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Is buying a previously owned domain name still dangerous?
Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4515324
 7:37 am on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm sure it's been discussed before that a previous owner's shady use of a domain name may linger on, essentially, forever. I was wondering how true that remains today and if there are any best practices in making sure search knows the slate is wiped clean on your newly acquired domain name.

- Is placing an index page on the domain with a short message announcing your plans and then immediately filing a reconsideration request stating that you just bought the domain and suspect previous spam a good idea?

I have an option to acquire a domain name I would be thrilled to own, however, it's been owned as far back as 1999 and now dropped 3 times. The two previous owners both seem to have run some B2B affiliate spam, pages that are near identical with slight variances in title, spun content etc. This is all according to the Wayback Machine.

The domain was parked for 3 months a year ago and hasn't been picked up since not getting sold at an outrageous six-figure premium price. It's a GREAT domain name however it's been abused, I'm 99% certain of that anyway.

It's not an exact match domain name by any means but it would work extremely well as a magazine title or periodical research paper title.

- A search for "example.com" reveals a lot of sites displaying stats for the domain name as well as values, registration information and a few forum signatures but nothing more.

- A search for blacklistings or email bans reveals none

- No copyright issues although there is one version taken in another country, Italy, that runs an Italian business unrelated to what my plans would cover for the site. The other TLDs are either available as well(previous owner owned them all) incl .net, .org, .me etc.

I would normally simply walk away from a domain if I had ANY inkling of a previous owner but in this case the name is really that good, it has me considering it strongly. I don't however particularly want a prompt banning from my ad agency who *might* not take into account that I would have only acquired the domain now.

Thoughts?

 

buckworks




msg:4515365
 1:44 pm on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

In a hallway conversation with Matt Cutts a few Pubcon's ago, our Domain Forum's moderator Webwork asked Matt what Google thought about domains that had previously been parked but then developed. That's not quite what you asked about, but even so I think Matt's response would be relevant. Matt said that they try to evaluate a site based on what it is now rather than what it might have been in the past.

To me that says that if you as the new owner are using the domain for something new and positive, you should be able to work it out if any problems might arise from historical factors. The web presence you describe doesn't sound like anything special but neither does it sound to me like it contains anything insurmountably toxic.

If the name is really great, and you have a solid vision and business plan for how you could develop it, I'd say to go for it if the price is right.

driller41




msg:4515391
 3:47 pm on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Having seen first hand the damage that Panda and Penguin cause, is buying old domain names a worthwhile pursuit in general?

As to Cutt's statement, it sounds highly plausible that they want to evaluate the domain as it is now but is that just a tactful answer to describe a situation they would like to exist but currently does not.

superclown2




msg:4515400
 4:40 pm on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Matt said that they try to evaluate a site based on what it is now rather than what it might have been in the past.


The interesting word there is 'try'.

I know (through painful experience) of domains that have never risen above a mediocre level no matter what has been done to them, probably because of spammy links that were there in the past. After checking the Open Archive I found that at some stage the previous owners had linked back to these junk sites and I suspect this was the cause. A reconsideration request brought the usual 'no manual penalty' boilerplate. A lot of time and money went down the drain there.

In general, if a domain name has value, it ain't going to be sold for small money, let alone deleted.

mrguy




msg:4515419
 6:41 pm on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

The interesting word there is 'try'.


So true!

I bought a domain that had been released over 3 years ago. At the time I bought, I didn't know someone had it prior.

After creating the site, I could not get google to even index it.

Did some digging and found there had been a prior site on it and they must of really did something because even to this day that site is not indexed. Even after submitting reinclusion and explaining I had nothing to do with prior owners and the site prior was not even about what my sites topic.

I personally would not buy pre-owned domains unless you know exactly what shape they are in as far as being indexed or penalized.

Robert Charlton




msg:4515428
 7:14 pm on Nov 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thinking out loud here...

Given that there's now a tool to disavow previous links, it should be possible to buy the domain and get rid of all prior history before putting up a new site. If you're buying the domain simply for the name, this is an approach that would make sense. Buy, disavow, start building new content, and give it some time.

If you're buying the domain because you'd also like to keep some of the existing backlinks, then you're not just buying the domain... you're also buying the history, and you're walking a fuzzy line.

In either case you would still have physically existing spammy backlinks that might not be desirable. You could check these on an historical backlink tool like Majestic. Conceivably, most of these won't bring any traffic, which in this case I assume would be a good thing.

A slight complication might be conflicts in some reputable directories that might list the domain in its old incarnation, but, from what you describe, that's not likely.

Having seen first hand the damage that Panda and Penguin cause...

If this domain becomes the basis for a completely new site, any onsite Panda effects, and any onsite Penguin effects, would be completely gone once the site is rebuilt and data is refreshed. Link disavow theoretically should take care of unwanted backlink influence.

There are other search engines, of course, that might have a different take on the situation, should they look at things like bad neighborhoods and domain history.

RedCardinal




msg:4515506
 2:37 am on Nov 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

John Mueller has stated that a domain's backlink history follows it. There are a number of recent Webmaster Central hangouts where he addresses this directly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pIJe0c-Gj8#t=2163s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZFOjfNhr9I#t=24m58s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8fOzGJBPUs#t=193s

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4515547
 5:53 am on Nov 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thinking out loud here...

Given that there's now a tool to disavow previous links, it should be possible to buy the domain and get rid of all prior history before putting up a new site. If you're buying the domain simply for the name, this is an approach that would make sense. Buy, disavow, start building new content, and give it some time.


I couldn't care less about previous history beyond not wanting it to hold the potential of the new site down. I won't be redirecting old urls or re-using old content but the name, it's truly stellar for a subject I'm interested in.

They did attempt to sell it for a huge sum via an auction service but there were no buyers and it sits available right now, still.

I don't see any sign of negative backlinks, as I mentioned I did see spammy keyword practices such as having two dozen nearly identical articles with only slightly different titles. I'm going to roll the dice and keep advertising off the site until I get a feel for any ranking issues.

I'll try to come back in a few months to let you know the results.

Robert Charlton




msg:4515572
 9:18 am on Nov 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

I did see spammy keyword practices such as having two dozen nearly identical articles with only slightly different titles.

Whatever previous owners did onsite shouldn't make any difference if you're redoing the site from scratch.

John Mueller has stated that a domain's backlink history follows it.

RedCardinal, thanks for the video links and your care in marking the relevant times. The first-listed video is dated Oct 8, 2012, the second-listed is Sep 28, 2012, and the third is Oct 29, 2012. The link disavowal tool was announced by Matt Cutts at PubCon on Oct 16, 2012, after the first two videos but before the third one.

To modify a comment I made about using the disavow tool... the tool is for disavowing links associated with the algorithmic "penalty" involved in the Penguin update, and probably shouldn't be used otherwise. It definitely shouldn't be used preemptively, and in this case that may not be necessary.

I get the sense from John Mueller's comments that change of ownership and change of content have been big factors which Google has paid attention to for a while, but that some backlink histories had been so messy that bad algorithmic effects lingered on, even after reconsideration requests.

What John Mueller said in the third video suggests to me that Google really does want to facilitate development of old domains that are bought as the basis to build new and improved sites. While he didn't mention the disavow tool in any of the video I saw, I'm thinking that the tool could be what's intended to clean the slate where reconsideration requests won't help. Doesn't sound like this domain has been used that badly.

I couldn't care less about previous history beyond not wanting it to hold the potential of the new site down.

I'd say go for it.

I'll try to come back in a few months to let you know the results.

Thanks, that's always helpful to the rest of us. Good luck.

diberry




msg:4515610
 3:28 pm on Nov 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Years ago, I bought a lapsed domain that had formerly been some kid's homepage - the cached files on Web Archieve looked harmless. Six months went by and Google didn't index my new site. I finally emailed for reinclusion, saying I didn't know what the old owner had done, but I'd bought it on X date and followed the guidelines. The site became indexed within about three days.

scooterdude




msg:4515655
 8:08 pm on Nov 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for those video links

I think I'm off to buy all new domain names, These video's chime so many bells

moxie




msg:4515667
 10:49 pm on Nov 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi Robert,

While he didn't mention the disavow tool in any of the video I saw

He mentions the disavow tool in the third video with regards to purchasing a domain name that has a bad history.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8fOzGJBPUs&t=16m44s

Robert Charlton




msg:4515745
 3:41 am on Nov 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

moxie, thanks for that additional time reference on the third video. I understand what John Mueller is saying about getting rid of what junk backlinks you can and not leaving them littering the web. That said, while I understand his further caution about not relying on the disavow tool without cleaning up what one can before using it, I've scarcely ever accidently come upon a backlink to a site while searching for the site itself.

As a general principle, it is wise to perform some sort of reputation management when establishing a brand on a newly acquired domain. It sounds like Sgt_Kickaxe has checked the basics. It's worth noting that starting at about 15:11 into the video, JohnMu makes some additional comments putting this discussion in perspective. Overall, if I were Sgt_Kickaxe, I'd be further encouraged by what he says.

Those videos are great stuff, btw. I'll need to find time to view them all. ;)

bobjones




msg:4515877
 2:48 pm on Nov 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

One of our clients recently bought a single keyword domain for their new online (legit) business. I think the price they paid for it was in the mid xx,xxx range and they never bothered checking, or getting someone to check, its history.

Turned out over 14 years it had been abused by several porn, gamble and pharma affiliates. The domain wasn't indexed in Google. After a (detailed) reconsideration request, the site has been included again. My next steps will be using the disavow tool so when the time comes for another Penguin update, the site won't get penalized for past affiliations with spam sites.

diberry




msg:4515909
 4:13 pm on Nov 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

bobjones, that's good to know. Between my experience and yours, it sounds like Google is very open to forgiving the history of a domain if you can show them that you bought it for the name, not the links. While this isn't specifically something they say to use disavow for, it seems logically like a good idea.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4518707
 12:19 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

There should be a "start fresh" button to reset all history next to the disavow link button, imo. Useable only when you can confirm new ownership and content. It would get abused no doubt so I don't see that happening anytime soon.

atlrus




msg:4518750
 3:14 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I believe it would depend on whether you are buying the domain from someone or you are purchasing a domain which has been owned and then left to expire.

I have bought a few previously-owned-spammed now-available domains and never had an issue.

ecmedia




msg:4518759
 4:17 pm on Nov 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well, I agree with diberry. My wife recently registered a domain to post pictures of weddings and she got a simple domain name available on Godaddy for their standard price. When it did not rank even for a paragraph of text from the website and got no traffic from Google, I decided to investigate. It appears that for many years it was a parked domain but no website was ever created. However, all sorts of websites had linked to it. I then sent a request through Webmaster tools to Google explaining what was done, and three days later, the website started to rank normally. The lesson is that if you do get a new domain, it is better to check if it was ever registered before.

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