Mueller Explains Ranking Bonuses Associated with Expired Domains
Google’s John Mueller recently answered a question in an Office-hours hangout about whether or not reviving content on a parked domain would have any ranking benefit. It’s a valid question because, before trying out new domains, it’s highly recommended for site owners to do their due diligence and conduct an SEO domain analysis. Mueller’s answers covered how Google handles parked or expired domains, driving home the importance of conducting an SEO analysis before purchasing a domain.
Expired and Parked Domains
A parked domain refers to one that’s registered but isn’t in use. On the other hand, an expired domain is a domain that was registered before but has now expired and has thus been returned to the pool for registration by someone else. When people purchase expired domains from a domain broker, they are actually buying previously registered parked domains.
Authority of Expired Domains
The SEO who asked the question wanted to know if a parked domain still has any “authority” left, which would allow it to receive indexing and ranking benefits from Google.
According to the person, their domain has been unused for four years, and their blog was performing well in its niche. However, since they didn’t want to sell the domain, they removed all of its content and left it parked. Now, they want to revive the site content, but they’re taking a slightly different approach this time.
Essentially, they wondered if Google needed to learn about the blog all over again or if they actually had an advantage in becoming an authority in their niche due to the old domain.
In his response, Mueller did not cover the question of website authority, but he has previously denied that Google uses any metric to indicate authority.
Mueller Talks About Google and Expired Domains
Mueller first said that expired domains don’t provide any ranking benefits. Next, he told SEOs what they should do in such a scenario.
According to Mueller, if the material had been gone for a few years, Google would need to determine what the website is about all over again, just like how they treat new domains. In that case, the SEO should not expect additional advantages just because they had content there in the past.
Mueller assumes that the SEO will have to build their site again like any other. If they shut down their business for four years and then reopen, it’s unlikely that previous customers will remember the company. Moreover, it would look very different as it may provide various services that they did not offer before. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that one would have to start from scratch. This is another reason why it’s usually a bad idea to buy expired domains in the hopes of obtaining crawling and indexing benefits.
Expired Domains Do Not Give Ranking Bonus
For those with 20 years or more experience in the SEO industry, it is not surprising to hear that expired domains have no advantage. This generation of SEOs started the practice of purchasing expired domains, and they were the ones to witness Google’s implemented algorithm to deal with the problem.
In the past, SEOs saw first-hand how expired domains benefited sites in terms of ranking. Not only were they beneficial for search engine optimisation, but Google’s toolbar also showed how much PageRank they offered. And expired domains were not the only ones containing holdover PageRank; even links to broken domains might also provide PageRank.
The method involved using a crawler to visit a well-known website and examine the inbound links that gave back a 404 Page Not Found error. Those 404s were links redirecting to non-existent sites and pages.
SEOs used to buy such domains, which were often misspellings, and then redirected them to affiliate sites. The PageRank would flow in a few weeks, and the affiliate site would begin to climb in rankings. This technique was a part of the practice of recycling PageRank to boost site rankings without building links. In short, they were link building shortcuts.
How Google Deals with Expired Domains
Google discovered about the practice and, in 2003, altered their link-related algorithms to reset the PageRank of expired domains. That may come as a surprise to newcomers to SEO who believe in expired domains. However, it’s true that since 2003, Google’s algorithm has reset the PageRank and the link influence of expired domains.
This matter was also announced by a Google engineer who used the WebmasterWorld nickname GoogleGuy. Usually, Matt Cutts used the alias, but other search engineers also used the nickname to make announcements on behalf of Google.
In a WebmasterWorld post, Google announced the launch of the index and added that they focused more on algorithms that deal with spam issues. They also noted that the algorithm system would deal with expired domains much better. Domain authority will be reset when the domain expires, even if some links redirecting to the expired domain are still available on the Internet.
Expired domains could still rank, but not due to pre-existing links. Moreover, expired domains would still carry pre-existing penalties, so SEOs should always do their due diligence and conduct an SEO analysis before buying a domain.
Aside from expired domains, PageRank resets were applied to misspelt domains as well. Afterwards, there was a decline in the selling of expired domains, and people in the SEO community stopped purchasing them.
Why Are People Buying Expired Domains Again?
Around ten years later, a new generation of SEOs emerged and rediscovered expired domains without realising how Google had previously worked to ensure they were no longer active. As a result, the expired domain practices began again.
Anecdotal evidence can be used to defend almost any SEO strategy. There are even vocal supporters for ineffectual tactics such as comment spam. So, it’s no surprise that expired domain practices would resurface again.
Adversarial Information Retrieval is Google’s way of designing search systems that are resistant to manipulation. Here are some of what Google’s search systems can do:
- Limit how much PageRank transfers from one website to another based on the relevance of the link
- Stop PageRank from flowing from links in the footer or sidebar
- Stop PageRank from flowing from one website to another because the links are not relevant
Choose the Best Domain for Your Business
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