Interesting SEO Discovery – Part Two

Well yesterday’s post about an interesting SEO discovery I recently made has drawn a lot of great comments, and plenty of different opinions and viewpoints. Since there’s already twenty comments on this thread I thought I would up-level this a bit and help share some of the comments that have been made in a single post.

I know that when a blog post gets a lot of comments sometimes really incredible comments get lost in the shuffle. Yesterday I got some truly phenomenal comments from some very well-respected people and I want to make sure they get the credit they deserve! If you haven’t read my post from yesterday read it now before continuing or you won’t have any idea what is going on.

Two of the main points/questions I saw come-up in the comments were:

  • The reason this domain was passing link juice is because of its previous backlinks and PR
  • Do search engines have a problem with this?

A number of good points were brought-up around why forwarding this particular domain name may have driven the rankings that it did. The point that was brought-up most consistently was that when you’re forwarding a site with existing back-links and PR then it will offer this SEO benefit. The domain name I am forwarding here, CreditCardGraphics.com is an expired domain name that I purchased, which, according to Google themselves, won’t carry the links or PR from the previous site. Below is a quote from Matt Cutts at Google from Search Engine Land:

“There are some domain transfers ( e.g. genuine purchases of companies) where it can make perfect sense for links to transfer. But at the same time it wouldn’t make sense to transfer the links from an expired or effectively expired domain, for example. Google (and probably all search engines) tries to handle links appropriately for domain transfers. “(Matt Cutts (Google) – Search Engine Land)

In his comments Matt actually addresses this exact issue:

“The sort of stuff our systems would be designed to detect would be things like someone trying to buy expired domains or buying domains just for links.”

So in this case Google themselves is saying that buying an expired name for the link juice won’t work. That’s what makes my discovery yesterday so counter-intuitive for me. Over the last few years I’ve always thought that the backlinks and PR of expired domains were devalued, this has been a commonly-held belief in the SEO world. I’ve always liked buying expired domains with links because I’ve found if you build a related site on the domain, the links can come back to life. That being said, based on everything I’ve read and experienced in the past, domains don’t carry their link juice after expiration when all you’re doing is forwarding the name.

The discovery that I recently made would seem to show that this is not the case. When a domain name expires the link juice is still active, at least in this case, despite Google claiming otherwise. I would be interested to know if anyone else has some solid examples of this because we may be cracking the case on an interesting issue in the SEO world that may be incorrect just about everywhere!

The second theme that came-up in the comments was concerns around Google penalizing you for forwarding a domain to your site. I’ve been an SEOMoz fan since the very beginning (I started doing SEO in 1995!) and I think their article about buying expired domains really is a must-read when it comes to this topic. In the article they say,

The easiest and least time consuming option is to 301 redirect the old domain to your existing site. This tactic obviously works best if both sites are in the same sector and are targeting the same keywords; otherwise, if you have a pet supply site and you buy an old Texas Hold ‘Em poker site, a redirect probably might raise some eyebrows among the search engines. If, however, your site is brandnamepets.com and you buy onlinepetsupply.com and 301 redirect the domain over, you’re inheriting a lot of topical and appropriate links. (SEOMoz, Buying Expired Domains: What’s the Best Strategy?)

This goes-along with how I’ve always forwarded domains. I buy domains in a particular niche and forward them to related sites in the same niche. Where I think you’d get in trouble with search engines is forwarding a domain to a completely unrelated site. As they say above, forwarding a poker site to your pet site might raise some red flags but forwarding within the same niche shouldn’t yield any search penalties.

I know many Domainers and Developers who forward related .COM domains in their niche to their main site. This has provided them with some great valuable type-in traffic. If you have 50 .COM’s in one niche, each generating 30 visitors/month you could bring another 1,500 targeted visitor to your site each month. What Search Engines wants to avoid is confusing or misleading people and SEOMoz hits the nail on the head in their article on this topic.

I hope this addresses two of the main themes I saw in the comments – as always continue commenting and sharing your thoughts! It’s fun to learn more about this together and I really appreciate all the great comments that have been made so far!

{ 11 comments… add one }

  • T1D October 12, 2011, 1:59 pm

    50 previously parked domains (1,500 uniques or not) pointing to one site that you hope to attain great ranking for is not a good idea. Morgan I think you need to take into consideration that Google loathes parked domains, most are sandboxed. Also they’re very clear on when a re-direct should be used. The real reason is when someone is going to consolidate two websites (and the content) into one. What you’re describing is on the fringes of grey area SEO. Parked domains pass no real SEO value to a website. If you have a domain that drops with PR and backlinks, find the content and publish it somewhere on your site. Then 301 each one of those pages that Google still has in its index.

    If you have 50 parked domains that collectively get 1,500 uniques but have ZERO PR or links (SEO value) the best thing you could do to keep that traffic and on your site and not risk your site getting penalized is to do the following.

    Create a subdomain within your site. Example SEO.MorganLinton.com. Make that subdomain (which is looked at by Google as a seperate site) no index. Put your monetization solution on that page or make it a page that is built to direct visitors back to the index. This allows you to capture the traffic but not risk your website being associated with parked domains which is nearly the equivilent of a bad neighborhood link.

    In closing, Matt Cutts is never going to give people an exact roadmap on what to do. You need to read between the lines on what he says and how that applies to domaining and SEO. Because they’re two completely different animals.

    Here’s Matt’s latest statement on 301’s and best practices.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1lVPrYoBkA

    Reply
    • Morgan October 12, 2011, 2:18 pm

      Great points @T1D – much appreciated!

      The reason that myself and many other people forward these domains is not because of any perceived SEO value but instead for the type-in traffic. Since I know people that have been doing this for 10+ years with no problems I don’t see this as an issue. What’s I’ve always thought is that, like you say above, there is no SEO value, just the type-in traffic.

      I’ve never been much of a parking guy so for me I’ve always preferred to forward a domain and send the type-in traffic to another related site in the niche. To me it makes more sense to forward the domain to a related site in the niche rather than parking it with a page of links. I haven’t thought about this as part of my SEO strategy until now but the results here were quite surprising to me.

      Doesn’t it seem like this shouldn’t work? The link juice should die when a domain expires, shouldn’t it?

      As for penalizing, I think Google would rather you forward the domain to a real site rather than parking it wouldn’t they? Like I said I’ve known people that have been doing this for a long time and they haven’t had any issues with Google. They do only forward domains within their niche to authority sites they run in the niche and I think that’s the key. Then you’re not misleading the visitor and in fact you’re providing a better experience than they would find on a parked page.

      Reply
  • Leonard Britt October 12, 2011, 2:00 pm

    I cannot speak to forwarding SEO benefits but I do have a Spanish .COM with a significant number of backlinks. I set it up on DomainPower.com’s platform a couple of months ago and it now ranks #3 at Google for the domain’s keywords. And this is a phrase with some search volume.

    Reply
  • T1D October 12, 2011, 3:22 pm

    @ Leonard Britt. DomainPower is a great platform and I think because of the fact that the solution has been built to provide an experience that is better than most people receive at a lot of real websites (not parking pages) they’re seeing the rewards of that hard work. Many parked KW match domains with DomainPower will rank.

    They have a great traditional parked page solution, and since I no longer work there nor am I a shareholder I can say this. It is my belief that Domain Power has the highest converting “parking page” in the business.

    That said, their core strength is in the PPL solutions they have that are great for SEO. The landers for insurance and travel are incredible. It’s a platform that’s just getting better and better. I’m really proud of the work that I did while I was there and the team that’s there. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I think they’re the best solution. Provided that the world doesn’t end in 2012 I think they’re going to be the dominant force in the parking industry pretty quickly.

    @Morgan, if a name drops and it’s got PR and Google, Yahoo, Bing are still showing a record of it in their index and or specific pages then it’s still got life and time to go back and extract the full value of the content. Best bet, find the original content, link structure and then re-publish it ASAP. Then move that content onto a page within your own site. Then 301 the domain or more specifically those pages to your own website or specific pages in your site.

    Trying to extract SEO value out of dropped domains with a simple re-direct is probably over with for the most part. Google hasn’t eliminated PR although they’ve hinted at it and or said they might not update it any longer. Page Rank isn’t going away but it’s value is diluted a bit. Google’s focus is on quality content, writing and sites with the same qualities pointing back at you.

    I think re-directs for traffic are great. But I think people should be smart about it and find a way to accomplish what they want and not do anything that Google would raise an eyebrow at.

    I think you’re right that Google would probably prefer that a domain be re-directed vs parked.
    But it’s probably looked at as which is the lesser of two evils. I think we can accept that their philosophy about the web and information doesn’t look favorably at the parking industry nor the individuals who own the real estate within it and are “domainers”. That might change if the parking solutions move away from just being a static page with ads.

    With grey area SEO it’s a slippery slope before you’re weighing too heavily to the wrong side of risk vs reward. I could get really granular with all of the details but I’ll save it for my own site, lol. I think we all know that Google is fickle and what might have been considered okay six months ago might be considered black hat now. Doorway pages were fine, mass article syndication was the holy grail, page sculpting was fine now it’s frowned upon.. You get the point.

    The last thing I want is people going out and buying a PR7 domain that’s parked and then doing a re-direct expecting some massive boost. And the same can be said for buying 50 PR3 domains and re-directing them.

    Not unless you do the hard work to get the content back. Bring back what was there that made Google view that website as valuable in the first place. You do that, then you’ve got more options.

    In closing, I think this discussion is great and I give you props for bringing the subject up in the first place.

    Reply
  • John October 12, 2011, 4:13 pm

    I’m learning ..

    Reply
  • RAYY.co October 12, 2011, 6:14 pm

    Yeah…lots to learn…
    Back to drawing board…

    Reply
  • Morgan October 12, 2011, 6:16 pm

    Absolutely phenomenal comment @T1D – really appreciate you weighing in here and sharing! This is actually great content for a third post…do you mind if I use your comment in a post tomorrow?

    Reply
  • T1D October 12, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Sure, feel free. Glad to participate, hope to see you at TRAFFIC.

    Reply
  • Sharky January 5, 2012, 8:22 pm

    Can Google really penalize you for too many 301 redirects to a site? If that’s the case I will point 500 of them to my competitor’s site.

    Reply
  • Shah Mundell April 17, 2012, 12:35 am

    SO If I am building my main site and considering forwarding several exact match keyword domains to the main site – am I going to be penalized by Google?  

    I don’t know if the forwards had sites registered to them previously or not but using the Adwords Keyword tool I found 8 -10 that have 250K + local searches per month, am I going to shoot myself in the foot forwarding these.  They are all tightly matched to my niche.  

    What are the pros / cons here?  Is there a better way to leverage my idea?

    Really appreciate all your comments.

    – Shah

    Reply
    • Morgan Linton April 18, 2012, 12:02 pm

      Hi Shah,

      It looks like there is a split decision here with no real known right answer.

      Myself and many people I know forward domains to our main sites without any issue. That being said, as you can see from this string, there are people who believe this could hurt you in Google.

      At the end of the day I think it’s all about the kind of domains that you forward. If you decide to forward a domain with the word “cars” in it to a site about restaurants I think that would probably not be a good thing, this is what I think bugs Google.

      If on the other hand you own Restaurants.com and you want to forward LosAngelesRestaurants.com to it, that makes perfect sense to me, and I think it makes a lot of sense to Google too!

      Reply

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