Expired vs Aged Domains

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By  •  12 min read

There is a lot of confusion out there when it comes to aged domains and expired domains. Aside from people mixing the terms, there’s a lot of bad advice about which you should use and what criteria to look for when purchasing one.

I will clear this up and help you create a framework of understanding for what makes expired and aged domains valuable and which one you should be looking for when building new websites or improving the authority of a site you already have.

What is an Expired Domain?

Expired domains, sometimes referred to as dropped domains, were registered at some point and then allowed to expire without being renewed. There may be various reasons for this, including the owner forgetting to renew, the website ceasing operations, the domain being penalized, etc.

You need to be very careful with expired domains as many issues could lead to the domain being permanently tainted. Some of these issues include:

  • Shady linkbuiding practices
  • Previously used for a PBN
  • Used for adult content, illicit content, pharmaceuticals, etc

These are typically the most common reasons for an expired domain to be a bad purchase. However, the list isn’t exhaustive. You need to be meticulous when conducting your due diligence with expired domains.

What is an Aged Domain? 

Aged domains are similar in many ways to expired domains, except that they’ve preferably never been dropped. This means they were purchased and used by a website and never left to expire.

There are typically two places where you can purchase aged domains, directly from the owner or from a marketplace that has purchased the domain without letting it expire. Many businesses will sell a domain standalone if it’s worth a lot and there isn’t any content on their website to sell.

While aged domains are typically a safer bet than expired domains, you will still need to conduct proper due diligence. You don’t know what the domain was used for prior to the previous owner, and it’s possible to find aged domains that are overvalued or spammed out.

9 Things To Look At When Determining The Value

When conducting your due diligence, there are a few things that you want to look at before settling on a domain. One of the key things to consider is how relevant the domain is to the website you’re setting up.

While you may have read about people buying and redirecting random domains to build authority, this isn’t something that I advise. Instead, only purchase topically relevant domains, whether you intend to use them as the primary domain or redirect it.

1. Previous Websites

When looking at an aged or expired domain, the first thing you want to check out is what websites were previously built on it. You can do this through a tool like Archive.org, which allows you to explore the history of a domain and see most of the previous websites associated with it.

Look out for websites associated with adult content, drugs, spam, PBNs, or anything else that you wouldn’t want your website associated with.

Remember, if you can find these websites, so can other people, and likely so did Google when the website was active.

Ideally, a legitimate business’s website will have long periods built on the domain or long stretches of the domain owned by auction sites. What you want to watch for are lots of random websites in foreign languages or with poor auto-generated content. This is usually the sign of PBNs.

2. Backlink Profile

Once you’ve confirmed the previous websites built on the domain all checkout, I recommend looking through the existing link profile. Pay particular attention to any spammy links or large groups of non-relevant domains, meaning domains that seem to be from random websites.

These are typically signs that one or more of the previous owners of the domain engaged in shady link practices that could have led to penalties.

If you see links from foreign language sites, avoid the domain unless you can confirm it’s from high-quality sites such as an authoritative foreign blog, news site, or government agency. I would also avoid links from foreign language sites in Chinese, Japanese, or Russian. These links are often associated with spam sites, gambling sites, and illegal marketplaces.

3. Unobtainable Backlinks

In addition to looking at the backlink profile, you want to pay careful attention to links from websites that you wouldn’t be able to obtain on your own or that would be prohibitive in cost or time to get.

Examples of this are links from sites like Wall Street Journal, New York Times, government websites, etc. I usually avoid buying aged domains or expired domains that don’t have unobtainable backlinks.

Since backlinks are a primary benefit to purchasing an aged or expired domain, it makes no sense to spend money on links that you can easily obtain yourself.

4. Brandibility / Topical Relevance

If you are trying to determine the value of a domain to use as the primary domain for your website, you want to look at how brandable and topically relevant it is. This is opposed to a domain that you are planning to redirect for authority, which should still be topically relevant but doesn’t need to be brandable.

I mean that you want a catchy, brandable domain related to the website you plan on building on it. So, for example, don’t buy a golf domain if you plan to build a website about pets. 

While many people will buy up random aged and expired domains and redirect them to their primary website, I highly encourage you to avoid this. It’s a shady link-building practice and quite easy for the human reviewers at Google to figure out. It could also devalue your website if you ever want to sell it.

5. Age of the Domain

Older domains with no spammy websites previously built on them and a clean backlink profile will be more valuable than a domain only in use for a year. This is especially the case with a domain that was continuously used by the original business.

While not common, it is possible to find domains that were in use for long periods, and for one reason or another, the site is discontinued. Usually, this is due to the site owner going out of business or simply not wishing to continue running the website.

At this point, the owner can decide to sell the domain in a private auction, or an aged domain company will purchase it. These types of domains don’t last long but make for great investments since they will typically have more pages still indexed and a more extensive link profile.

While the age of the domain alone isn’t a factor in how much the domain is worth, older domains with clean link profiles are better than newer ones.

6. Indexed or Not

Often, older domains will have indexed pages that still show up in Google. This is especially true if you purchase a domain directly from a website owner or if it only recently appeared on an aged domain marketplace. It’s also possible for some expired domains to still have indexed pages though this is hit or miss.

Assuming the domain I’m looking at meets all of the above criteria, if the domain is still indexed, or if there are pages relevant to the site I’m building still indexed, it’s more valuable to me. This is also a good sign that a domain isn’t suffering from any manual actions and can be indexed. 

With both expired and aged domains, you never really know if a website has a manual action against it until you get it hooked up to Google Search Console. While conducting proper due diligence can help you avoid this, I’ve purchased aged and expired domains that wouldn’t index properly, so there is always some risk involved, as with any investment.

7. Residual Traffic

Assuming you followed my advice and found a topically relevant domain to the website you are currently building and the websites previously built on that domain are relevant, look for any traffic still coming into the website.

You can find this out using tools like Ahrefs. Assuming the above is true, this traffic will likely be relevant to the website you are building and can add a nice boost to your growth efforts in the beginning.

It isn’t a deal-breaker if a domain doesn’t have any traffic visiting. However, the more relevant traffic the website has coming in, the more valuable it will be and the faster you can get up and running.

8. Top Level Domain

Usually, I look for domains where the TLD is a common .com, .net, or even a .org. These TLDs have a higher level of trust as they are the most commonly used and are easily recognizable to potential visitors.

This doesn’t mean you should completely discount domains with a non-common TLD such as a .agency or .business. If the domain meets all of the criteria set out above and is relevant to the website you plan on building, go for it.

However, if there is a choice between two similar websites, such as learntogolf.com and lovefor.golf, I would opt for the .com TLD. Again, this is a personal preference, but I find that common TLDs tend to convert better.

9. Trademark Free

One final thing to look for when determining the value of an aged or expired domain is whether or not it’s been previously trademarked. This is one of the more crucial steps in your due diligence. If you find a trademarked domain, avoid it, no matter how good the other stats are.

There are various ways you can check for a trademarked domain. For businesses in the US, the best place to start is through the United States Patent and Trademark Office trademark search. Make sure to check every business that was built on the domain.

For example, if there were three other businesses built on the domain, it’s possible the second owner had a trademark, and the third owner built on the domain not realizing this. If that trademark is still active and you create a website on the domain, you can be held responsible.

Don’t assume that it’s free of trademarks because a domain is expired or you purchased it from an aged domain broker. Always conduct proper due diligence to minimize downsides in buying aged and expired domains.

Two Ways To Choose Between Aged & Expired Domains?

Before rushing to buy an expired domain or an aged domain, you should understand a few things that can help you know which is right for you. Both expired and aged domains have their use, but you need to understand which is right for your needs.

1. Your Budget

The first thing to think about is how much you have to spend on a domain. Aged domains are going to be much more expensive than expired domains. Most aged domains will sell for at least a few hundred dollars, but you’re more likely to find domains that meet all of the above criteria going for a few thousand or more.

On the other hand, expired domains will cost whatever the registration price is on the registrar you use. The catch here is that you will be spending significant amounts of time searching for a domain that meets all of the above criteria. 

If you don’t have much money to work with, but you have a lot of time, then an expired domain is the way to go. However, I always stick with aged domains as they are better for building authority when used correctly.

2. Purpose of the Domain

If you are looking for a primary domain for your website, I would avoid using expired domains. You want to make sure that you purchase a top-notch domain with a solid backlink profile that’s brandable, and this is easier to accomplish with an aged domain.

Aged domains are also usually a safer bet in terms of not having manual actions or penalties on them. Most companies selling aged domains will have done their own due diligence, ensuring you a high-quality selection.

Expired domains have a higher opportunity for issues. It’s hard to know why the domain was left to expire. Even with expired domains that meet all of the above criteria, it’s possible it was left to expire because it was built on PBN and hit with a penalty. You will never know until you buy it and check it on Google Search Console. 

If you are buying domains to redirect to your primary domain, you can opt for expired domains. However, be extra diligent when looking into the history of the domain.

Takeaway – Which One Wins The Race?

I recommend an aged domain nine times out of ten for most people. This isn’t to say that an expired domain can’t be used. I’ve successfully built sites on expired domains. There are too many variables that make them sub-optimal choices.

Aged domains, on the other hand, when properly vetted, can give you a definite advantage when building your website or give you a solid boost when using them to build authority. I have successfully used aged domains from Odys Global and similarly aged domain marketplaces and find they are much more reliable than expired domains.

If you are serious about building a website that will rank and want the advantage of a domain with previous backlinks and traffic, I believe aged domains to be the way to go.

Mushfiq is the founder of Stream-SEO.com. He has 14+ years of experience in all things digital marketing. His forte is buying, growing, and selling online businesses. He has done 218+ website flips to date since 2008.