The 5 Minute Expired Domain Buying Checklist

If you’ve ever visited the Godaddy expiring domain auctions looking for that special domain to buy, you know how time consuming it is to trawl through pages and pages of them. You need a system that minimises the amount of valuable time you spend searching for domains and then performing preliminary checks on them. This 5 Minute Expired Domain Buying Checklist provides just such a system. Bear in mind that these are high level checks and that when using them you will inevitably miss some good domains. However, the quantity of expiring domains available is so great that this is a sacrifice you have to make in order to process more and become more efficient in the long term. There are only so many hours in the day, after all. With that said, let’s get cracking. I’m using the Godaddy expiring domain auctions as the setting for this guide, so you may have to adapt some of the steps to fit your preferred source of expiring domains.

Organise Your Browser Sessions

To maximise speed, I generally have 4 browser sessions open for the following tasks:

  1. Displaying the list of Godaddy expiring domains
  2. Checking the PR of the domain’s homepage
  3. Using Yahoo! Site Explorer to check links
  4. Investigating the site’s previous life in the Way Back Machine

I then visit each browser session in the sequence listed above, as explained below. This is a cyclical process. You pick a domain, perform all the checks and move on to the next domain.  Remember, speed is of the essence if you want to become a millionaire by next Thursday. And time is money.

Sequence The List Of Expiring Domains By Traffic

The ideal expiring domain is currently receiving high volumes of traffic that you can quickly put to your own use. Once you’ve got the list of Godaddy expiring domains in front of you, click the Traffic column heading. This will order the list by descending traffic sequence so that the high traffic sites appear first. These are the ones you are interested in the most. You may wish to adopt some kind of cutoff point for traffic, below which you won’t venture. When I search I generally stop looking at sites that have under 500 unique visitors / month. If you have more time and patience than me, you may wish to look at all domains that receive at least some traffic each month. The choice is yours.

 

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Now that the domains are in a sequence that shows high traffic ones first, work your way down the list. The name of the domain can give you a good clue about what niche the site used to be in and I use this to guide me in selecting domains I want to explore further. As a general rule I select domains that appear to be in either a subject area that I already know about, or one that I can easily learn about. A domain that had “microsoft-word” in the URL would be attractive to me as I know something about the subject. “chicken-pox.com” would also have potential as, although I know nothing about chicken pox, it wouldn’t take long to get up to speed in this area. You will need to adopt your own selection criteria, otherwise you’ll very quickly become overwhelmed by possible domain purchases. This is a sample of expiring domains that are currently being auctioned on Godaddy with my comments against each. Hopefully it will give you an idea about how to handle the decision making process.

Domain Traffic Comments
tubegay.tv 19519 I don’t need to check the Way Back Machine to know that this domain has something to do with sex. I’m not interested in getting into this niche, so despite the impressive traffic numbers, I move on to the next domain.
1freedownloads.com 15521 The downloads niche is too competitive for my liking and I know nothing about it, so I skip this one.
play-arcade-games.com 8955 Again, the arcade games niche is very competitive and I have no knowledge. Next!
startrek-fans.com 5279 If I had no life or friends was a Trekkie, this domain would have serious potential for me. The subject area lends itself to extensive writing so it would be ideal for a content site. The traffic numbers are high enough to make it worthy of a bid. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no interest, or desire to become interested in Star Trek. It’s all yours Klingon lover!
linkedin.org 2679 Obviously this domain is cashing in on the association with linkedin.com. Aside from the trademark dangers, developing a site that imitated linkedin would require too much work. Pass.

As you can probably deduce from the above, most of the domains you look at will get rejected. If we don’t have a system that streamlines the process, the number of hours spent searching will escalate.

How Trustworthy Is Godaddy Domain Traffic?

Initially I was skeptical about whether you could trust the traffic numbers claimed for each domain. Surprisingly, in my experience the numbers have been more or less accurate, though harbouring a healthy amount of skepticism is a good idea. Since asking the question of Godaddy support (a frustrating experience worthy of its own post!), I’ve found that the traffic statistics come from the server logs.

Check The Expiring Domain’s PR

For this step, you will need the Google toolbar installed in the browser of your choice. Copy the domain name from the Godaddy list and paste it into a new browser session’s address bar and check what the little green bar reports. Like traffic, it helps to have some sort of cutoff point below which you are not interested. I tend to consider only those domains that show a PR of 3 or above, but of course it pays to be flexible on that. For example, if the domain receives a huge amount of traffic in a niche you are besotted with, you may forgive its low PR. Warning! If you find a domain that has a desirable level of PR on your toolbar, check the cache of the page. Using sneaky 301 redirects you can give the impression that the domain has more PR than it actually has. I’d been aware that people had been using this trick before putting a site up for auction in the usual webmaster forums and I had thought this kind of skullduggery was restricted to those places. Wrong! Recently I found an expired domain whose owner had cheated the PR toolbar. Be wary.

Check The Site’s Inbound Links

 

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Enter the URL of your domain into Yahoo! Site Explorer and click Explore URL. The initial list displays all pages of the site that Yahoo! knows about. This is interesting, but not why we’re here. Click Inlinks to show all the inbound links to the site. However, this list of inbound links includes internal links. Whilst a good internal linking structure is important, links from external sites are more valuable (and good external links are hard to get). So, to get a more useful view of inbound links, select Except from the domain from the Show Inlinks drop down list. The list now shows only external links to the homepage of the domain. The list will be even more useful to us if we can view external links to all pages of the site. You can get this view by selecting Entire Site from the other drop down list. Even though there are no longer any other pages on the site, we can still make use of those links. We can do this either by redirecting those links to the homepage or by recreating an equivalent of the old page and redirecting those links to the new page. If you have time, it’s a good idea to investigate some of the linking sites. The domain you are interested in may have only a small number of links, but if the linking sites are authoritative, get boatloads of traffic and have high PR themselves, those factors could more than compensate for it. Alternatively, if the domain owes its huge PR to only a few inbound links, you may become overly dependent on the actions of those linking sites if you buy the domain. The PR that shows in the Google toolbar is not always accurate, so it helps to verify inbound links using Site Explorer. You can also check the diversity of the links. A PR of 3 may be due to links coming from only one external site or it may be due to links from many different external sites. The more sites you get links from, even with the same PR,  the better, and Site Explorer gives you the means to investigate this.

 

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A quick and dirty way to identify the presence of .edu  links to the domain is to export the first 1,000 links from Site Explorer as a TSV (tab separated variable) file by clicking on the TSV link at the top and to the right of the inbound link list. If you open the file using notepad, you can then search the text file (ctrl-f) for occurrences of “.edu”. This is a quick way to find those potentially golden .edu links. Alternatively, you could open the TSV file in Microsoft Excel and even go so far as to create some VBA functions to extract data about those links. For more pointers on checking inbound links, read Analysing Inbound Links. What do I look for in inbound links? This is a general rule, but I like the following:

  • The domain has lots of links. One that has more than 1,000 inbound links is definitely worth a look.
  • A variety of sources of those links. At the other end of the scale, if all the links come from forum posts, this isn’t so good.
  • Linking sites that are of good pedigree. If a site that is a big name in the field links to the domain, that is a good sign.

Investigate The Site’s Previous Life

What a domain did in a previous life is important and it’s not always apparent from the name of the domain. It’s obvious what hotels.com is all about, but can you tell what niche 2eggy.com is in? Enter the Way Back Machine.

The Way Back Machine crawls the net and stores in its archive the information it finds about sites. It provides a snapshot of how a web page appeared at a certain point in time. Using this archive, you can find out what sitepoint.com looked like in May 2000, for example. So if a domain name is ambiguous, you could use the WBM to find out what niche the site really was in. The niche a particular site is in will tell you about the niche that linking sites are in, too. That is, if a site is about some sexual fetish, the chances are that most of its links will be from sites in a similar niche. That means that should you decide to repurpose the domain and build a site on it that is in a completely different niche, all those inbound links will have a diminished value.

You may be interested in finding out when the site was first registered/published. The Way Back Machine can give you valuable information about the site’s former existence but as an added bonus it will also give you a clue about when the site was first registered. Useful if you are in a tremendous hurry and can’t spare 2 minutes to check the whois information. If the Way Back Machine shows a history going back to 1997, then of course you know that the domain was registered at least as long ago as that.

General Tips On Buying Expired Domains

Do your domain investigation well before the auction end time. You don’t want to find the last seconds ticking away as you are still performing your due diligence. You need all the information up front and in time, in order to form a useful valuation of the domain. If you start your investigations in the last half hour of an auction, you put yourself under pressure and you may find yourself making bad decisions based on shoddy due diligence. Give yourself plenty of time for domain research.

Always determine your maximum bid long before the estimated auction end time. You can easily get carried away in the heat of the moment and bid much more than you really want to.

Unless you really have a lot of time to spare, try and limit your searches to certain regular times, for example once or twice a week. Any more frequently and you risk searching through the same old domains time after time. Consider 9 day auctions. If you search every day on Godaddy, you are going to sift through the same domains 9 times each before they reach their auction end time. That’s a lot of time wasted on processing domains you’ve already processed. You will probably recognise domains you’ve already appraised and not investigate them a second time, but it still takes time to work through them.

Expired Domain Checklist

I’ve condensed the above information into a bullet pointed checklist for your viewing pleasure.

  1. Open 4 browser sessions for these purposes: to display Godaddy Auctions, to check the PR of the domain you are assessing, to check inbound links and to check the site’s history.
  2. Get a list of Godaddy expired domains and click on the Traffic column heading to order the list by descending monthly traffic sequence. High traffic sites are now at the top. Work down this list looking for domain names that seduce you.
  3. When you find a domain that captures your attention, copy the URL and paste it into the browser session you set aside for checking PR (so it has the Google toolbar installed).
  4. Assuming that the PR shown in the toolbar meets your criterion, use Yahoo! Site Explorer to check the inbound links.
  5. Use the Way Back Machine to verify that the site doesn’t have a sordid past.
  6. Click the bid button!
  7. Make lots of money.

I’ll be covering point 7 in a later article.

Developing Your Website

Once you’ve splashed the cash and bought the domain of your dreams, you’ll need to start thinking about new website development, to actually put your new acquisition to work. You’ll have to fix 404 not found errors and also perform website traffic analysis. It’s all part of the job.

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