Buying a new domain is like buying an old house. You know that it has been lived in, but you’re not sure by whom or what the history holds. That is, until you start living in the house and begin noticing certain signs. The same is true with buying a new domain. You select a name that best represents your new website, but then you start to learn that the domain has a bad history with Google. You can choose to start all over again, or work with what you have.
Many people have unknowingly purchased bad domains, some with site content as well. It’s a horrible feeling when they learn that the domain was banned from Google for using black hat SEO practices, and now it’s up to them to prove that the site has cleaned up its act. This is not an easy thing to do, however, as we all know that Google needs a lot of convincing on these issues.
To avoid buying a bad domain, there are certain things you can do.
Start with a Site Search
Search for the name of the domain you plan on using in Google and see what comes up. Google takes bad domains out of the results, so seeing no information raises a red flag. Next, search for the domain in Bing. If it shows up here and not in Google, it’s probably best to move on from this domain.
You can also do a general search by typing in the domain name only, without the extension. Sometimes, you can learn about who had the site before and some of the things that were done, such as leaving spam comments or sending unsolicited emails.
Use the Internet Archive
Go to archive.org and enter in the domain name that you want to use. The archive will pull up previous versions of what the site looked like. If it appears that the website was involved with spamming or was using black hat SEO practices, you probably want to steer clear of the site.
On a sidenote, it’s important to be aware that some domain sellers disable access to archive.org by including it in the robots.txt, which blocks previous content from showing up in the archive. Some parked domain pages do this, too. Any blocked content is an obvious red flag.
Ask for a History
Since you’re the customer, you have every right to request more information about the domain. If someone currently owns the domain, you can ask to see the analytics or Webmaster Tools to check for new messages, traffic history and screenshots. Knowing the history of the site can help you make an informed decision.
If you end up buying a bad domain despite your best efforts, you can always file a reconsideration request. First, you’ll need make sure that the site is repaired and complies with Google’s guidelines. Then, you may file a reconsideration request, which will remove the penalty and place the site back in the search results. The best things to add to your request: your commitment to following the rules and proof of the changes you’ve made.