August 29, 2022 0 314

How to Earn Money by Acquiring Expired Domains: a Case Study from an Analysis of 10 000 Domain Names

Dmitry Sokhach, an SEO expert and founder of Shared.domains spoke at the "NaZakhid” 20th online conference about how to get the most out of expired domains. The SEO expert made his remarks after making research in which he analyzed 10 000 expired domains that passed through his Shared.domains service.

In this article, we are sharing with you the main findings of Dmitry Sokhach on how to make the most of expired domains.


About Expired Domains

Expired domains are domains that were registered by individuals or legal entities, but were subsequently suspended or not renewed by them. Such domains are available for re-registration and are usually sold on sites like Godaddy, Namejet, and other auction marketplaces. These domain names are used for:

  • Creation of sites
  • Creation of blogs
  • 301 redirects
  • Resale


Analysis of 10 000 Domains

Dmitry said that through Shared.domains, he, together with other SEO specialists, usually buy expired domains in a pool which they use to strengthen the search rankings of the main site that they promote.

Over the 2 years of the existence of the service, Dmitry and his mates bought a bunch of domains but also missed out on purchasing more than 10 000 domains on the auctions. The main reasons are either the high price or low bids. Nevertheless, after 2 years, they studied all of the domains, aggregated some of their data and they discovered some interesting instances.

Domains bought by Dmitry were analyzed with the following tools based on the parameters mentioned below:

  • Ahrefs: He used Ahrefs to analyze the domain index - does it have traffic, ranking history, presence of keywords that are atypical for a particular domain, external links, and anchors
  • Web Archive: Through Web Archive, he checked whether the domains were used by the Chinese, whether they were hacked before, or whether they were members of PBN networks, and so on.

He also checks if a trademark and other privacy features are associated with a particular domain.

Services Recommended by Dmitry for Domain Analysis

In addition to Ahrefs and Web.Archive, Dmitry recommends using the following platforms to evaluate expired domains.

1. Namebio

A $10/month subscription to Namebio can help you learn about a website's history. It shows when and for how much a domain was purchased. The platform allows you to see the sales history of a particular domain and also track its popularity.

As an example, the screenshot below shows that a domain bought in 2017 for $155 was sold in 2020 for $455.


2. Spamzilla

Spamzilla is one of the few services that allow you to find out the full information and history of a domain in the shortest possible time. In addition, it allows you to monitor the availability of new domains in auctions and updates statistics every day.

3. Domain Rank

Domain Rank for domain rating.

4. Trust Flow

Trust Flow for increasing the site's trust index. You can also see screenshots from the web archive of the site, and find out its age, subject, and other data.


What Determines the Price of Expiring Domains

The price of vacant domains is formed by 3 factors:

1. The domain name's length and branding. For example, the most expensive domain in history is Voice.com, which was bought for $30 000 000 by an NFT project exchange. Other examples of selling short domains for millions of dollars:

  • Sex.com — $14 000 000
  • Slots.com — $5 500 000
  • Wise.com — $2 000 000

2. Number of external links and topics

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3. Traffic. Domains with weak links but high traffic are highly valued. This is because if there is traffic on the site, it implies that it does not have Google filters. The features of the site in Ahrefs are shown in the screenshot below: it has nearly no links, but there is traffic.

This domain was sold on June 18, 2022, for $3 250.

Very often, expired domains with traffic are used for money sites — they restore content and monetize it.

Case: Making the Most from a Domain that was Previously Belonging to a Redirect Page

Dmitry talked about a domain that he once bought. It was previously linked to a redirect page for a long time, and then the page lost its traffic in 2016. After a while, the site was fully removed from the Google index, and all traffic to it faded away.

Sokhach’s team bought this domain in 2019 for $300. They linked it to a new site and filled the website with content. Today the site’s traffic is at 20 000 unique visits per month.

Dmitry believes that his team managed to save money by buying a domain that was previously a redirect, because, in addition to traffic, the site has good indicators:

  • DR — 40
  • RD — 500


Expired Domain Statistics that Were Gathered after the Review

After analyzing 10 000 domains that passed through the Shared.domains service, Dmitry and his team collected the following interesting statistics:

  • 5.5% became successful sites. The criteria for success was the traffic of 2 000 or more site visits per month
  • 11% turned into redirect pages
  • 4% were resold for a higher price

The rest of the sites are not used at all by their owners.

The distribution of domains by auctions where they were purchased can be seen in the screenshot below.


Most Successful Sites

Among the 10 000 domains that were reviewed under Shared.domains, a number of them turned out to become successful sites. successful sites participating in monitoring Shared. Dmitry said that they include;

  • Savedtattoo.com:  A tattoo website with 800 000 monthly visits and RD 900. It was purchased in December 2020 for $6 000.
  • Bareillycollege.org: Generated site with RD 200. It had 500 000 monthly visitors and had an RD of 200. It was bought in February 2022 for $1 550.
  • Deephollowranch.com: This domain was used to build a horse site with 100 000 monthly visitors and an RD of 255. It was purchased for $1 550 in May 2021.
  • Cookthink.com: This domain was used to build a recipe website with RD 2 200 and 178 000 visits per month. It was purchased in February 2021 for $14 650.
  • Certsimple.com: This domain was used to build a site with a is a generated site and an RD of 520. It was bought in February 2021 for $2 850 and it currently has 1 200 000 visits per month.

Two of the above domains are AI content-generated sites whose content is created using special GPT-3 software. Sokhach said that the trend for creating such sites was popular last year. However, as you can see in the screenshot below, after the May update of  Google, such sites lost traffic dramatically.

Dmitry spoke about his experience in promoting generated sites. He bought a vacant domain with only 100 RD. The site was dedicated to culinary topics. It was decided to fill it with content by translating YouTube videos into text.

In the screenshot below, the site, although it suffered from the May update of Google, nevertheless, it still has a decent amount of traffic today.


More about Successful Sites

After analyzing the entire path of successful sites on their Shared.domains service, Sokhach’s team concluded that the average cost of such a domain should be just under $3 000. This allows us to conclude in what price range it makes sense to buy vacant domains for their further monetization.

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Dmitry said that there is an opinion in the SEO community that a successful site requires a large number of links. This statement is not true, which is confirmed by the following case.

In February 2021, the guys bought the Hotframeworks.com domain for $3 100. Its RD at the time of purchase was only 336. The site did not make any major structural changes and also they did not increase the amount of reference mass. This decision was made, since the available links were from fairly authoritative sources, so they decided to promote the site with them. Now the site is an aggregator of hosting companies and is monetized through affiliate programs.

Dmitry believes that it’s not the number of links that matters, but rather their quality. If there are links, from big sites like Forbes, Business Insider, and other popular forums, then this will compensate for their small number.

Domain Resale

Domains without traffic and Google index are cheap. Those who know how to return a site to Google indexing buy such domains and resell them for a higher price already with traffic.

The pricing policy in the cases described above is as follows:
Sites are bought, on average, for $300, and resold with an index and traffic for $4 000. Other options for raising the value of the site and, accordingly, selling it for more than it was bought, are:

  • Writing content and attracting additional traffic
  • Boosting DR in Ahrefs
  • Resale of good domain names

An example of the latter would be PianoMedia.com, which was bought for $265 and is now selling for $3 160.

Dmitry shared this life hack: very often it turns out to buy a domain on Dropcatch or Namejet, and resell it on Godaddy without any improvements at all. This is because Godaddy is more popular than the first two exchanges and there is a tougher fight for domains.

PBN trend

As Google's algorithms learn and improve, it becomes more and more difficult to hide PBN from it. Recently, there have been such trends for building high-quality networks that Google will not fire:

  • The demand for domains with the maximum number of links to the main page is increasing
  • The price of domains increases significantly
  • The number of individual buyers of domains for building PBN is decreasing - more and more often they are bought by large sellers of PBN networks.


Question and Answers

At the end of his speech at the NaZakhid conference, Dmitry Sokhach held a Q&A session with the audience and dropped some value bombs. Here is how that went:


Q: How to update your knowledge in website promotion and be aware of all SEO innovations? Should I buy expensive courses?

A colleague of mine says, “You should watch Ahrefs like TV.” I completely agree with him here - this service is the main source that allows you to keep abreast of all changes and analyze patterns in website promotion.

Regarding training courses — they are suitable only as basic knowledge. Updating and updating them is possible only in practice. Experiments such as changing the title, keywords, and different approaches to content formation, even with a small ten-page site, will give much more experience and knowledge than advanced courses.

The best way to learn and improve is to do the full SEO cycle, from finding and buying a domain to the steps to getting your site up in the Google SERPs.

Q: What is the risk of buying expired domains that were previously owned by the Chinese?

Very rarely it is possible to bring the site to the top positions since there are many filters on the domains used by the Chinese. We have a case where we bought a beautiful domain for $900, but overlooked that the Chinese were using it. As a result, all attempts to appeal to Google, as well as actions to promote the site, did not bring results. The domain dangles in the hundredth positions in the search results.

Q: Does it make sense to create and promote directory sites or is this topic already dead?

Our team has a site that is a catalog of IT company websites, and we thought that it had no hopes of being among the top sites in search rankings. However, after the May update of Google, it even slightly increased in positions.

From the experience of observing other directory sites, I can say that many of them are successfully growing and have millions of traffic indicators.

The main difficulty in promoting such sites is to differentiate the card in the catalog so that the site is not a duplicate of the existing numerous catalogs in a particular topic. First of all, this must be done for Google algorithms to “notice” and rank the site.

Q: How to see a redirect that Ahrefs doesn't notice?

For this purpose, it is better to use the service "PublicWWW" or "Bing Webmaster". By adding competitor sites to these resources, you can see their backlinks.

Q: How to decide to restore the site or make it a redirect?

You need to look at the backlinks and if there are content pages there, then you can try to restore them so that they are subsequently ranked by the search engine.

If the site belonged, for example, to a restaurant or other business, then most of the domains there will go to the main page. Such a domain is easy to use under a redirect.

Q: Is there a secret to how to buy domains at an auction cheaper?

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There are no special secrets, I can only advise you to bid on Saturday night, when it is night in Europe and the west of America, in Australia it is only morning and the auction is not very active. But keep in mind that some auction participants use auto-bid, which can also outbid the price of domains.

Q: What do you think about the May updates of Google?

I believe that they are primarily aimed at fighting affiliate sites. Google removes competitors of large and medium-sized businesses, clearing the way for big brands in the search engine.

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