I think of domains as property, like most of my colleagues.
Every domain I buy is like the house I must upkeep to increase its value.
Using this analogy, registering a new domain is like building a house from the ground up.
Selecting a domain name, registering it, and setting up hosting are the first few steps in the lengthy and costly process of building a successful site.
Buying an expired domain is like moving into a finished house.
You’ll have some redecoration to do, but most of the groundwork has already been laid out, so there’s no need for significant SEO investments or developing the backlink profile.
The only problem is that the market is full of expired domains that were blacklisted for one reason or another.
Researching dropped domains is the only way to avoid investing in a domain that can hurt your online business. In this guide, I’ll show you how to find expired domains worth buying and where to look for them.
Understanding Domain Rent
Domain registrars never transfer full ownership of a domain to a registrant. Instead, they lease it to them for a certain period, usually between one and ten years.
You’ll have to cover the ‘rent’ for the first year before registering a domain, while two-year or longer leases are optional. The registrants are free to sell or keep a domain during that time.
As the domain’s expiration date approaches, the registrar will send reminders to renew the domain if the owner disabled the ‘Auto-Renew’ option.
Failing to renew a domain or pay the rent, as domainers like to say, initiates the period during which you can redeem a domain. This period has three stages:
- Grace period – A 30-day phase during which the registrant can renew a domain without an additional fee. Transferring a domain to a new owner during this time isn’t possible.
- Redemption period – After the grace period ends, the registrar initiates the redemption period. Old owners can still claim a domain, but the platform retains the right to auction it.
- Pending delete – A brief period before the domain reenters the general registry. The original owner can no longer redeem a domain at this stage.
The domain goes on the market once its grace and redemption period expires. Most domain registrars offer dropped domains at auctions.
Reasons to Stop Renewing a Domain
It’s hard to know why the previous owner dropped a domain, even though knowing their motives can help determine if the domain is worth buying.
Some domains expire simply because the owner failed to react in time, and the domain hit the market before they could reclaim it. Here are a few more reasons why domains expire:
- A project for which the domain was used has ended, and its owner doesn’t want to keep it
- Some businesses purchase multiple domains to see how well they perform, keep the best one and let go of the others.
- A domain was penalized, and the previous owner didn’t want to keep it.
It’s important to note that some owners put domains on the market before they expire because they don’t want to renew them. Hence, you might miss some excellent opportunities if you focus solely on domains that are already expired or have been deleted.
The Value of Expiring Domains
You’re probably asking yourself why you would buy a domain someone else decided to drop.
This a legitimate question, and you should be asking it because the answer will help you understand where the value of expired domains is coming from.
Developing a new domain can be too expensive for a small business. You’ll have to spend thousands of dollars monthly on website SEO alone, not to mention other costs.
Domains with good backlink scores are precious for new online businesses because they rank highly on search engines.
For domain flippers, the value of dropped domains lies in their resale value, as they’re looking for domains that can profit considerably.
Disclaimer: I described a perfect case scenario. Some expired domains have a long history of penalties and aren’t worth picking up. My advice is not to jump into the bidding war before learning more about the domain’s history.
Advantages of Acquiring a Dropped Domain
Searching for expired domains is a waste of time if you don’t know how to use them to your advantage.
Hence, having a strategy when approaching the expired domain market is crucial. Bloggers, businesses, and domainers usually buy dropped domains for one of the following reasons:
- Creating a blog network
- Redirecting the domain’s traffic to their website
- Capitalizing on the domain’s SEO
1. Developing a PBN
Building a private blog network (PBN) is a tactic that involves linking to content on different sites to increase their visibility and establish authority in a particular niche.
How successful this strategy will be, depends on your ability to supply a steady stream of fresh content after you add an expired domain to the network. Most niche sites with high authority are backed by vast blog networks.
2. Using an Expired Domain to Improve a Website’s Traffic
Occasionally, dropped domains have high traffic volumes, and acquiring them can help you increase your site’s daily visits. All you need to do is use the 301 redirect to move the traffic permanently from one URL to the other.
3. Reaping the Benefits of the Expired Domain’s SEO
Buying a dropped domain can be a potential goldmine if its previous owner seriously approached search engine optimization.
Hence, building an authority site in a niche will be much easier if you get a domain that already has a strong backlink structure and a good search engine rating.
Expired Domain Buying Checklist
I research whenever I’m in doubt about the domain’s legitimacy.
Making decisions based on metrics helps determine if a domain is worth the money. I obtain data through domain appraisal services and other tools that give me insight into the domain’s history. Here are some of the things I check before buying an expired domain.
1. Domain Age
Finding the date when the domain was first registered is more important than it might seem.
Domains registered in the last few years usually aren’t visible on search engines, mainly because their owners didn’t have time to establish authority.
Hence, old domains rank better on search engines due to their age which ultimately makes them more valuable.
The quickest way to find out when a domain was first registered is to run a search in the Whois database. Moreover, you can find out when the domain expired, when it was last updated, and who is its original owner.
2. DA and PA
Domain Authority and Page Authority metrics indicate how well a domain ranks on search engines.
Acquiring this information requires access to Moz, Ahrefs, or similar keyword research tools, but most domain authority checkers are free.
These metrics only show the domain’s current ranking position, and they’re not a factor that affects its future ranking.
Still, low DA or PA scores might indicate a domain was penalized in the past.
So if an expired domain’s authority score is under 30, you should avoid it, but don’t skip on domains with scores around 50.
3. Backlink Score
Most of the value of dropped domains is their backlinks. Consequently, a considerable portion of your research will go into the quality of the expired domain’s backlinks.
Two parameters you should keep an eye on are the domain’s raw citation flow and trust flow.
- Citation flow refers to the number of links leading to a domain, so ideally, the expired domain should have a high amount of backlinks from reputable sites.
- Trust flow summarizes the quality of the backlinks and a low score suggests that the domain contains too many links with questionable content.
These metrics aren’t universal, and only a few SEO research tools use them. However, checking the domain’s overall backlink score is relatively easy.
4. Beware of the Spammers
Email marketing is only effective if it’s not extreme. Sadly, email marketers often employ bulk emailing tactics and use domains to send spam.
Such domains are often not renewed because they’re banned from search engine indexes.
Buying a domain used for spamming is a waste of money because improving its ranking is impossible.
Spam checking an expired domain isn’t difficult since there are plenty of online tools to check if a domain was ever blacklisted.
5. Traffic Sources
The domain’s traffic stats will be included in its listing at the auction site if you’re lucky.
However, this isn’t always the case, and you may have to dig deeper to find out where the domain’s traffic is coming from.
Alexa rankings used to be a good indicator of the domain’s traffic volume, but Amazon discontinued it in 2022. Still, you can easily determine the domain’s organic traffic with standard analytics tools.
Also, ensure that the dropped domain is still listed in the Google index because getting it reinstated isn’t worth the trouble.
6. Don’t Forget about the Content
You won’t be able to retrieve the content if the domain expires months ago. Moreover, you won’t be able to see the content the previous owner posted if it has already expired.
This makes it hard to determine if the previous domain owner posted the content that could harm your business.
You can use the Internet Archive and its Way Back Machine to research the domain’s content history. The results will give you enough information to determine if the dropped domain is credible.
The tool is free to use, so it takes just a few seconds to find out if the domain featured questionable content in the past.
Where to Look for Expired Domains?
Don’t join the first expired domain auction you lay your eyes on. Aside from being unprepared, you’ll also be at risk of buying a domain with no value.
I think targeting domains is a better approach because you’ll know what you’re getting. After all, that’s what most domain investors do.
How do they search for expired domains or know which ones to buy? The answer is simple.
They use desktop-based and online software that lets them keep track of the latest expired domain auctions, access powerful filtering tools, and provide them with all relevant metrics.
Let’s look at some of the best tools for researching dropped domains.
1. Domain Hunter Gatherer
Downloading the free version of the Domain Hunter Gatherer desktop software will enable you to use the Expired Domain Hunter tool.
The tool shows you dropped domain suggestions based on keywords, enabling you to target different niches.
In addition, the software can crawl webpage lists and websites to discover expired domains that match your criteria.
Domain Hunter Gatherer is bundled with the DomRecovery tool that retrieves websites from the Internet Archive. You can save or export expired domain lists the software generates.
Optionally, you can pair the DHG with the Easy Expired Domains app, which features a database of 19 million expired domains for $47 per month.
2. Expired Domains
You can research expired or deleted domains on the Expired Domains platform for free.
This online tool features extensive lists of expired domains and tools that let you sort domains using the number of backlinks, expiry date, and other metrics.
Its Lists section contains a wide range of research sources and allows you to monitor expired domain auctions at Sedo or GoDaddy registrars.
Getting used to the platform’s lingo takes time because Expired Domains uses abbreviations for all its search parameters. Even so, Expired Domains are a handy tool that makes finding dropped domains easy.
More than a quarter million new expired domains are added to Spamzilla’s databases daily.
However, you won’t have full access to the platform’s databases or be able to use more than seventy database search filters unless you subscribe to the app’s Standard plan.
Besides showing thousands of expired domains, Spamzilla analyzes backlink data and shows you traffic volumes and all other relevant analytics. The software draws data from SEM Rush, MOZ, and similar SEO tools.
Spamzilla is the only expired domain research tool that does spam checks of domains it displays in the search results.
Buying Expired Domains at Auctions
All major domain registrar platforms offer expired domains at auctions. So, you can use your Sedo or GoDaddy account to join an auction and buy a dropped domain.
Expired domain auctions last between seven and ten days on most platforms which gives you plenty of time to choose the right moment to place your bid.
Below are some of my favorite places to shop for expired domains, but you should also check out NameJet, NameSilo, and NameCheap.
1. GoDaddy Auctions
You must have an account to buy expired domains at GoDaddy Auctions.
Domains enter auctions 25 days after expiration and remain available to bidders for ten days. You can preview the domain’s bid history, age, and other parameters that help you make a good offer.
Each domain has the Bid box where you can enter your offer and click on the Submit button after accepting the platform’s terms and conditions.
Don’t forget that your account must be verified if you want to submit more than two offers at sums higher than $1,500.
Thousands of expired domains are sold daily at Dynadot’s auctions.
The marketplace’s expired domain auctions last seven days, but they can be extended if the last bid was placed five minutes before the end of the auction.
The remaining auction time, starting and current price, revenue, age, and other metrics are displayed next to each domain.
To join the bidding war on the expired domain, you’d like to buy, you have to click on it.
Once the new window loads, you’ll see the number of active bidders and the domain’s bid history.
When ready, you can insert your offer in the box at the top of the page and click on the Place Bid button. The platform will ask you to confirm you’ll pay the sum you offered before submitting your bid.
You’ll have to complete the payment two days after the auction finishes if you end up being the highest bidder.
Frequently Asked Questions about Expired Domains
Yes, you can get the previous domain owner’s contact from the Whois database and reach out to them if you have any questions about the domain you want to buy.
How Long Does it Take to Transfer the Ownership of an Expired Domain to the New Owner?
It usually takes three to five workdays to transfer ownership of an expired domain to a new owner.
Can I Move an Expired Domain to Another Registrar?
Buyers aren’t obligated to keep the expired domain on the same registrar after the purchase is completed.
Expired domains can positively impact your business, whether you’re trying to build a private blog network, boost your website’s traffic or build an authority website.
The biggest hurdle is to learn to differentiate between domains that can hurt a business and those that can make it more profitable.
My advice is to take things slow. Refrain from jumping into auctions thinking you’re going to strike gold with the first dropped domain you buy.
Aim low instead, get familiar with Spamzilla, Domain Hunter Gatherer, or any other software you like, focus on the metrics, and search for domains with a good history.
Eventually, you’ll start recognizing domains worth much more than their auction price.