What I Look For In An Expired Domain

If you’re not buying expired domains right now you are missing out on what is literally the second domain gold rush. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but it’s true – some real gems are dropping and the opportunity is incredible. For those of you who are active in the drop market I apologize in advance for potentially inspiring more people to compete with you (and me) for these names, but I thought it was important to write about this topic…so I am!

So let’s start with the #1 complaint I hear from new Domainers, all the good domain names are taken.

The reason people say this is because for some reason they think that the only way to buy domains is to hand-register. In this case, yes – all the good domains are taken. It’s pretty rare that you’ll hand-register a name that’s going to sell for four or five figures. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and I do know people who have hand-registered names that sell for over $1,000 but it’s a rarity and I wouldn’t build a business on that dream. If you ignore the whole hand-registration process and start looking at expired domains you’ll quickly see that many of the good domains are dropping.

Let me say this again, all the good domains are not taken, many of the good domains are dropping. Notice I didn’t say all the good domains, that just wouldn’t be realistic – big portfolio owners do have great .COM names that they would never think of dropping, however this doesn’t mean that great domains don’t drop every day.

There are lots of great services for buying expired domains but I’ve always been pretty laser-focused on two services Snapnames and Go Daddy Auctions. These are easy to use and have some incredible names available every single day. Now I know you’re probably sick of my ramblings and you’d like me to get to the good stuff – what do I look for in an expired domain?

We all look for different qualities, since I’m more focused on developing and monetizing rather than flipping for a quick profit I look at different characteristics than most. Below is a list of a few of characteristics I look for in expired domains:

  • Existing link profile – I like to see domains that already have 50+ backlinks coming in, this gives a nice springboard for the new site I put on it.
  • DMOZ Listing – I love to buy expired domains that are already in DMOZ, it’s hard to get in this directory so having it already done is a huge bonus.
  • Domain age of 2+ years – I like domain names that are at least two years old, a little age helps in search.
  • .COM – that’s right I’m just buying .COM’s off of drops right now so I always make sure my search results are .COM only.
  • No Dashes – I’ve never been a big fan of dashes so I make sure the results I see don’t have dashes in them. Yes dashes are fine for search but terrible for resale.
  • Existing traffic – if there was a site on the domain previously it may have had some existing traffic which will show up in the compete.com report.
  • Niche I Know/Like – I only buy in certain niches, these are either niches I know I can make money in or niches I like a lot so enjoy building in.

So there you have it – the basic criteria that I look at, and yes it’s a bit different than what your average Domainer is looking at. I’m in this for the long-haul so I’m buying good .COM domains that make great development candidates now but still offer nice liquidity down the road. Buying a domain with no traffic, no backlinks, that was registered a year ago and is a .info just doesn’t seem like a prudent investment to me no matter how great the keywords are – but that’s just me! It’s up to you to decide which criteria is most important to you – when you do just make sure your logic is based on real business data not the famous “I think people are searching for this” or “this is going to be the next big thing” because that’s just pure speculation and in this game it’s all about making real investments. So stop collecting and start investing, the gold rush is here, go stake your claim!


{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Shane March 14, 2011, 6:55 pm

    Nice post Morgan. I will say that the quality of Snap and Godaddy have been weak the last two months. But there is still certainly gold in that mountain of junk

  • Korey Martin March 14, 2011, 7:16 pm

    The second domain gold rush. Your right i found some really good name’s on the drop. Great Post Morgan

  • High-End Domains March 14, 2011, 9:00 pm

    I might be the exception like you said because some hand reg are still out there waiting for domainers. I’ve got 90% hand reg and still worth +$1000, some sold for it! That’s a huge % profits when you reg for $8.00. I hate to play the expired auction game, you get less profits while cashing $$$$$ of money. In some case you do get ten thousand dollar from an end user but how much did you spend to get this domain before you sold?

    Hand reg is still good, you might not find a gem every week but once a while with luck, BINGO!

  • TeenDomainer March 14, 2011, 9:02 pm

    I am finding great names every day and exactly like you I am doing .com’s only with strong numbers or in areas that I know about.

  • Joe March 15, 2011, 4:17 am

    Hi Morgan, great post. Why exact search volume isn’t on your list of criteria? IMO it’s one of the most important factors for choosing keyword domains.

  • Attila March 15, 2011, 5:10 am

    Yeah, I am feeling the second gold rush too…though I feel 6 months ago, it was a lot easier compared to 3 months ago and now even more difficult.

    For instance, 6 months ago I was able to get about 50% of the names I want just by pounding the registry. Around 3 months ago I saw it drop to around 25% and now, roughly 5-10% of the names I want, I can get.

    In other words, this second gold rush is becoming more and more tight to get the name at $10 a year. If the name is really worth $70, best bet is to put in your bids at namejet and snapnames within the last hour of closing time.

  • Luka March 15, 2011, 6:07 am

    It’s not easy to pick good dropping domain names without tools I would say. I am using both exdomain and drt to make my chances bigger. Direct access to the dropping domain names lists is I think a great advantage of exdomain, where you donwload the lists you want to analyze and you can scan thousands of domain to check the backlinks, pr, age, availibility and other parameters (there are a lot of them available). What should be said is that indeed this business seems to be a good thing to get interested in. It’s obvious that that the generall number of good words in domain names is somehow restricted and will be finished soon. We can count on new company names or new word that will appear in the dictionaries (which of course is possible taking into consideration world and technology developement, but might be not easy). However company names is cybersquatting in most cases so it’s not a future. New words will most likely not appear in sufficient number. So it might happen so that the further the regular market of domain registering (buying) goes the more important becomes the market of dropping domains, which finally will HAVE TO become more valuable and more important than the regular reigstering.

  • Joe Wilson March 15, 2011, 8:06 am

    Thanks Morgan!
    I’ve been re-evaluating my own purchasing habits and have been starting to watch the drop market a bit more closely.

    What resource do you use for checking domain age, DMOZ, traffic, etc?

    Thanks again

  • Felix Tan March 15, 2011, 8:41 am

    Name.com is pretty good for checking dropped domains as well I guess. I’ve been using it to reg many brandable 5L .coms ☺

  • Mercury March 15, 2011, 10:15 am

    Totally true. I’d go as far to argue that the second gold rush will be more profitable than the first for the simple reasons that a) Domainers are more clued up – b) Domains are not just domains any more, some of them have pre-established authority/position/links – c) Google has proven it loves both brand domains and keyword domains and more businesses are realising the value, the real business value of a quality domain.

  • Buy .In Domain March 15, 2011, 10:16 am

    Expired domains have made me some solid money.

    However, as I got into the domain game like everyone else and thought “I know it all” it took some lessons you can only leave an imprint on your brain of by living the lesson. Unfortunately, some of us are hard headed.

    I ended up with a massive portfolio, basing my purchases solely upon the face thatit has or didn’t have exact keyword search volume. A lot of money spent, few sales.

    However there have been ten domains I hand registered because they sounded right to me – period. No Google Keyword Tool, none of that BS. Guess what two get offers regularly to this day and 6 of them have sold within 6 months of registering them.

    Then I run into weird situations with names I really thought would do well like SiriusSportster.Com (drop pick up – currently VERY poorly developed) which was a combination of my gut quickly getting interested and the raw data including our lovely estibot / valuate tools which give you some sort of gauge on where to go with price.

    Anyways I only got one offer for it and it was not nearly in line with what I expected, it was actually pretty insulting lol.

    Anyways, Morgan I am going to liquidate a large portion of my portfolio and just go with my gut as it is what has lead to sales for me personally. Doesn’t work for everyone but it has for me.

    I also think doing what you are doing and ONLY registering domains you are going to develop is very important. Just using parking pages is nearly pointless in this day and age. Instead of people making a lot of posts about that and focusing on finding true development tools, not noomle etc .. people just keep introducing “new parking companies” as if it matters lol !!

    Anyways, good post !

  • Emil March 15, 2011, 1:13 pm

    Unfortunately when a domain is deleted, age and link profile don’t matter anymore. Google will discart those links. There is also a Matt Cutts video on YT about it.


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