Google has a new Webmaster Help video out, in which Matt Cutts talks about buying domains that have had trouble with Google in the past, and what to do. Here’s the specific question he addresses:
How can we check to see if a domain (bought from a registrar) was previously in trouble with Google? I recently bought, and unbeknownst to me the domain isn’t being indexed and I’ve had to do a reconsideration request. How could I have prevented?
“A few rules of thumb,” he says. “First off, do a search for the domain, and do it in a couple ways. Do a ‘site:’ search, so, ‘site: domain.com’ for whatever it is that you want to buy. If there’s no results at all from that domain even if there’s content on that domain, that’s a pretty bad sign. If the domain is parked, we try to take parked domains out of our results anyways, so that might not indicate anything, but if you try do do ‘site:’ and you see zero results, that’s often a bad sign. Also just search for the domain name or the name of the domain minus the .com or whatever the extension is on the end because you can often find out a little of the reputation of the domain. So were people spamming with that domain name? Were they talking about it? Were they talking about it in a bad way? Like this guy was sending me unsolicited email, and leaving spam comments on my blog. That’s a really good way to sort of figure out what’s going on with that site or what it was like in the past.”
“Another good rule of thumb is to use the Internet Archive, so if you go to archive.org, and you put in a domain name, the archive will show you what the previous versions of that site look like. And if the site looked like it was spamming, then that’s definitely a reason to be a lot more cautious, and maybe steer clear of buying that domain name because that probably means you might have – the previous owner might have dug the domain into a hole, and you just have to do a lot of work even to get back to level ground.”
Don’t count on Google figuring it out or giving you an easy way to get things done.
Cutts continues, “If you’re talking about buying the domain from someone who currently owns it, you might ask, can you either let me see the analytics or the Webmaster Tools console to check for any messages, or screenshots – something that would let me see the traffic over time, because if the traffic is going okay, and then dropped a lot or has gone really far down, then that might be a reason why you would want to avoid the domain as well. If despite all that, you buy the domain, and you find out there was some really scuzzy stuff going on, and it’s got some issues with search engines, you can do a reconsideration request. Before you do that, I would consider – ask yourself are you trying to buy the domain just because you like the domain name or are you buying it because of all the previous content or the links that were coming to it, or something like that. If you’re counting on those links carrying over, you might be disappointed because the links might not carry over. Especially if the previous owner was spamming, you might consider just going a disavow of all the links that you can find on that domain, and try to get a completely fresh start whenever you are ready to move forward with it.”
Cutts did a video about a year ago about buying spamming domains advising buyers not to be “the guy who gets caught holding the bag.” Watch that one here.
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