Aged domains are older websites that have accrued SEO authority.
Buying one is a shortcut to having a very organic-looking backlink profile. Which you can build a brand new niche site on top of or redirect those links into another site.
But you must tread carefully.
Domains come with a history, and those histories could be more nefarious than they look on the surface.
In this article, we learn how to evaluate an aged domain and how to leverage them to your advantage.
- What is an aged domain?
- 9 evaluation criteria—make sure you don't pay $$ for a flawed domain
- How to properly take advantage of aged domains
What is an aged domain?
Definition: An aged domain a domain that has been abandoned by a pre-existing business. But when it was a live website, it accrued “SEO authority” via backlinks and topical traffic.
An aged domain is a domain that was used by a business in the past. The domain could’ve been owned by a brick-and-mortar business that had a website that went along with it, it could have been an e-commerce store, or it could have just been a blog-type business.
And then for whatever reason, they decided to close the business or they decided not to renew the domain name.
This happens for all kinds of reasons. For example, we've seen lots and lots of businesses closed down over the last couple of years with COVID, and, using Wayback Machine, we can actually see that that's the reason why lots of these domains have expired.
Why Use an Aged Domain?
There are two use cases for aged domains:
- You can build a brand new website on them. This is good because:
- Often it takes a while to experience “lift-off” with new domains. SEOs mostly agree that new websites struggle to get visibility in the first 6 months until they prove quality in some way. Aged domains help avoid this since they’ve already pushed through the “sandbox” period.
- Aged domains (if chosen well) come with niche-relevant backlinks. You start a website with existing authority, often from websites, like news sites, that would be extremely difficult to get it from.
- You can acquire them as a link-building method. This is good for SEO because:
- Similar to my last point, aged domains come with high-authority backlinks. Instead of earning those, you can buy the domain and 301 redirect the pages to your own website as a backlink-building method.
Does Google care if you use this trick? Apparently not:
“Google is well aware of people using aged domains for SEO purposes but Google’s John Mueller says that they are cautious about punishing sites because there are legitimate reasons for using an old domain such as reviving an old site or transferring a site to a new owner.”—WebsiteFlip
How to Evaluate an Aged Domain - 9 Evaluation Criteria
What we look for when we look to buy an aged domain is a business that built up a lot of trust and authority. In short, they acquired a really strong backlink profile during the time they were alive.
They do that in lots of different ways. Some you find have been an online business since the early 2000, they've been a business for 20 years, and during that time they would've picked up links from all kinds of tier-one news publications and niche relevant sites.
And when the business decided not to renew the domain it ends up on an auction site (like SpamZilla), where we can buy it.
For those wanting to launch a new site on a rocket-ship-ready foundation, we want to pick a site with:
- Backlink profile
- Google history
- Previous traffic profile
When you choose right, you end up with a difficult-to-recreate backlink profile that would’ve otherwise taken you time and money to build yourself.
“When you work with an aged domain, there are so many factors that go into what makes a good age domain it, but it's hard to know how much they're weighted.
So, does a good backlink profile outweigh a couple of bad links here and there? Or does some spammy anchor text, does that ruin the whole project? Our rule is if it's got one red flag, even a small red flag, then we just don't wanna touch it because there's always gonna be another one coming along soon.
You're gonna invest a ton of time and money in content and link building to build out the website. So, there's no point starting on a foundation with even one red flag.”—Adam Smith, Founder of Niche Website Builders
Step 1: Choose your domain
Use a tool like SpamZilla to process domains from sites like GoDaddy, DropCatch, and SnapNames.
With a tool like SpamZilla (I’m unaffiliated by the way), you can set up filters or criteria for the domains you’re looking at purchasing.
For example, we suggest:
- Websites with a minimum Ahrefs DR of at least 15
- Websites with a minimum trust flow score of 15
Then it'll filter all of the upcoming domains in the next seven days or 30 days. Every week, there’ll be 200 to 300,000 domains that match those criteria.
Look for domains in the category/topic that you want and shortlist them. Then move to step 2.
The niche website builder team has a list of aged domains that they’ve bought
Step 2: Use Wayback Machine (Archive.org) to evaluate your domain
This is probably the most time-consuming bit. You need to dig into the history of each site to evaluate it—and you might find an SEO has already extracted the value from them.
To kick off, open up the Wayback machine and enter your domain. Open up one instance from every year to see what the website looked like.
Step 3: Verify the website stayed about roughly the same topic (and ideally same owners)
We want to make sure that the topic of this website hasn’t dramatically changed over the years (especially if the URL belonged to different owners.)
For example, if www.zoocar.com was a Zoo website. Over time, they got lots of relevant backlinks related to animals.
It then expired and someone else bought that domain because they wanted to start a car website (someone not aware of SEO). On zoocar.com, they have no regard for backlinks and they build their new website, all about cars. The domain then expires again.
It may be tempting based on the relevant backlinks to buy this domain and start a new animal website. But we DO NOT want to do this. Because those backlinks have spent a considerable amount of time pointing toward car-related content, it’s likely that search engines have recognized something is amiss and changed their understanding.
To avoid all this, look to see if the owner has changed at all over the years. Look for telephone numbers and addresses to spot potential risk factors.
Step 4: Look for spam signals
Here are a few things to look for:
- Has it been repurposed as a PBN at some point?
- Did somebody else buy it and replace the old content, but on the homepage they added outbound links to a gambling website?
- Is there overly spammy anchor text on backlinks? (You would expect to see the name of the company be the #1 anchor text)
“So how are websites linking back to it? Does the anchor text contain anything dodgy? Does it have any Viagra or, or Russian characters or Japanese characters?”—Adam Smith
Make sure you keep an eye out for anything that looks odd over the years, these would really cut into the opportunity associated with the URL.
Step 5: Analyze which pages have backlinks
In an ideal world, the top backlinks of the aged domain all point at the homepage.
Because if you have a high-authority backlink to the page domain.com/blog/this-is-an-example-blog-post then you must maintain the URL structure to hold onto the backlink.
You could redirect that individual page to another of yours, of course, but it’s an extra hassle. Especially if there are 100s.
“Are they mostly to the homepage? Are they individual pages? In an ideal world, you want most of them to go to the homepage because [otherwise] you've gotta somehow reclaim them. You can't just let them die.”—Adam Smith
Step 6: Analyze backlink relevance
Having relevant backlinks from websites that are in the same niche or a closely connected entity brings additional authority to the domain.
Assess where the backlinks come from. The more closely aligned, the better.
Step 8: Analyze which keywords it ranked for
Go back in time (on a tool like Ahrefs, though you’ll need an upgraded package) and look at what pages were on the site and analyze what keywords they were ranking for.
You’re looking for something out of the ordinary here. If it’s a pet website, does it have keywords that make no sense for that website? Like “viagra” or something spammy.
The keywords should look organic and natural.
Step 9: Check for trademarks
Make sure there are no live trademarks on the key terms on your site.
The last thing you want is to build a niche site on an aged domain, and then have it taken away from you in a lawsuit once you become successful.
In the USA? Do an extensive search on the US trademark database here.
Examples - Aged Domains You DON’T Want to Buy
Haightvineyards.com recently sold on a GoDaddy auction for ~$200.
Adam Smith explains in the video below why it should be avoided (hint: it had been used to create an affiliate-type website in a non-related niche.)
If you can’t see the embedded video above, click here to watch.
You’ve Got Your Domain - Now What?
You now own www.lucytravels.com. It’s got backlinks from CNN, TripAdvisor, and a bunch of other high-authority, relevant websites.
As we alluded to earlier on, there are a couple of use cases. The most obvious is to build a niche website on your domain.
We’ve written extensively already about how to grow a niche site (we examined the story of Digital Emigre and RetroDodo here), including how to choose a niche, create a content strategy, and monetize your traffic.
Here’s something else you can do with aged domains👇
Powering Up: Redirecting Aged Domains to Your Site (to Steal Their Backlinks)
Let’s say you’ve already got a niche site. Or you’re a SaaS brand with a growing blog.
In both cases, additional backlinks are needed to grow your site’s authority and improve rankings faster.
You can buy 10 aged domains in hyper-relevant niches and if each one has 20 backlinks from websites, that’d be 200 relevant backlinks.
Rule of thumb: An aged domain is roughly $100-$150 per domain rating. A DR 30 domain will cost you between $3000 and $3500.
A DR 30 site would typically have 20-40 high-quality links. In total, the cost for 30 links for $3000 is about $100 per link, which isn’t bad to get links from websites like CNN.
But be careful, you can’t simply 301 redirect. It needs to be carefully crafted.
Methodology: How to Redirect an Aged Domain
What not to do: take the whole domain and redirect it to your homepage.
What to do: make it look natural to Google.
1. Create a “this website was acquired” page on your main website
“So we start with an acquisition page on our main site. And the acquisition page will say, ‘Hey, we've acquired this domain. If you were looking for that website, I'm sorry it doesn't exist anymore, but welcome to our website. Let's tell you all about it.’
And then it'll typically be a couple of thousand-word piece of content that talks loosely about what the old website used to be.
So if it was a travel [aged domain] about backpacking, we might talk about the history of backpacking and how it started, or something quite loose where you could talk for quite a bit of time about it.”—Adam Smith
2. Include as many internal links to existing content
On the main website, you now have a blog all about acquiring a “backpacking” website. Add internal links from this blog to all relevant pages on that same topic.
Add links over exact match anchor text. For example, “where to go backing” should link to your blog on the same keyword targeting.
Altogether you’ve now got:
- Relevant backlinks
- Redirected to an acquisition page
- Which passes “link juice” to relevant pages
3. What if relevant backlinks are on specific blog posts, and not the homepage?
Create a Google Sheets. In column 1, start by making a list of URLs you want to keep from the aged domain (i.e. ones with backlinks you want to keep).
Then in column 2, find and list a URL on the main site you’d want to redirect it to. If you don’t have a blog post on that topic already, create one and redirect it there.
What does all this do?
In the purest sense, you want Google to think nothing “strange” is going on here. It should look organic, just as if one business acquired another business and took on its assets.
Fast Track - Buy Pre-Vetted Aged Domains Here
Adam and his team buy a lot of aged domains and vet them carefully.
They've got a library of them here that you can review and buy.