Expired Domains

There has been a lot of money and energy put into tracking and snapping up expired domain names. Some tools allow you to track soon-to-expire domains or domains that have already expired, and see not only the web directory listings (Yahoo, DMOZ), backlinks and PageRank, but also the Alexa ranking and number of pages belonging to that domain that are indexed in various search engines.

High Traffic Expired Domains? Not Likely.

But just how valuable is an expired domain? Most truly valuable domains will not be lapsing any time soon. Their owners won’t let that happen.

But sometimes a domain name owner can get careless and forget to renew their domain registration. Lucky you? Not if the domain uses the company’s trademark. Registering a domain that uses a company’s trademark, or a domain that is confusingly similar to a company’s trademark, with the bad faith intent to profit from that trademark, can get you a $10,000 fine.

Google’s Filter

But let’s say that the expiring domain you want is generic – no trademark violation involved. You want the domain for the traffic. That is to say, you want it for the search engine traffic. Google knows this, and as they are in the business of sending their users to the most relevant page which matches the query, and not to expired domains, they have taken measures to remove expired domains from their index.

Google’s expired domain filter can in fact be a bit on the aggressive side. Back in December of 2002, I registered webmaster-forum.net. At the time, I did not know it had recently expired. When I put a website up, it had PageRank 0/10 (zero).

Skip ahead to March 8th, 2003. A full three months had gone by since I had registered the domain, and I had built up quite a few links to the site. It was at PR7, and enjoying the #1 spot in Google for the primary search term, “webmaster forum”.

But on March 8th, that changed. The PR7 changed to PR1, and we were nowhere in the search results for any search terms. Google, aware of the expired domain industry and its misuse of expired domains, had implemented an aggressive expired-domain filter. All across the web, webmasters who had purchased expired domains were getting hit with the filter, and it hurt.

Fortunately, a Google representative who posts in a few SEO forums offered to look into it. That same day I received a reply from GoogleGuy:

“webmaster-forum.net was an expired domain”

He assured me that, insofar as the links were links that belonged to the new site and not the old, he’d “make sure that you get full credit for your added links after the next crawl and index cycle.” He did make good on his word, and the PR returned to PR7 a month or so after it was dropped to PR1.

In Summary

The expired domain filter is still at work. Most expired domains don’t get any considerable amount of traffic to begin with, but if by chance you are able to snap up a domain that is highly trafficked, you would be well advised to expect it to be short lived.

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