domain and want to use it to build a niche website.
    I was going to build subdomains on it -Is this a good idea and if so what is the correct way to build?
    thanks
    Rob

  15. So, just picked my first expired domain up. My link tool suggests it’s got a half decent Trust Score. In testing mode at the minute being honest and found your article really helpful. Cheers!
    I’m thinking of just deploying your Merger Technique and seeing what happens?

  16. Do we have to fill an expired domain with content or just redirect it to money site

    Is 7 days good to let it mature

  17. Hello, there is a very professional question for you: I bought an old domain, and this domain has got too many good quality backlinks, The website has been closed for 4 years. Now, I am uploading new articles on the site now, and I added Google. I think the website is now weak, but the links is there. when does google notice? 200 quality link is there, when will it show its effect? and these links with brand name.

  18. Hi..Nathan,What is your opinion if I build a niche site from a good expired domain but the niche are different?

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