How to Find and Optimize Expired Domains for SEO

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

  • Finding Potential Expired Domains

    • Using GoDaddy Auctions

    • Evaluating Domain Metrics

  • Analyzing Link Equity and Quality

    • Using SEMrush

    • Checking Anchor Text

  • Evaluating Existing Site Archives

    • Using Wayback Machine
  • Rebuilding Site Structure

    • Identifying Where Links are Pointing

    • Choosing New Hosting

  • Launching Your Site

    • Using CMS Platforms Like WordPress

    • Making Sure Pages Match Structure

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    • Do rebuilt pages need to look the same?

    • How do you ensure links still provide power?


Buying and optimizing an expired domain can be a great way to give your site a "head start" when it comes to rankings and authority. By taking over a domain that already has valuable backlinks pointing to it, you can retain that trust and authority while rebuilding the site's content and structure.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the step-by-step process for finding, analyzing, purchasing, and optimizing an expired domain for SEO...

Finding Potential Expired Domains

The first step is identifying potential expired domains that could be a good fit for your site or project. The best places to find expiring domains are auction platforms like GoDaddy Auctions.

Using GoDaddy Auctions

GoDaddy allows sorting by various metrics like domain age, number of referring domains, estimated value, etc. Some things to look for:

  • Domain Age: Older domains tend to have more authority and trust built up over time. Look for domains that are at least 2+ years old.

  • Referring Domains: More referring domains means more sites are linking to (and trusting) this domain. Good domains tend to have 800+ referring domains.

  • Anchor Text Variety: Make sure linking domains are using a variety of anchor text, not just the root domain name. This indicates more natural links.

  • Estimated Value: Look at domains estimated to be worth $50-$300+ - more value usually means higher quality.

  • Existing Bids: Sort by domains with existing bids and offers, as it shows potential value that others have identified.

Spend time digging through auctions for domains that fit the above criteria and relate to your site's niche. Make a shortlist of potential options before moving onto deeper analysis.

Once you've identified candidate expired domains, the next step is digging deeper into their existing link profiles:

Using SEMrush

Pull domains you are interested into SEMrush to analyze metrics around referring domains, anchor text, linking root domains, etc. Look for:

  • Referring Domains: Ideally 800+ active referring domains from a mix of quality sites

  • Varied Anchor Text: Most links use URL or brand name. If many links use same "money" keywords could indicate risky links

  • Linking Root Domains: A variety of linking root domains indicates more natural link profile

  • Low Risk Flags: Review inbound links for potential threats like private blog networks, manipulative anchor text patterns, etc.

SEMrush makes it easy to filter and sort links by metrics for deeper analysis.

Checking Anchor Text

In particular, comb through the actual anchor text pointing at the expiring domain. Watch out for manipulative, spammy anchor text usage:

  • Excessive keywords like "casinos", "pharma", etc

  • Strange repeating anchor text patterns

  • Foreign languages you don't understand

Quality expired domains will generally have "brand name" or URL anchor text, signaling natural links.

Evaluating Existing Site Archives

Next use Wayback Machine to review the actual website that previously existed on this domain:

Using Wayback Machine

  • Review design and quality of old site

  • Check if site changed hands multiple times or existed for long periods

  • Identify specific pages that had lots of links pointing towards them

This helps determine if Google historically saw this as a quality, trustworthy domain relevant to your niche.

Identify specifically which pages had the most valuable links pointing towards them in the past. We will want to rebuild these exact pages when we re-launch the site.

Rebuilding Site Structure

Now it's time to launch your new site on the expired domain. The key things to focus on:

Use a backlink analysis tool to identify which specific page URLs old links are pointing at. Replicate these pages precisely in the rebuilt site. This allows expired links to pass authority to your pages.

Choosing New Hosting

Find a quality low-cost hosting provider and launch the domain on a new server. Avoid anything explicitly marketed as "PBN hosting" as that signals manipulation.

Launching Your Site

With hosting set up, it's time to build out your site.

Using CMS Platforms Like WordPress

Use an established CMS platform like WordPress rather than coding a site from scratch. Design simplicity and speed should be the priorities over visual customization.

Making Sure Pages Match Structure

Double check that your new site has pages matching the old URL structure that had valuable backlinks pointing at it previously. This retains SEO value without needing the same visual design.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do rebuilt pages need to look the same?

No - you do not need to retain the old visual design or copy content. The priority is matching the underlying URL structure and framework to retain SEO value. Focus new design on simplicity, speed and responsiveness rather than visual customization.

How do you ensure links still provide power?

By identifying where the most valuable backlinks were pointing on the old domain using analysis tools, and precisely replicating the page URLs being linked to. This allows search engines to continue attributing relevancy and authority from external links, even as the internal page content changes.