A few weeks ago, I took a look at ways and means to preserve the value of an aged domain once you have purchased it in this article here. That’s just the last of the four phases one has to go through to get a high-PR domain, the other three being, finding them, choosing them and buying them. I will leave finding them and buying them as subjects of other future articles. Today, we’ll be focusing on choosing cool domains! How many times you see people on forums complaining that the high-PR domain that they bought didn’t bring any link juice to their money site? Or that no one made an offer on the site that they tried to flip? Or again, that the aged domain lost all its PR after they bought it? It happens all the time: one person in a forum thread says that aged domains are s~*t, and the next one says that they are the best thing in the world since the invention of sex. Who are we to believe? Chances are they are both correct, but the first guy is likely to have done one of two mistakes. Either they chose the wrong domain, or they didn’t take enough precautions to have its value preserved. Both of these steps are required for the domain to do its job. As already stated, the last step has been covered elsewhere. Let’s see how to choose a great domain that will give the best results for flipping, ranking, link juice or whatever else you want to use it for.
PART I: POSITIVE QUALITIES OF A DOMAIN
A High Number of Linking Domains
The most important quality of an aged domain is a large number of other domains linking to it. Be careful to understand the difference between the overall number of links and the number of linking domains. The latter refers to the number of different sites that have a backlink to the domain you’re considering. A domain may well have hundreds of thousands of backlinks, but if they all come from the same one or two sites, it doesn’t make that domain very valuable, no matter how authoritative those stes are because if they stop linking to your domain, then it will lose all its value. To find out the number of domains linking to a specific url, you can go to opensiteexplorer.org or majesticseo.com. Either of these sites will give you a rough estimate of the number of linking domains:
I advise you to use this method to check the stats of many domains at once with Market Samurai. Not only this will save you time, but free users of Majestic SEO are allowed only a few calls to their API per day, whereas doing the search through Market Samurai gives you both unlimited calls and the option to check a maximum of 1000 links per domain (as opposed to just ten). A good domain will have over fifty referring sites. Take note that there may be huge discrepancies between the data from Majestis SEO, OSE and other similar services. This is because their robots aren’t as good as Google’s to crawl the web and so they may miss some links. For this reason, you should take into account the highest number (in the example above 43).
A High Moz Domain Authority
The next positive attribute of an aged domain is a high Domain Authority. This is a MOZ metric that can be obtained from opensiteexplorer.org. It measures how “powerful” the domain is, and, hence, how effective it is in passing PageRank/authority to linked sites, or the potential it has for ranking in the SERPs. If you search for your domains on expireddomains.net this metric will be provided in your searches automatically. Do not bother with anything below 20. A DA of 30 should make a domain quite a good candidate for a good flip. DAs above 40 generally belong to PR5 sites that are very strong and should make an excellent purchase. Anything above 50 is exceptional (and usually expensive in the order of a couple of grand).
A Good Trust Flow
Trust Flow is a Majestic SEO metric that can be obtained from majesticseo.com or using the Market Samurai method. When checking TF make sure that you test both mydomain.com and www.mydomain.com (replacing “mydomain.com” with your domain). Different metrics are provided for each version. The valid one is the highest, and there is no way to know which is which until you try them both. Trust Flow measures the quality of the links rather the quantity like Moz Domain Authority does.
If a site is in Chinese, that doesn’t make it automatically spammy! Many people believe (for some insane reason) that all sites that aren’t written in English language are to be considered web spam. This is pure nonsense. I have seen a website beating the Bluehost site for a web hosting related term and all it had were links from a network of Chinese sites! While it’s true that a foreign language site is harder to manage or flip if you don’t speak that language, ruling them out automatically isn’t a wise move.
If you are buying aged domains to flip them, a nice amount of traffic can be a huge plus. A rough idea of a site’s traffic can be gained by checking out Alexa.com. If you want the domains for personal use, traffic shouldn’t be that much of a concern.
PART II: NEGATIVE QUALITIES OF A DOMAIN
PR Zero and PR N/A Domains
There’s a new “secret” that the gurus are spreading across the Internet as a start-up guide for new domainers. It runs like this:
if you can’t afford to buy PR 2 and higher domains, you should know that PageRank isn’t such an important factor anymore! This is because Google takes a long time to update it, and it doesn’t really matter as far as ranking goes. Instead look for old, PR 0 and PR N/A domains with a high Moz Domain Authority and buy those for pennies! When Google updates PageRank in a few months, their PR will increase to reflect the Domain Authority.
BE CAREFUL because this is pure nonsense! If a domain is old, has a very high Moz Domain Authority, Majestic Trust flow and many links, but it also has PR 0 or PR N/A, then there is 99.9% chance that the domain has been penalized by Google, and you would be simply throwing away your money if you decide to buy it, or accused of trying to defraud other users when flipping the domain. A PR0/PR N/A domain with high Domain Authority isn’t gold, but rather something a bit more brownish that stinks quite a lot…you get the idea. Stay away from these domains, in the same way you would stay away from the plague. About PR 1 domains with a high Domain Authority, these obviously aren’t penalized. However careful research of these domains shows that, most of the time, it’s the sites linking to them that have been! So, once more they are better avoided. They are PR1 domains, and they will keep being PR1s after the next Google update of PageRank. There is only one exception of this rule: if a domain has acquired a large amount of links (over 70% of the total) after the last Google PageRank update, then it may well be the case that there will be an increase in PR soon.
To check if this is the case, go to Majestic SEO and click on the “New” tab to see the backlinks acquired by the domain in the past few months. If you see a huge amount of links, then you may have found something interesting. Ninety-nine percent of the time, however, high Domain Authority/PR1 sites will have links from sites that have been penalized by Google. This will be more of an exception than the rule.
Fake PR and Weak PR Domains
A fake PR is created by pointing an authentic high-PR domain to the one being sold. The latter shows the PR of the former, even if it has zero PageRank. There are many tools on the Internet that can analyze fake PR, or you can do it manually by typing info:[yourdomain.com] replacing [yourdomain.com] with the one you’re interested in buying, for example, info:moneyearningsites.net. If the results in Google include any other domain besides the one you want to buy, then the PR could be fake. Now, use your brains! If this is a domain sold on Flippa or GoDaddy, it’s OK to assume that the PageRank is actually being faked, but if it’s a domain from GoDaddy closeouts, pending deletion or picked up by a drop catcher, then chances are that, despite there being a 302 redirect to the domain, it may still have a real good PR. Why? The domain has no owner, so why would anyone be taking the trouble to create a fake PageRank? People use 302 redirects all the time, and, if one is pointing to the domain you’re interested in, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is trying to trick you. It may well be the case, so do your due diligence, but you shouldn’t filter out automatically fake and unknown PR when searching for domains especially deleted ones or pending delete. Instead use your commonsense to make a judgment.
There are more clever ways to fake PageRank, ones that are way harder to spot. The online resources will tell you that the PageRank is authentic in these cases, and there really is no tool that can tell for sure. I am taking when someone owns a link network, and points all of his domains to the one he wants to sell, not with a 302 redirect, but by placing links to the domain on his network. When Google updates PR, the domain, which the guy wants to sell, will show a high PR. He will then list it for sale, and once he manages to sell it, the links will be removed, at which point, when PR gets refreshed again, it will be all gone. There is this little tool that can help out a lot: http://checkpagerank.net.
Besides telling you if the PageRank is real or fake (i.e. whether there is or isn’t a 302 redirect to the domain), it will also analyze the PR itself from the links for the domain, and tell you if it’s weak (meaning that it relies on a handful of links) or strong (meaning that even if a few links are lost, chances are that the PR will stay). The grading ranges from “very weak” to “very strong”. You should absolutely avoid very weak PR domains. Weak are very risky. Maybe, if the domain is extremely cheap and has otherwise perfect stats, you may want to take a risk with it. Strong and Very Strong domains are a relatively safe bet, but you should also take a look at the links themselves, using the technique described in the Market Samurai article linked above. Remember to use commonsense. If a site has 10,000 links all coming from sites with a default WordPress theme filled with the same spun article and being sold on Flippa by a guru, you should run away! On the other hand, if the site has 200 links from authoritative, high-quality websites and is in pending delete status, then it’s a much better deal.
These come in two types, both of which are best avoided. First are the actual money sites that failed and have been abandoned. These are not necessarily bad sites. Sometimes domains expire because the owner moved on to new projects or had a car accident and died (or the plane she was traveling on crashed itself in the middle of the jungle and she died squeezed under the plane’s tail while telling Mark Sloan that she loved him — poor Lexie, I can’t get over her horrible death…but I digress…). You need to make use of commonsense (again) in order to understand whether the site can still be a valuable investment for you. Your primary concern, provided the site fulfills all the positive criteria we discussed in part I, should be whether it’s penalized or not by Google. Follow these two steps to be able to tell if that is the case:
Check if the Site is Indexed by Google
Just type site:[Yourdomain.com] in your favorite search engine and see if any results show up. THIS IS NOT ENOUGH though. Go to the Way Back Machine and search for the site. Find the latest working version of the site, and try to figure out the number of pages it has. If Google has as many pages indexed, it’s likely that no penalty is applied. If the site is fifty pages huge and Google has only four or five of them indexed, there is a strong chance that the site may have received a penalty. Also, if you see a message that says that Google has more results, but has not listed them because they are very similar to the ones already displayed, the chances are that the domain has a penalty. There is an exception to this. If the domain has been unused for a long time (the Way Back Machine will tell), then it’s possible that these symptoms may show up without the domain actually being penalized. Even in this case, the site should still have the homepage indexed. The rule of thumb is, no homepage — then run away! Only few pages — determine how long has it been since the domain had a full-fledged site hosted on it. If it’s been long, it may be worth a shot, otherwise I would leave it.
Check if the Site has a Penguin Penalty
You need to go to Majestic SEO for this and scroll down until you find a funky-looking pie chart. It should look like this one:
This shows how the anchor text for the links pointing to the domain are distributed. The ideal chart will have small 15% slices for each keyword, with maybe “name surname” having a bit of a higher density (blog commenting) and the “other” slice being larger than all the others (30-40%). The worst scenario is having a domain with 50% anchor text for “v****a p***s” or “fake r***x w*****s” and similar spam. Of course there many different possibilities lying in between these two extremes. Don’t rule out a domain just because it isn’t as perfect as it gets, but if you see too many commercial keywords with a density that’s higher than 18%, then you’re looking at an SEO domain that might have been penalized by Penguin.
The next kind of SEO domain we want to avoid is one that has been previously part of a network. If the owner gave up on it, chances are the domain is useless for all intents and purposes. Again, this is not a rule, but even if you decide to give the domain a go (you might be just lucky and even get it cheap), you should check that it fills all the other criteria required from a good domain, as discussed throughout this article.
The first thing you need to do is to go to who.is or whois.net and check the registration date of the domain. Next head to the Way Back Machine and check out the first time a snapshot was taken. If you see that the last time that the domain was registered is newer than the actual age of the domain on archive.org, then its likely that someone picked it up to use it for SEO. If you search for your domains on expireddomains.net, this data will be readily available. If the two dates are identical, you can assume that the domain wasn’t dropped and picked up again, but if that is not the case check out the actual content of the site on archive.org to better assess the history of the domain. Remember that if someone else used the domain for SEO, flipped it or made similar uses, it doesn’t automatically make it a bad domain, but it’s not a good sign either! You should definitely stay away from domains with spammy blogroll links and/or a high outbound link to inbound ratio that look like they have been used for SEO.
Ok, guys – this was a long one, wasn’t it? Hopefully you have enough information to stop buying crap thinking that you got a “good aged domain” and can start hunting for the really good stuff. Remember, as I often rant in my Saturday Updates aka “me complaining about my life”, aged domains are not cheap so expect to pay anywhere from $50-$100 for a good PR2. Yes, they are that expensive. Those who say that they can get a PR4 for $100, don’t have a clue what they are talking about and have never got their hands dirty for real! In my next domaining article, I will likely deal with some techniques I developed to save a few bucks…