How can I research a domain that I may want to purchase?


Today’s question comes from Wally in Reno. Wally wants to ask, “How can we check to see if a domain (bought from a registrar) was previously in trouble with Google? I recently bought, and unbeknownst to me the domain isn't being indexed and I've had to do a reconsideration request. How could I have prevented that?” Great question. Okay, so you know you always have a choice. You could start out with a fresh domain that you’re registering, or you could try to buy a domain from someone else or from a registrar. And how do you know that you’re getting what you paid for? You know, the spammer hasn’t taken this domain and burnt it to the ground. So a few rules of thumb: First off, do a search for the domain and do it in a couple ways. Do a site: search, so, whatever it is you want to buy. If there’s no results at all from that domain, even if there’s content on that domain, that’s a pretty bad sign. If the domain is parked, well, we try to take parked domains out of our results anyway, so that might not indicate anything, but if you try to do site: and you see zero results, that’s often a bad sign. Also, just search for the domain name. Or you know the name of the domain minus .com or whatever the extension is on the end, because you can also find out a little bit of the reputation of the domain. So, were people, you know, spamming with that domain name? Were they talking about it? Were they talking about it in a bad way, like “This guy was sending me unsolicited email and leaving spam comments on my blog?” That’s a really good way to sort of figure out what’s going on with that site, or what it was like in the past. Another good rule of thumb is to use the Internet Archive. So if you go to and you put in a domain name, the archive will show you what the previous  versions of that site look like. And if the site looked like it was spamming, then that’s definitely a reason to be a lot more cautious and maybe steer clear of buying that domain name, because that probably means the previous owner might have dug the domain into a hole and you have to just do a lot of work even to get back to level ground. So check with and see if you can find previous versions of the site. If it’s auto generated spammy content, that’s a really bad sign and may be a reason to avoid that domain. Also, you might if you’re talking about buying the domain from someone who currently owns it, you might ask, okay, can you show me, let me either see the analytics or the Webmaster Tools console to check for new messages. Or screenshots, something that would let me see the traffic over time, because if the traffic is going okay and then dropped a lot or has gone really far down, then that might be a reason why you want to avoid the domain as well. If despite all of that, you buy the domain and you find out okay, there was some really scuzzy stuff going on and it has some issues with search engines, you can do a reconsideration request. Before you do that, I would consider— ask yourself are you buying the domain just because you like the domain name, or are you buying it because of all the previous content, or the links that were coming to it, or something like that. If you’re counting on those links carrying over, you might be disappointed because the links might not carry over. And especially if the previous owner was spamming, you might consider doing a disavow of all the links that you can find on that domain to try to get a completely fresh start whenever you are ready to move forward with it. But overall, if you do a site: search or you search for the domain name or you look for it in the Internet Archive, that’s a really fast, quick, easy way to get an idea of whether it was owned by someone who used it for ill, or whether they were doing some good stuff with it in the past. Hope that helps.

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