Expired domain names: When you shop for a domain name in the aftermarket, you will come upon names that are available for several reasons. One reason is that they were bought for the sole purpose of resale. Another is that the owner has used them for one purpose or another but no longer wants to retain the title to them. And a third is that they have expired. Read on for more about the last category, which has its own particular set of characteristics.
It May Not Be What You Think
You may read advice that tells you that expired domains bring their domain traffic with them to the new owner. This may be true with reselling of active domains, but with expired domains, it is simply not the case and therefore not a good reason to purchase an expired domain name. The infamous GoogleGuy stated on the webmasterworld.com forum in 2003 that after a change to the Google system in that year, “the authority for a domain will be reset when a domain expires” (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/10036.htm), which means that if you purchase an expired domain name and register it, you “won’t get credit for any pre-existing links.”
Why Is This Name for Sale?
The history of any used item put up for sale—whether a computer or a car or a domain name—is of interest to the buyer. While domain names don’t experience the wear and tear of computers and cars, nor have the kind of technical problems or “fix-it” costs that might keep an owner from servicing it regularly, there are a variety of reasons that an expired domain name arrives on the aftermarket, and it’s good for you to consider this topic.
It’s possible that the owner’s interests shifted, the domain became an income drain, the business to which it was related closed, other more pressing concerns drew the owner’s attention elsewhere, or the owner died. In any of these cases, the value of the domain name would likely not be altered by the owner’s actions, and you could buy it without concern. But there’s another more insidious reason for domain names to expire.
Why Do You Want the Name?
Some people buy expired domain names in order to link them to an existing website. That may or may not be a good idea. Partly, this depends on the relationship between the two domain names. If they don’t infringe on someone else’s trademark, and if they’re closely related, or you’re planning to redirect traffic from a domain name that’s a typo of your existing site, you’re probably fine.
But if you’re simply going to link a whole bunch of disparate sites together, then not so much. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, specifically recommends not doing so. What this means, in practical terms, is that Google and other search engines, finding this type of “misuse,” may take action.
A History of Scam and Spam
Not all citizens of the Web are fine, upstanding people, thoughtfully going about their business. No, in fact, some are out to scam and/or spam the system, and go to great lengths to abuse it in any way they can. So, when misuse is discovered, those who feel that they are damaged by it—individuals, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and search engines—may take action. Being blocked by a few individuals may not be of much concern to a domaineer, and having your domain blocked by an ISP might be a misfortune a domaineer could live with. But it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to incur the wrath of Google.
The Wrath of Google
Google has a spam penalty notification system. If Google finds what they consider to be minor violations on your pages, they now let you know that you don’t meet their criteria, and, though they initially penalize the site by lowering its ranking, they offer a reinclusion request to allow you to indicate that you’ve addressed the problem, and would like to be reinstated. But if Google finds a major violation, someone who hasn’t just made a beginner’s mistake or minor infraction, but is really trying to beat the system, a) they don’t let the webmaster know they know and b) they may go beyond downranking the site and ban the site from their index.
This type of history for a domain name is something you definitely want to know about before you purchase it or invest time and money in building a site. If you don’t do your research prior to purchasing the site, you may only find out after you’ve built a website and submitted your information to search engines and directories, only to find that you do not get included. It may be possible to repair the damage by submitting a reconsideration request, and indicating that whatever happened on the domain occurred before your tenure, but it’s better to prevent the problem in the first place.
Preventing a Problem
To avoid problems with expired domain names, research is the answer. You should check the WHOIS listing (whois.net), the previous owner, the DNSBL (Domain Name Server Blacklist), which identifies addresses that are linked to spamming, and the Wayback Machine Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/index.php), which allows you to view previous incarnations of a website, and—if the site expired recently—cached versions still kept by search engines and directories.