Should You Buy an Expired Domain Name to Improve SEO?

Written by: Jason Bayless | May 21, 2013

For some time now, there have been some people in the SEO community who advocate buying expired domain names and using them in various ways for SEO purposes, such as to gain backlinks that can then be redirected. But is that a good idea, or a black hat SEO tactic that can get you in trouble with Google and other search engines? Or is buying expired domains for SEO somewhere in between white hat and black hat SEO?

The answer to whether this practice is a good idea depends on several factors:

Does the domain name come with a lot of black hat SEO baggage? The site may be expired because it was red-flagged by Google and dropped from Google’s index. Or its former owner might have gotten the domain name blacklisted through forum spamming, email spamming or some other obnoxious activity. In those cases, even though the website formerly associated with the domain name is gone, its bad reputation lives on – and can affect your website.

Will visitors who click one of the backlinks to the expired domain name be annoyed when the link doesn’t take them to the site they expected? Will they get what they’re looking for on your site, or at least something similar? If not, you risk turning off potential customers.

Does the domain name contain useful keywords? If so, the domain name might be worth buying just for that. However, before you purchase any expired domain name, make sure it doesn’t have a history of search engines banning it for bad behavior. You can check the quality of a domain name’s former website via the Internet Archive (also known as the Wayback Machine). You can also use the Ahrefs tool (ahrefs.com) to quickly check out the backlinks that point to the expired domain you’re considering.

What do you plan to use the expired domain name for? If you want to use it for testing, that’s a safe use (as long as you don’t pay more than the domain is worth). But if you’re planning something spammy, or if the expired domain name and/or its former website are totally irrelevant to your business, you’re likely to run into some trouble with the search engines.

Expired domain names and PageRank don’t stay together forever. If you’re considering buying an expired domain name because of its previous PageRank, you can save your cash: PageRank doesn’t follow the domain name once it expires.

One more idea is going around for a way to use the backlinks that follow expired domain names: You can contact the website owners whose sites are in the same niche as your own (or a compatible niche), let him or her know that the link is broken, and suggest a link to your own website or a page on the site you set up with the expired domain name you buy. It’s worth a try.

So are expired domain names worth buying or not? It’s a risky venture, and all the more so if it is being sold at a high price because of its backlinks. But if it has a good keyword or keywords that are relevant to your business, it isn’t too expensive, and you can be reasonably certain that it wasn’t used for spammy purposes by its previous owner, then buying an expired domain may be worth the price.