SEO tools to evaluate used domain names

One of the reasons for buying a used domain name is to inherit backlinks. Another is the name itself, especially if it represents your business or includes a main keyword.

Whatever the reason, buying a used domain requires a lot of due diligence. A domain name with a spammy search engine optimization history could spell big trouble if the acquirer redirects their backlinks and passes Google’s penalties.

So before investing in a second-hand domain, run it through these three tools:

  • return machine,
  • DomainIQ,
  • Ahrefs.

Domain name tools

1. return machine for relevance. Knowing the content of the previous site is important because its associations will be difficult to overcome, especially if it has been active for several years.

The acquired domain should closely match your current (or future) business. Avoid taboo subjects at all costs.

return machine, the largest free archive of web pages, is perfect for this purpose. Enter the domain you’re considering and check registered records over multiple years – review changes over that time, including new owners. Analyzing the “About Us” page can help.

2. DomainIQ for associated websites. Verifying domain registrations is difficult given stricter domain privacy laws and registrar default privacy settings.

Nevertheless, a few tools have stored these records, making them easier to review.

DomainIQ is one such tool. The free version reveals the number of sites (with snapshots) associated with the domain, date of registration, ownership changes, and snapshots of associated sites.

More detailed information requires an upgrade, starting at $24.95 per month. Avoid related sites with poor content and networks of interconnected sites.

DomainIQ reveals the sites associated with a domain, its registration date and ownership changes. VSlick the image to enlarge it.

PublicWWW is another useful tool for identifying site networks. While DomainIQ uses ownership to find related domains, PublicWWW looks at sites with common code, such as Google Analytics or AdSense.

Search PublicWWW for the name of the brand or the name of the previous owner, and the tool will find any sites that mention them in the code.

3. Ahrefs for backlinks and traffic. Google claims to know (and take into account) when a domain changes ownership. But in my experience, poor link building practices used by a previous owner tend to hurt the acquirer’s organic search rankings. So avoid domains with spammy backlinks.

There are many ways to spot low quality backlinks. I prefer to look at the anchor text and identify spammy links via:

  • Large groups of backlinks with the same anchor text (which often reads abnormally).
  • Anchor text that exactly matches searchable keywords.

A natural backlink profile consists of brand names and common words. Ahrefs is a paid tool that makes it easy to analyze anchor text. Enter the domain name in “Site Explorer” and go to “Anchors” in the “Backlink profile” section. The report contains the number of referring domains, with the most common anchor text at the top.

Ahrefs also provides in the “Overview” section an overview of organic traffic over the years. Also check this report. Looks for steep drops in organic traffic that could signal those from Google manual actionswhich are difficult to lift.

Screenshot of Ahref's anchor text section

Ahrefs makes it easy to analyze anchor text. Enter the domain name in “Site Explorer” and go to “Anchors” in the “Backlink profile” section on the left. Click on the image to enlarge.

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