Things to consider before buying a used domain name

By Carl Avery Jan10,2021
Checklist of things to consider before buying a used domain name.

When setting up your website, one of the most important things you’ll have to decide on is your domain name. Ideally, it’ll be something representative of your brand and your business, short and uncomplicated – easy to remember. But with literally millions of websites out there, your perfect domain name may already be in use. Not to worry, though – you might be able to buy the domain from the current owner. However, buying a used domain name comes with pros and cons. Before you make your final decision, take the time to consider whether this is the right choice for you.

Purchasing a previously owned domain name means buying its history

A used domain comes with a history. When you buy one, you also buy all the good and the bad from its past. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly shouldn’t put you off entirely, but you should know about this in advance.

Check internal and external link practices before buying a used domain name

One of the critical factors in a website’s SEO ranking is internal and external links. This is why all the best SEO audits focus on link practices so much. And you should, too, especially when buying a used domain name.

Google search results page.
The previous history of the domain will affect its future rankings.

Examine the health of the domain

All the effort you put into creating a great website will be in vain if the domain you’re buying is already blacklisted or deprioritized. Some online tools will help you check the status of the domain you’re trying to obtain, but you should ask the current owner for the login information to Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Here, you will see the history of the domain:

  • Where most of its traffic comes from
  • How it has positioned on Google search results in the past
  • If it has any security issues

Think about domain authority

Domain authority is the potential a domain has for a higher ranking. And high domain authority is undoubtedly one of the things that makes a great website worth obtaining. If you already have a website and are just looking to migrate it, you’ll need a domain with higher authority. Otherwise, you’ll have to invest some time and effort into making up for lower DA.

Person looking at traffic.
Where the domain’s traffic comes from and where it goes can reveal a lot about the website’s quality.

Keep an eye out for link manipulation

Grey and black hat SEO practices are some of the worst things you can do to your website’s rankings. While they might temporarily boost your exposure, Google will eventually find out and penalize you for link manipulation. Unfortunately, some website owners still do this instead of investing in proper SEO. What is worse, their poor practices can affect you, so make sure that the domain you’re purchasing doesn’t come with linking baggage. Look at the anchors on the website itself – anything too specific or too broad should raise red flags.

Look into the backlinks leading to the domain

Backlinks are one of the biggest trends in SEO, and when done right, they add credibility to the website and help rankings. But some people misuse them. If the previous owner of the domain spammed other websites with links or used other sites to create irrelevant, misleading backlinks to your new domain, this will almost certainly hurt its future.

However, it’s not just bad backlinking that you should keep an eye out for. Even good backlinks might hurt you if they’re not relevant to your business. For example, if the previous owner sold cars, most people clicking on the backlinks would expect to see vehicles on the website. But if that’s not what you’re selling, they’ll be disappointed and leave the website, increasing your bounce rates and hurting your rankings. This won’t be a problem if you intend to delete all content from the current website. Then, backlinks will turn into 404 links instead.

When you delete all content after buying a used domain name, former backlinks will lead to 404 error pages.

Update local citations

The previous owner may have listed the domain as part of the contact information for their business. When they sell the domain to you, they’ll probably update their social media, official accounts, Google My Business entry, etc. But they might forget to update local listings. So if you notice that the domain you’re using is listed under another business in directories, reach out to relevant webmasters and ask them to correct this. You want the domain only to be associated with you once you acquire it.

Page speed should factor into your decision when buying a used domain name

Speed is one of the most important things people look for in websites these days. If your website doesn’t load quickly, you’ll lose your users. So before buying a used domain name, make sure the website will load fast for you and your users. This means obtaining a domain only if it has a reliable hosting service located in the country where your business operates. Otherwise, the domain won’t be worth what you’re paying for it. Even with a great domain name, you’ll suffer low rankings if you can’t match your competitors’ speed, and no domain name is worth that.

Photos used

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