Matt Cutts’ New Video on How to Avoid Buying Domains that Were Blacklisted by Google
In a video that was recently uploaded on the Google Webmasters YouTube page, Matt Cutts gave tips on how to avoid buying domain names that have been blacklisted by Google.
Wally from Reno asked, “How can we check to see if a domain (bought from a registrar) was previously in trouble with Google? I recently bought [one] and unbeknownst to me, the domain isn’t being indexed and I’ve had to do a reconsideration request. How could I have prevented [that]?”
Cutts pointed out that webmasters have two choices when it comes to acquiring domains: they can either register a fresh domain name (thus avoiding the sticky issue of bad domain history), or buy an existing domain from someone else or a registrar. The problem with buying existing domains is that some may have been banned by Google for using black hat SEO tactics like spamming or participating in link schemes.
Here are some precautionary tips for webmasters:
Perform Site-Colon Searches
Before buying existing domains, Cutts said webmasters should do site searches for the domains. Webmasters can do a site-colon search by typing “site:” plus the root URL of the site they want to explore. The root URL is the web address minus the “http://” and/or “www”. A site-colon search on Google would look like this: site:mywebsite.com
“If [there are] 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 anyway, so that might not indicate anything”, stated Cutts. Nevertheless, if webmasters perform site-colon searches and see zero results, that’s often a bad sign.
Perform Domain Searches
Cutts also advised webmasters to search for the domain name, or the name of the domain minus the “.com” in order to assess the reputation of that domain on the Internet. “Were people spamming with that domain name? 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,” stated Cutts.
Check the Internet Archive
Cutts asked webmasters to use the Internet Archive; they can go to archive.org and enter the domain name. The Internet Archive will show webmasters previous versions of that site. If the site looked suspiciously spammy in the past, then it would be wise to avoid buying that domain name to avoid problems with Google.
Domains that have been permanently banned by Google because of serious violations to its Quality Guidelines will require some serious spring cleaning—whether it’s identifying and removing unnatural links, or removing or no-following paid links that pass PageRank.
Send Reconsideration Requests
Sending Google a reconsideration request with extensive documented proof that you’ve tried to rectify the violation is a tedious process that could take weeks or months. Even if the manual penalty is lifted, recovering visibility on SERPs will require a lot of hard work and white hat SEO. In other words, unless you have good reason for wanting to purchase a domain with a spammy past, it’s better to choose another domain.
Check the Analytics or Webmaster Tools Console
On the other hand, if webmasters are thinking of buying domains from those who currently own them, they should ask the owners for the analytics or Webmaster Tools console to check messages or screenshots to help them track the domain’s traffic over time. Webmasters should avoid domains with traffic that has dropped precipitously, as it could indicate manual penalties from Google.
Disavow Incoming Links on Spammy Domains
In conclusion, Cutts asked webmasters to carefully consider their motives for buying the domain names. If it’s because the domain contains great content and incoming links, Cutts said that incoming links might not carry over when the domain acquires a new owner. If the previous owner was spamming, it would be advisable to disavow all links to get a fresh start with the domain.
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