As some of you might recall, when I began my niche site experiment, I mentioned that I was going to play around with using expired domains. At the time I had two particular avenues I was going to go down. Firstly, I was going to try to find a suitable expired domain to use for my actual site, and secondly, I was going to try to find several expired domains with high Page Rank and Domain Authority, and use them as a private blog network that I could then link back to my niche site to increase its rankings.
Before I continue, I can already hear Tess yawning, and I realise that some of you are probably scratching your heads wondering what I’m talking about, so before I get into my early conclusions, I’ll give you a bit of background to what expired domains are and why they might be useful.
Expired domains are simply domain names that were once owned by other people, and used for their websites, but at some point they no longer required or wanted that website, so they let the domain name expire, and shut down their website. So why would we be interested in their scraps? Well, just because a website has been shut down, and no one owns that domain, doesn’t mean that backlinks to that domain have disappeared, and with those backlinks come some authority. One of the difficulties when starting a brand new site is gaining backlinks and authority, so if you could start the site with years of backlinking and authority already there, then that would be a big bonus.
Also, some people believe that older domains are more trusted by Google, and are easier to rank than brand new domains, so if this is true, then even if an expired domain doesn’t have a lot of backlinks or authority, but is a few years old, then that alone should make the site easier to rank.
So based on these possibilities, the idea of being able to pick up high authority domains cheaply is a very tempting one indeed, and something I had to try for myself. For my niche site experiment, I set out to purchase an expired domain for the site, that had some age and authority, and this is where I hit my first problem. The domain name for your site is very important. Based on previous experiments, we absolutely believe that having your primary keyword in the domain can be beneficial, but finding an expired domain that just happens to also have your primary keyword in it (and is also brandable as a real business) is next to impossible. I did find a domain name that was brandable and related to the niche though, but it had little authority, very few backlinks (and the few it had were next to useless). It did come with an initial Page Rank of 2, and was a few years old though, so this means I would at least get to test the age factor.
In the meantime of course, Tess was registering a perfect domain for her niche site experiment, which was both brandable and keyword specific. But surely an aged domain would be able to rank a lot quicker than her brand new one right? They both have great content, and great on page SEO. Well, it’s a little bit difficult to tell, as I started a backlinking strategy for Tess a couple of weeks ago, and have only just started doing the same thing for my site now (I wanted to see if my site could rank on content alone). Her site is just about to break onto page one, and my site has only jumped in to the top 100 for its primary keyword a couple of days ago. Given the different content and backlinking strategies, it’s hard to say unequivocally what effect having the expired domain has had on my site, but I have come to one conclusion, and that is… why bother?
If we can rank new domains of our exact choosing, that we know we can brand well and have no possibility of problems (expired domains can come with penalties attached too), why would we go to the trouble of trying to find an “okay” domain, just because it “might” have some benefit that we can’t really see? Don’t get me wrong, I can absolutely see that there still could be some benefit to buying an expired domain that has high authority, your keyword, a good backlink structure, is perfectly brandable to your niche. But the reality is, these domains are so unlikely to even exist, that I just don’t think they’re worth the trouble.
Private Blog Network On Expired Domains
The second reason why you might want to purchase expired domains is so that you can create a network of blogs that have high authority and Page Rank, so that you can then use them to link to your site to boost your search engine rank. One potential problem with this is that it violates Google’s terms and conditions, so caution is advised.
Still wanting to trial this though, I spent hours/weeks following using all of the different methods I could find to get my hands on some good expired domains. Most of my “success” came through expireddomains.net, and I also used Hayden Myamoto’s basic strategy as well. In the end, I managed to pickup a couple of PR4 domains, as well as a few PR3 domains, a PR2, and several that didn’t end up working out with any PR. The theory is then, that I can set them up as “news” style sites, and post articles on them that then link to my niche site.
Why I Haven’t Done This
Well, given our current success with ranking, I’m just not sure we need to bother. The links we’re getting from blog comments for example, may not be on sites with as much PR (although we do manage to get the occasional comment on a PR4 page, and PR3 is reasonably common), but they are usually not just on relevant blog posts, but on blogs where the whole site is relevant. This is one of the weaknesses in the expired domain blog network strategy. Either you have to create a blog network for every single site you own (and we have a lot), or you just end up with blogs full of random posts.
I can see how people can create businesses out of doing this, but I’d definitely have to call it an “underground” business, where people are trading in ways to rig Google’s results. This is firmly black hat territory, and you need to be aware of this. Also, finding expired domains takes a lot of time and energy, and if I don’t actually need to do it (because what we currently do is working), then again I’d have say, “Why bother?”
Given the effort and cost that I went to to secure even a few domains, you might wonder why I don’t just try it on my niche site and see whether I get any benefit, but the short answer is that I don’t want to. I would much rather be able to rank the site using our current methods, than to become reliant on an expired domain strategy. Given that I’ve only just started to use our strategy on my site a few days ago, I’m willing to give it a few months and see if I can rank well without using my expired domain network. If I can’t, then perhaps I’ll give it a shot, but until then, they can stay collecting dust on the shelf.
A Final Note
One positive I did discover on this journey was Scrapebox. This tool has been popular for a long time for lots of nefarious reasons, but I’d never had a reason to purchase it myself. One of the more advanced methods of finding expired domains required the purchase of this tool, so I had a chance to play with it a bit. It’s used for a lot of purposes, but one useful feature is its ability to find an amazing array of relevant blog posts with Page Rank for you to comment on, very quickly. This could be useful for you if you are finding this difficult.