How to Find Expired Domains: Utilize The Power of Dropped Domains

I’m not usually the biggest fan of expired goods, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to find expired domains and use them to build domain authority, drive search traffic, and make more money.

The old adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” definitely applies here. 

Just because someone else didn’t want those expired or deleted domains any more, that doesn’t mean you can’t make use of them.

What Are Expired Domains?

Before I jump into how to find expired domains and what you can do with them, I’m going to start with an explanation of what happens when domains expire.

It’s not unusual for a website owner to simply forget to set their domain name to auto-renew via their domain registration dashboard.

Equally, businesses face financial difficulties all the time, meaning they don’t pay the annual fee to maintain their existing website domain.

In either of those instances, most domain registrars will offer a grace period of 7 – 30 days, during which a domain can be reactivated and business as usual can be resumed by simply paying the registration fee.

However, if that doesn’t happen, the domain expires.

At that point, the expired domain name is listed on auction sites by the domain registrar. 

The auction typically runs for 10 – 15 days, after which the winner becomes the new domain owner, or nobody bids and the domain “drops”.

Dropped domains are unavailable for a few weeks after the auction. Then they’re put back in the pool of domains you can purchase for $10 from any registrar.

What’s interesting is that the vast majority of domains have a profile of backlinks pointing at them. 

Those links can be highly beneficial for your search engine rankings and are worth a lot more than you’d pay for the domain if you went to a link broker and tried to buy them.

Now for an important question: What does Google think about expired domains?

Frankly, the search engine giant is a bit iffy on them. 

The last time the subject was brought up was in November 2020 when John Mueller was hosting a webmasters Q&A, in which a user asked if Google resets an expired domain’s backlinks.

In a nutshell, Mueller explained that because there are so many scenarios in which expired domains can change hands, it’s extremely difficult for Google to take any action in resetting the link pointing at an expired domain without triggering a lot of false positives when people pick up these domains for legitimate reasons.

He did mention that if you were going to use the domain for something completely unrelated to its original purpose, Google could figure it out and act accordingly most of the time. 

Presumably, that means it wouldn’t pass on any link juice from the expired domain’s backlink profile.

Reading between the lines and drawing on my own past experience, that means there’s still an opportunity to boost your search engine rankings and search traffic by picking up expired domains that are related to what you do.

What Can You Do With Expired Domains?

1. Build a Site on the Expired Domain

If you don’t have an existing website, this is probably the most straightforward way to use expired domains. That’s what we did with Bomisch.com, which was purchased for me by Alpha Investors.

Expired Domain Rating Ahrefs

At the time I bought it, the site had a domain authority of ~17, but had some quality backlinks (dofollow links, at that) from sites like:

Expired Domain Backlinks

That gave the site a really solid base of quality, relevant authority links to the home improvement niche. Even without building any additional links, the site ended up ranking well for extremely sexy keywords such as “how to install a urinal” and “how big is a bathroom”.

How To Install Urinal Serp

If we had started the site on a brand new domain, it would probably have taken months of optimization and link-building to achieve decent results, whereas in the case of Bomisch, it ranked for similar keywords in a matter of weeks. 

To this day, I see new content picking up much faster than it does on sites we started on new domains.

2. Build a Private Blog Network

The second use of expired domains is to use them to build private blog networks (PBNs).

Now, I’m not a big fan of this approach, but you can’t deny it probably works.

A lot of people like the idea of building a small private blog network to boost page authority for any content that needs a lift in rankings. 

It’s kind of the same concept as all these “Dear Sir…” emails that flood your inbox trying to sell you links on sites that often look like trash; most of those sites are expired domains.

Pbn Link Email

The difference is, you don’t share your sites when you build them yourself, so you’re less likely to get in trouble with Google than if you were buying spam links from our old friend George.

3. Redirect Expired Domain Names to Your Site

The final potential use of an expired domain is to redirect it to an existing authority site.

In principle, it sounds like a great idea. It’s definitely a lot less obvious than building a PBN. And there are many examples of existing sites being bought and redirected to the site that purchased them.

For example, Healthline purchased Authority Nutrition and used the content on the expired website to kickstart its nutrition category, which now brings in 25% of Healthline’s overall traffic.

(N.B. I’ve broken down that case study in our newsletter, so if you want this kind of analysis every week in your inbox, make sure you subscribe.)

I can also think of The Wirecutter, which was purchased by the New York Times for $30 million and is now redirected to nytimes.com.

NYT Buys Wirecutter

In both cases, the traffic crossed over nicely and outperformed the expectations of the new site owner.

From my practical experience, these examples worked so well because the content was also transferred.

If you’re buying an expired domain with the intention of doing a dirty wildcard redirect to your home page, bear in mind this usually doesn’t go so well. While you might boost your domain authority, the direct traffic gain is minimal.

In short, this approach works best if you can pull the old content using a tool like Wayback Machine, post it on your site, and redirect the web pages one by one.

How to Find Expired Domains (That Are Worth Buying)

Just because you’ve found an expiring domain with lots of quality links pointing at it, that doesn’t mean it’s worth spending your hard-earned cash on.

Before buying a specific domain, I consider these three key criteria to understand whether it’s a smart investment:

1. Is the Expired Domain Relevant to My Current Site?

Relevancy trumps everything. I’d take a relevant site with a 

DR 15 relevant site over a domain authority of 15 over an irrelevant one with a DA of 40 any day of the week. So just ask yourself the question: How close is the old website to what you’re about to build on the domain?

As we’ve seen from what John Muller said, if it’s not too close, you might get a lot less benefit from your dropped domain.

2. How Strong Are the Backlinks Pointing at the Expired Domain?

Clearly, the expired domain’s backlink profile is important. But assessing authority requires more than surface-level analysis; don’t trust tool metrics like domain authority or domain rating.  These can be manufactured with spam links that won’t help your performance on search engines.

No, what you’re looking for is relevant links on high-domain-authority sites within the industry you’re trying to enter. The kind of links it would be very difficult to acquire in any other way.

For example, on Bomisch.com, that link from Apartment Therapy got me excited because I know I wouldn’t be able to acquire that same link through guest posting.

3. Does the Expired Domain Have Spam or Google Penalties?

The last thing you want is to buy a seemingly powerful expired domain that actually has a bunch of penalties against at.

Whether you’re planning to turn it into a new website, use it as part of a private blog network, or redirect the expired domain to your current site, those penalties could single-handedly eradicate any of the benefits.

Fortunately, it’s easy to find out if expired (or expiring) domains have penalties against them — just look at the organic search history on any SEO tool. If you see a heavy drop that never recovered, I’d avoid that domain like the plague.

Where to Buy Expired Domains

By this point, you understand the benefits of buying expired domains and you know what to look for. Now, let’s discuss the important issue of where to buy expired domain names.

Which tools can you use to find powerful expired domains with the potential to make a real difference to your web traffic and rankings?

3 Top Marketplaces for Expired Domain Buyers

1. GoDaddy

The first and most obvious place where you can get an expired domain is to go on the domain registrars’ auction sites, of which the largest and most popular is GoDaddy. 

You might be surprised to learn that you actually need to pay a right of entry to bid on these domains. However, it’s very affordable at around $5/year, and you can browse expired domain lists without being a member:

Godaddy Domain Search

That means you only need to sign up when you actually plan to purchase expired domains.

However, there’s a problem: GoDaddy’s auction interface is freaking terrible if you’re looking for a domain to boost your performance on search engines.

All it gives you is the domain name, number of bids, a web traffic number that’s as good as useless, an estimated value that’s also useless, and a current price.

Godaddy Expired Domain Offer

The only thing I find helpful here is the number of bids, as usually SEOs will find the most powerful domain and fight for it like a pack of dogs.

So if you sort by bids, you’ll surface some of the best domains available (but usually not the best deals).

Godaddy Expired Domain Auction

In short, if you’re going to use GoDaddy to buy expired domains, be ready to spend a lot of time copy/pasting random websites into Ahrefs.

2. Spamzilla

In my opinion, Spamzilla makes it far easier for a prospective website owner to buy expired domains. Not only does it let you find domains across multiple marketplaces, but its filtering tools make it easy to find the perfect domain for your specific requirements.

Admittedly, Spamzilla is a lot more expensive than just trawling GoDaddy for expired domains. Still, if you don’t have too much time but still want to be an effective domain hunter-gatherer, it’s totally worth the $37 per month. Especially when you look at the filtering options. You can filter by:

  • TLD
  • Majestic metrics including Citation Flow and Trust Flow
  • Ahrefs metrics including Domain Rating, Linking Root Domains, traffic, etc.
  • Moz metrics
  • SEMrush metrics
  • When the auction ends
  • Domain language
  • Proprietary Spamzilla metrics that check for spam, how long the domain has been parked, when the domains dropped, etc.
Spamzilla Expired Domains Search

Importantly, it doesn’t just do all this for expired domains listed on Godaddy — it also does it on smaller domain registrar auctions like Snapnames, NameJet, and Dynadot.

In case you didn’t pick it up yet, this is my favorite way of picking up expired domains. I usually set the filters to include:

  • Sites with an Ahrefs Domain Rating of 25+ 
  • .com or .net English domains 
  • Domains with a Spamzilla spam score of 25

Then I simply browse the results and see if anything catches my eye.

What’s great is that you can dive into any of the domains without leaving the Spamzilla interface. You can access: 

  • The site’s Wayback Machine history to see what it used to be
  • Backlinks and anchor texts
  • If it has been redirected
  • Ahrefs metrics
  • Drop history
  • Whether the site is still in the Google index or ranks
  • Existing rankings on Google for some keywords and the language history.

That’s usually enough to decide if a site is worthy of further investigation. If it is, I still pop it in Ahrefs, because it’s important to explore a domain’s linking sites and where those links point to.

3. Premium Marketplaces

Want to see a list of high-domain-authority sites to build a new authority site on, but don’t fancy doing all the legwork yourself? Premium marketplaces like ODYS and Juice Market can do it for you.

Premium Marketplaces Expired Domains

Of course, when these sites sell domain names, they don’t do it for free. I’ve seen many such domains on premium marketplaces sell for $4,000 – $6,000, despite having similar metrics to domain names I’ve bought on GoDaddy for $500 – $1,000.

Still, if you’re cool with that, I recommend you check out either of those marketplaces. Both are run by reputable companies that won’t steal your money, and both are extremely capable of finding and curating quality expired domains for you to use in your business.

They also offer a decent amount of metrics to help you understand what you’re paying for, and ODYS even does branding and can build you a site (if you’re prepared to pay for it).

Conclusion: Is Buying An Expired Domain Worthwhile?

From my experience, sites you build on expired domains tend to take off significantly faster than sites built on new domains. 

And while their branding is often worse than an all-new website, my recommendation for those of you who want the best of both worlds is to start your site on an expired domain.

Run it for maybe a year or two, and then do a big rebranding where you redirect it to a new domain and notify Google of the address change in Search Console.

If you do that properly, your rankings will transfer to the new, well-branded domain and you’ll have gotten a much faster start than if you launched with a fresh domain.

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