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How To Find Expired High Ranking Domains


  • What is an expired domain?
  • What is the value of an expired domain?
  • How to find expired domains
  • How to choose high quality domains
  • How to use the domain to your advantage

how to find expired high ranking domains

What is an expired domain?

An expired domain is merely one where the registration hasn’t been renewed when the contract expired or in some cases it may have been deliberately dropped by the former owner.

You are probably right to be cautious when thinking of buying an expired domain, there are many pitfalls, but in SEO terms an expired domain with a good quality backlink profile can provide you with a head start when it comes to getting ranked by search engines.

The first question you are probably asking is why would someone let their domain drop or close it down purposely. Obviously every case is different but domains are likely to be dropped because the project wasn’t going as well as they hoped or maybe the offline business has ceased trading (so there’s no point having the accompanying website). It’s possible that the domain owner was warned about infringing someone else’s copyright – maybe the domain includes a trademark term.

Obviously there is a certain amount of due diligence you will need to perform before buying/using an expired domain as you don’t want to bring up loads of issues that outweigh any SEO benefits.

What is the value of an expired domain?

The primary reasons to go for an expired domain would be its backlink profile, existing traffic and ‘domain authority’.

One of the factors used by search engines to determine who gets on page 1 of the rankings is the number and quality of backlinks to your page.
Using a tool such as ahrefs you can see how many backlinks you are likely to need to rank on the first page of google for a given term. Let’s assume you are creating a site about personal finance and you are writing an article around the keyword ‘best credit card’. As you can see below, ahrefs estimates you would need backlinks from more than 220 unique websites.

best credit card keyword

Now if you have a brand new domain that you’ve just started blogging on, then getting 224 backlinks will cost you (either time, money or both!)

Buying a relevant expired domain can shortcut the process significantly. You also should remember the google ‘sandbox’. While google deny its existence most experienced SEO’s think that it is unlikely that a completely new domain will rank for 6 months or so after going live. This is what people refer to as the ‘sandbox’.

If you can sidestep that delay then wouldn’t that be helpful to your business?

Ideally you need to be looking for domains with a DA (Domain Authority) of 25 or higher although hunting for domains is now pretty competitive so that might be easier said than done.

Assuming that you are able to find a domain then there are 3 primary ways you would use an expired domain:

  • 301 redirect: this a permanent redirection of the expired domain to point to your existing site that you want to rank. This is the simplest to execute but will really only be of use where the niches match up closely. It’s also not a good idea to use this tactic more than once or twice for any given site.
  • build an authority niche site: arguably the best use of the site would be to use it as the starting point for an authority niche site. The ‘in built’ authority from the expired domain plus some well written keyword targeted content should give you a great chance of ranking well in google.
  • PBN network: bit of grey/black hat method and therefore best avoided these days. Basically you would use a number of different expired domains to create links to the sites you wanted to rank and therefore push that site’s ranking higher.


How to find expired domains.

There are a number of different ways to find expired domains. First let’s look at the free methods/tools.

Free ways to find expired domains.

If you haven’t currently got the budget to spend on paid tools then ExpiredDomains.net (see above) is a good place to start.

Go and set yourself up with a free account (you’ll be able to save your filter settings).

There are an amazing list of options if you click on the show filter option. You can also decide which columns you want to view using the column manager. I tend to add in the TF (Trust Flow), CF (Citation Flow) and the Majestic Trust Ratio under the Majestic General tab.

Most people are probably going to go for .com domains as they are seen as the ‘best’.

However, if you have a particular local service in mind then you might target so of the other domains such as .co.uk, .ca, .au or .nz for example. It’s also worth nothing that if you are able to deal with languages other than english then that might prove useful since ranking in other languages tends to be easier.

If you are looking for .com’s then I wouldn’t bother looking much beyond the last 24 hours as anything useful is probably already taken.

I’ve seen suggestions to set the Majestic TF filter from 10 to 20 and the CF filter to plus or minus 50% (so 5 to 30). This is just to bring up sites that are worth further examination.

Since the ‘perfect’ score for both metrics is 100, the ideal ratio would I suppose have to be 1. So when looking for expired domains try to get something close to 1 if you can. Don’t go for anything where the ratio is below 0.6 as this is tending to suggest a large number of low quality links are involved.

A good tip is to try and get a domain with a keyword related to your niche as this often adds an extra little bit of authority in the mind of your visitor.

You should try to get one word domains where possible and avoid numerics and hyphens. Ideally try to get something ‘brandable’, catchy and as short as possible.

Another free tool you could try is SmallSEOTools.com. This site offers a number of free tools, one of which is an expired domain listing. Unfortunately it is very basic, although it does appear to accept wildcards in searches so you could do *golf*.com for example to bring back golf related .com domains.

Hopefully you’ve managed to find a short list of 2 or 3 possibilities. You will need to do some further checking though before purchasing, this is covered later in this article.

Domain finding tools

There are a number of tools out there that can help you find expired domains more quickly but unfortunately that convenience comes at a price.

Here is a rundown of some of the paid options:

Spamzilla.io: removes most, if not all of the hard work from finding expired domains and its paid plan is not hideously expensive at $37 per month. If you’re not too sure what to look for when deciding whether a domain is ‘safe’ to use then the spamzilla score that they developed gives you a quick overview of how the domain measures up.

Unlike a lot of the other scoring systems used by SEO tools, the lower the spamzilla score, the better that domain is. Scores under 6 would indicate a very clean domain, in SEO terms anyway. While scores of 20 and above would start to look less appealing. Although you may still find worthwhile sites with spamzilla scores above 20 they will be fewer than if you looked at domains with lower scores.

You can even set up spamzilla to email you daily  with expired domains that meet your criteria.

That just leaves you with the task of confirming you like the look of that domain and paying for it!

DomainHunterGatherer.com: unusually this is actually a downloadable program rather than a web based tool. To be fair it also has a free version so you could use it in place of (or as well as) expireddomains.net. The paid plans come in at $17 and $97 per month but both offer significantly more features than the free version.

The top tier plan also includes a tool to recover the website that was on the domain so you can use that when building out your new site.

DomCop.com: This has a 3 tier pricing structure with the lowest tier starting at $64 per month and that only includes access to the ‘expiring’ section. If you are looking to make a career out of flipping domains then DomCop might be a good fit but if you are just looking to pick up the odd domain here and there then the free options might be a better fit. Reviews would suggest a preference for spamzilla over DomCop.

RegisterCompass.com starting at the same monthly price as spamzilla – $37 per month. Covering all the major metrics this one might offer better value for those planning a career around expired domain trading as they offer a lifetime fee of $999. You are able to create lists of potentials and make your own notes.

spamzilla screenshot

How To Choose High Quality Domains

Once you have whittled down the millions of expired domains down to handful of possibilities, you will need to do a bit of due diligence before parting with your hard earned cash. If you have used a tool such as spamzilla then your shortlist should already be reasonably high quality anyway.

Things to check:

Age: google likes to give precedence to domains that are older. So the older the domain you are looking to buy, the better.

Backlinks: if you have access to a tool such as ahrefs then use its backlink checker to look at the backlinks. Do they come from legitimate sources, preferably in your niche? Does the site have a high domain authority? Is it using dofollow links? Do the links have foreign language characters in them (unless of course the site is based in that country)?

If you haven’t got a paid tool then try NeilPatel.com

Site history: take a look at the Wayback machine. You can go back through the various snapshots for the domain. If there are loads of redirects or the content doesn’t look relevant then you probably want to give that domain a wide berth. Chinese characters are definitely not a good sign.

Check for google ban: enter the domain into google’s transparency report to see if google has an issue with the site. Not a total deal breaker because you can re submit your sit to google but would be more risky than buying a domain that isn’t banned.

Check for Adsense ban: since AdSense is often used to monetise sites it’s a good idea to check if AdSense doesn’t like the domain. You can check here: AdsenseChecker.

If it all looks OK then go ahead and purchase it with NameCheap or your preferred domain registrar.

throwing dice

How To Use The Domain To Your Advantage

As previously stated there are three main ways of utilising the power of you newly purchased high authority domain.

PBN (Private Blog Network): this is beyond the scope of this article. While it is a widespread process, it always runs the risk of your site being penalised by google should they work out that you are using a PBN. Only you can decide if you want to run that risk.

301 Redirect: The simplest option. Just set up the domain to redirect to your ‘money’ site. However John Mueller, of transparent;”>Google poured water on using this tactic as shown in this article. Reading the rest of that article actually brings in to question whether there is actually any point doing it all for this purpose.

So that really only leaves one option:

Build out your site on top of what was already there to grab that ‘link juice’!

How To Find Expired High Ranking Domains: Conclusion

I hope you managed to take away the potential importance of expired domains and how to find them. Certainly I would have done things slightly differently with my own blog had I known then what I know now.


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backlink: a link from a third party website such as bbc.co.uk or wikipedia to some text on your page.

domain authority: a scoring system developed by moz.com to predict how likely a domain is to rank.