What are expired domains?

Expired domains are domains that aren’t renewed after the contract ends or are deliberately terminated. That means that they are available for re-registration.

We explain why expired domains are so popular, what is so advantageous about domains that have recently become free, and why you should proceed with caution when you register them.

How does a domain become expired?

When you register (or buy) a domain, it always has a certain contract period. When this period is over, the domain goes back on the market. Expired domains are domains that have not been renewed in time by their owner or have even been deliberately terminated. There are many reasons for wanting to abandon a domain, such as the web project not working out as planned. Domains also sometimes become free due to trademark infringement warnings.

Expired domains are considered very valuable in the world of SEO, as they have often already built up a certain reputation as well as many incoming links. This could mean you have success with an expired domain straightaway on the SEO side of things. But depending on the reason why the domain was abandoned, this built-up reputation can also be disadvantageous.

What value does an expired domain have?

Expired domains are especially attractive due to key SEO factors that are primarily associated with an existing backlink profile. If you are considering buying an expired domain, you can determine the quality of it by looking at the inbound links. When it comes to assessing the value of an expired domain relevant keywords contained in the second-level domain, a possible reference to products, brands or services are all useful.

An expired domain’s backlink profile refers to the incoming links that have built up from when the domain was previously in use. Recently expired domains that have long histories aren’t unheard of. While the content on the domain is rarely kept when the domain is re-registered, links on the other hand do remain.

The backlink profile of a recently available domain is a double-edged sword. While some expired domains have been well cared for by their previous owners and have high-quality links, some contain questionable backlinks. The worst-case scenario is that the domain was merely used as a link farm to strengthen a major project in a satellite domain network. In this case, the domain may have already been penalised by some search engines.

Both the number and the quality of incoming links to a domain have an influence on the search engine’s ranking. SEO experts have determined three characteristics:

  • Link popularity: Link popularity is a parameter that is used to quantitatively evaluate incoming links to a website. This is measured by looking at the number of links to a domain according to the mantra ‘the more incoming links, the more important the site’.
  • Domain popularity: Unlike link popularity, incoming links from the same site are counted only once when evaluating the popularity of a domain. This prevents manipulation attempts.
  • IP popularity: If you decide to go a step further, you can determine the popularity of the IP. In this case, links are only counted if they are from different servers on different networks.

The IP popularity and domain popularity both play a part when evaluating the quality. If you come across an expired domain with a high link popularity (i.e., a large number of backlinks), but poor values when it comes to IP and domain popularity, you can assume that these links were obtained in an artificial way. Domains like these will have already caught the search engines’ attention and should be steered clear of.

In addition to the quantity of incoming links, their quality also needs to be assessed. The main questions to ask here are where the link comes from and what kind of link it is. A high quality backlink profile is usually made up of different link types such as footer and sidebar links, links in comments, etc. It’s important to find out whether these links are marked as follow or nofollow.

Whether you can use an existing backlink profile for a new web project under the available domain depends on whether the link target of incoming links can be reconstructed. You can find out how to analyse this on the Internet Archive. Backlinks have no value if they lead to nowhere and this can even have a negative impact.

Keyword in domain names

Domain names that contain a keyword have always made a good impression when it comes to search engine ranking. Keyword domains are still popular in the domain market because they are often seen as more relevant and trustworthy. It only makes sense to purchase an expired domain when the domain name is aligned with the content, products or services that you plan to offer with that address in the future.

It should be noted that many domains conflict with trademark registrations. Before you buy an expired domain, it’s extremely important that you thoroughly search the World Intellectual Property Organization database (WIPO).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of expired domains?

If you buy an expired domain, you also get the backlink profile that is has built up over time. This can of course work in your favour. But one thing is for sure and that is that you should analyse the backlink profile before you buy the domain. Expired domains also come with other advantages and disadvantages. The most important ones are listed in the following table.

Advantages Disadvantages
Possible good backlink profile Possible bad backlink profile
Many expired domains are keyword domains, which are often perceived as more reputable. Expired domains can be very expensive depending on traffic and backlink profile.
You can use any domain name as long as it is not yet registered. There is a limited choice of domain names so buyer must adapt to existing domain names.
Older domains are considered more trustworthy. There may be conflicts with trademark registrations.

How to find expired domains

Internet users, who try to find expired domains and re-register them, will soon discover that it’s difficult to do this on their own. Professional domain traders are familiar with the registry deletion process and rely on sophisticated algorithms that indicate when a domain is about to become available. Deletion lists are the result of this research. You can find many datasets online with domains that are already available or will soon be available. You often have to pay to be able to see this information.

It’s also not so easy to re-register a domain. This is due to backorder providers which are paid to keep an eye on expiring domains over a certain period of time and then register them for the customer as soon as they become available. Attractive expired domains are therefore usually sold before they have a chance to be put back on the registry menu for the public to look through.

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Expired domains in search engine optimisation

In the past, expired domains were used as part of black hat SEO tactics to generate backlink sources quickly and easily. This practice is still used in some cases today. Getting links in this way is not a recommendable practice. Nowadays, all relevant search engines work with highly complex ranking algorithms, which can no longer be outsmarted by these link networks.

Since search engines regard inbound links as recommendations, these links have a decisive influence on the ranking. Search engines definitely don’t appreciate link networks and won’t give new projects a jumpstart by allowing a former website’s backlink profile to be used when registering a new domain. Using an expired domain is like playing with fire, where the worst-case scenario is that you’ll be penalised or be excluded from the search index.