It’s hard to argue that value isn’t everywhere. Every time we open up our laptops or log onto our PCs, we enter a global space of potential benefit. From obvious competitive spaces to hidden corners online, if you aren’t searching for ways to win, then you’re probably losing out.
The expired domain market is one of those areas. But it’s often overlooked. Buying expired domains should present some obvious plus points: investing to re-sell, growing online real estate, and search engine optimization (SEO) benefits — investing in value should be a no-brainer.
That’s not to say everything you can invest in yields the same potential.
Whether you’re new to expired domains or know of them already, let’s dive into this comprehensive guide, so you can navigate the market, spot valuable domains, and reap possible rewards in confidence.
As marketing master class creator Torsten Mueller puts it, domain names are never really owned, they’re rented — an expired domain is a domain whose owner stopped paying the rent.
The domain was registered to someone once. It had a purpose. Maybe it was a commercial site with real traffic or perhaps a private project for personal gain. Then, for whatever reason, when the time came to re-register the domain, the previous owner didn’t.
People buy domains for all kinds of reasons, and they let them expire for all kinds of reasons too.
Sometimes it happens by mistake.
Domain owners can choose not to auto-renew their registration, for example. Maybe they’re unsure of whether they’ll want it in a year, or perhaps it’s expensive — no one wants the shock of large sums leaving their account for a domain they don’t want anymore.
Usually, they stop monitoring the email account linked to the domain’s registrar, miss alerts for impending expiry, and the domain is now among expired domains for sale.
Using temporary domains is common too. People use placeholder domains until their favorite domain can be registered. Some have short-term web projects or campaigns with limited shelf lives, so the registrant (person who registers the domain) bags their favorite and lets the temporary ones expire when they’re no longer needed.
So where do they end up?
Expiring domains go through multiple stages before they’re eventually deleted and re-released for public registration. Unless they’re put up for auction, that is.
During the redemption period, the registrar can enter the domain into an auction, a brilliant opportunity for those looking to buy aged domains. Sales only finalize if the domain isn’t re-registered before the redemption period is finished.
If it isn’t recovered, auctioned off, or kept by the registrar for their own purposes, it will enter the Pending Delete phase. After five calendar days, it’s then placed in the general market for people to register like new.
So what actually happens to the domain while it’s floating around these stages — is it still operational, are people still visiting the site, and can a domain be rendered useless during the last second before it's yours?
Before entering the grace period, the domain is still considered active, and services and visits are still possible. When the domain enters the grace period, that’s when it’s considered inactive, and any services linked to it stop working.
People may be able to visit your site during the grace period, but in the redemption period, your site will probably be replaced by a parked page — an inaccessible web page. So, people shouldn’t be able to tweak a site while the domain it’s under is being sold.
A quick term check.
Dropped domains are classed when the original owner fails to re-register them before the pending delete phase starts — before a football player gets sold, they get dropped.
After this, the domain is classed as a deleted domain.
What if it happens to you?
What if you are the one who accidentally let the renewal lapse on one of your domains? You were too busy and missed the email. Then one day, you check your site, and instead of your content, there’s a page from your registrar saying your domain has expired.
You can still recover your domain, it's just about when. If it’s a generic top-level domain like .com, .org, .info, etc., after your domain expires, it enters the grace period mentioned above. Here you can renew it without penalty. These on-hold domains are blocked for transfer, keeping your rental safe.
Still haven’t re-registered? You can re-acquire your domain in the redemption period too, but it comes with a fee. Be aware: some top-level domains are a lot less forgiving.
You’ll never win a game of chess without knowing which pieces do what. So, let’s do another term check — these two can get mixed up.
To make things clear, think of the difference like this.
An expired domain is typically referred to as a domain that’s currently expiring, progressing through the redemption period, being put up for auction, or being placed in a buy-now marketplace.
A dropped domain is also technically an expired domain, just at one stage of its expiry.
Deleted domain names, however, have passed the auction stage with no buyer or re-registration. And now the pending delete phase has kicked in.
The domain is no longer expired, it’s deleted.
The term deleted is a little misleading. It’s not deleted from existence, it’s sent back into the domain life cycle and can be registered like new.
Question is — if someone else deemed it useless, why wouldn’t you?
As is the case with pretty much everything around the world, there are pros and cons. But who wants to hear about the dreary stuff? Let’s dive into how buying expired domains could see you profit, before outlining things that could bring you to a loss.
When you start your search to get expired domain names, you’ll see ones with obvious appeal. They’ll have pronounceable keywords on a hot topic, for example. Heard of AI, electric cars, or crypto?
They’ll also be in a popular domain zone like .com, .org, or .net.
You might think these domains were top dollar, but when you see them at auction, they have no bids, and the sale is ending soon. There are lots of reasons for this. Chances are, the industry hasn’t picked up just yet, but why not take a bet that it will, and the domain you see in front of you will be worth a great deal when it does?
You should always assess aged domains for sale as soon as a domain drops — predicting future wins needs to be done now, and expired domains may be worth a fortune in years to come.
That said, the days of the domain gold rush are largely over. But people still pull nuggets out of the stream. Each nugget? A domain that will net them 10 or 20 times what they paid for it at auction.
The people who pull the most nuggets are those with the most pans in the water. Profitably reselling domain names is a numbers game requiring big investments.
For the casual participant, domain reselling should be seen as a fun hobby, one that can teach a lot about technology and the psychology of the internet. A bet worth making.
When buying an expired domain to improve search results ranking, the main attraction is the site’s history. Think of expired domain names not just "as good as new,’’ but as worthy antiques, bringing value from the past to the present.
In essence, a domain that’s been around for a long time will be ranked in search engines. This is from a range of SEO components, mainly SEO keywords, content relevancy, headings, and structure. Learning about SEO factors is key to identifying an expired domain’s true value. Tools for checking are plentiful, but some SEO keyword ranking tools, like SE Ranking, give you as many options as possible while making it simple to use, too.
Another thing to consider is a domain that once served content relevant to a niche market or to an established consumer type will probably have been talked about on other sites, too.
This creates a solid set of backlinks (links from external sites), giving your site a shiny finish in the eyes of Google ranking.
High numbers of quality backlinks are crucial to the way Google ranks sites. Some services maintain metrics of backlinks for hundreds of millions of domains. They develop models to assess the authority of the linking sites, allowing them to measure the quality of any expired domain’s backlinks.
There are different ways of harnessing the history of a domain with great backlinks. One simple option is redirecting visitors of the old to the one you’re now operating.
If the subject area is the same, you might get those visitors to adopt your site for their needs in the future. With a 301 Redirect, you can also hope that, in time, the crawlers from search engines will update your page with the rankings of the previous one.
It is, however, possible that the organic traffic from the expired and old domain won’t keep up.
Don’t expect it to passively boost your numbers by default. Building a successful SEO infrastructure on expired domains will take a bit of work.
There are more involved ways of putting your domain haul from the expired-domain sale to use, too. One way to boost your discoverability in search results is to create a network of interlinking content sites.
Think of it like owning a set of nightclubs, each named differently but all under your control. Each of the nightclubs helps to promote the others, usually one main one, through flyers, co-events, and paid promoters. The aim is to redirect traffic and build esteem through cross-marketing.
This strategy of creating a private blog network (PBN) is controversial. Google and others are on the lookout for sites that selfishly coordinate their own promotion. But niche site builder Ben Starr says most sites ranking in competitive niches will have a PBN behind them.
The recipe for PBN success in 2023 involves staying on top of several ongoing tasks.
Then there is the technical and quasi-clerical work needed to limit traceability:
• different hosts
• different content-management systems
• different content
• different registrars
Active domain sales
Some owners have registered a domain and paid the fee for a year or more but then decide they don’t need them. They now want to get some of their money back.
These domains end up in a different kind of auction, the active-domain sale. Registrars offer this service so users can register expired domains, or unwanted but active domains, with less hassle. They can also partner with marketplaces such as Afternic and Sedo to offer a wider range of domains.
Since these domains are also pre-owned, they come with the same potential benefits as expired domains. One of those plus points? Existing traffic.
Let’s say you just invested in a well-known theater. People have been visiting this theatre for decades; its name is trusted, and it always puts on a good show. For whatever reason, the previous owner wanted to sell, and now the name and long-standing audience are in your hands.
When you buy an expired domain, it may mean something to people already. This traffic can be great for building your site and retaining or boosting SEO ranking.
It raises a few questions — will you show the same plays, of similar genres, to the same crowd? Or will you sell something different, and forge a new business from there?
Whatever your reason, you should always look out for an existing user base. You should assess if that user base adds value for selling the domain, or could help you build your site quicker.
So, prior user bases and pre-existing awareness can benefit your new domain ownership.
If you’re looking to invest in the site yourself, building a brand or personal project, then good news — you can build a site effectively without having to start from scratch.
Pre-existing hosting can be game-changing; you don’t need to spend time weighing up providers, picking plans, server location, security measures, and the rest. You can also benefit from the marketing groundwork, helping to build up the user base that’s now yours to work with.
These don’t just skim some time off the top, they make things so much easier. That’s not to say you shouldn’t weigh up hosting plans for your new needs. You might have scalability in mind, in which case, you don’t want to miss out on the advantages of different hosting plans that could help your site grow and stay secure as it does.
Various types of buyers focus on domains as commodities. SEO professionals, domain flippers, and domain parkers have slightly different interests, but an entire industry has sprung up catering to their needs: rating services, auction sites, domain-analysis tools, etc.
What about more casual levels of domain interest?
Do you want to focus on profit-churning sites? For somebody looking to grow their traffic on an ad-supported site, increase affiliate revenue from a niche website, or build a fan base for their personal site, an expired domain will likely help you — remember the SEO benefits?
With anyone looking for a sleek domain for their new idea, the most logical route might be to scoop up an expired domain at auction, especially with cheap expired domain names for sale: no one said you had to spend big to bag the domain you need. Be it by you or by an SEO company, it could save you money in the long run against little time invested upfront.
No matter how involved you’re planning to get with expired domains, you’ll find the tools for full-time domainers useful too.
But are all types of domainers, aka domain investors, interested in all types of expired domains?;
Most things come in tiers. Art, fashion, real estate — it’s safe to say a premium category exists for most consumer interests. Domains are no different. Premium domains give site owners and investors a great range of benefits.
From memorable keywords with SEO advantages to user trust and memorability, if premium domains exist, then your interest in expired premium domains should too.
In essence, premium domains are dubbed so due to their relatively rare properties. Older domains are more likely to have good traffic, a keyword or phrase with a popular TLD, like .com, as well as SEO benefits and old user bases. Generally, old domains have a higher chance of being premium.
New domains released by registries are crowned premium too. A keyword relative to a popular industry, for example, with high levels of trust (clear spelling, familiar phrases, no numbers, etc), and international appeal, presents obvious allure to anyone wanting to profit from domains.
Is a premium domain still premium even though it’s expired?
In essence, most aspects of premium domain desirability are even stronger with premium expired domains. SEO, industry appeal and relevance, userbase, and more are boosted, and sought after as a result.
But you’re not the only one hunting these domains, so let’s prepare with some great sources to get ahead.
You have choices. In fact, you may find that you have too many choices.
Expired domain search tools, domain auction websites, backorder services — you’ve got these and more at your disposal. So let’s have a quick look at how to find expired domains in the easiest ways for you.
The first stage of buying an expired domain is discovering which ones are actually available.
Sure, you can check domain registrars for ones on offer. But let’s say you want to build a database or informal document with either specific expired domains or a list of potential domains to then seek out later.
The first point of call here could be the WHOIS database. The public database storing domain information is great for assessing the status of domains around the world, including expired status.
For building a search list without specific domains in mind, then auctions, web scrapers, and marketplaces are great go-to's.
So we know auctions and marketplaces are a go-to for domain buying, but which ones should you use?
Moving the meaning of ‘you can’t miss it’ online, expiredomains.net gives you ‘‘all the information you need to find good Expired Domains.’’ From compiling registrars to lists of deleted domains, this is a safe bet for those wondering where to buy expired domain names.
To potentially grab expired names for a cheaper price, Namejet might be your favorite option. An aftermarket auction platform, you can bid on expired domains to compete for low prices.
Wait… what’s the difference between an expired domain auction and a marketplace again?
Domain auctions are competitive events where bidders engage in a bidding war to acquire expired domains, while domain marketplaces are platforms where pre-priced domains are listed for direct purchase, offering a variety of options to buyers without the bidding process.
|NameJet||GoDaddy||DomCop||Domain Hunter Gatherer||ExpiredDomains|
|Category||Secondary Market Venue||Auction House||Auction House and Search Engine||Auction Crawler||Expired Domain, Search Engine|
|Domains in System||Less than a million||Tens of millions||Tens of millions||Tens of millions||4+ million expired domains|
|Buyer Cost||Fee of 2.5% of winning bid for online payment processing||$4.99 annual membership to bid||$64/month|
Free / Premium - $17 per month / Professional - $97 per month
|Analytics Integrated||Link to Estibot, Domain Appraisa||Domain age, # of bids, traffic estimates||Whois, Alexa, Estibot, authority stats from Moz, Majestic||Authority stats from Moz, Majestic||Alexa, Majestic stats|
NameJet is a popular venue for buying expired domains. They use advanced software to acquire their lists of names for domain professionals, small businesses, and individuals.
GoDaddy is a huge marketplace with many great value domains at any given moment. You’re one, simple keyword search away from finding a domain that fits your needs, and all in an affordable price range thanks to the depth of their name pool.
DomCop, a deluxe domain search engine, offers 10 million new domains every month. Advanced filtering methods help you weed out tarnished names. Niche-topic relevance indicators in the search results make it possible to rapidly drill down to the domains that best fit your needs.
Domain Hunter Gatherer makes it easy to find unlimited keyword domains drawn from all the major auction sites. It provides an array of different filters to refine and hone your searches. To top it off, you can save different personalized searches to enhance your search procedure too.
Expired domain auctions are common among registrars. But it’s the services available after winning the domain that get overlooked.
Yes, advanced filters are expected in a registrar's offerings, allowing you to refine searches with keywords, length, and price range. But the services to support your domain can help build your site quicker and securely, and keep it running at optimum performance too. If you’re a domain flipper, having certain hosting plans attached to a domain might add value when you sell it on.
Are you after hosting plans for a fair price as soon as you buy your domain? Want security to the moment it’s yours?
Check out registrars for even more expired domain buying benefits.
Ranging from simple browser extensions to advanced software, think of web scrapers as metal detectors.
They do as they sound, automatically scraping the web for specific material, like expired domains. They access web pages, scan them, and return any info found. Easy tools for web scraping include Octoparse, Parsehub, and Data Miner (Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browser extension.)
So, you can seek out expired domains with laser-like precision. But what about actually buying them?
Now you’ve got the means to build your search strategy, find quality expired domains, and think about their future, it’s time to develop top-class buying tactics.
You’re not the only one looking to profit here, monetarily or otherwise. So, you’ll need to know the best ways to play the game and get expired domains for a fair price… before anyone else does.
Auctions can feel like a bit of a minefield.
The first thing to do — establish a budget. Your prized expired domain may have you hungry, but getting too carried away with what others are bidding could see you running out of cash.
Remember what we learned? Reselling domain names is a numbers game — the less money you have, the fewer domains you can buy. Even if you’re building a personal site, paying beyond the odds is still a risk.
Bidding strategy should come next. You need to take into account timing, number of bids, and domain status. Sure, bidding tactics like bidding low at first and bidding big at the right moment are great. But a thorough strategy consists of more.
Bidding strategically based on the timing of the auction is often overlooked. Some auctions end during off-peak hours or on weekends, which can reduce competition and increase your chances of success.
You might also want to think of proxy bidding, a bidding process that sees you set a max bid beforehand, automatically raising the bid against others until the max is reached.
There’s a whole world when it comes to bidding strategy, learning more about domain bidding and getting some practice will up your game.
Its meaning is as simple as it sounds, but to gain the most out of expiry lists, you’ll need a bit of upkeep.
Checking expiry lists, found at registrars, auction platforms, and other sources mentioned earlier, is great for identifying the different stages of expiring domains.
For example, you can tell when a domain is about to expire, or whether it’s in the grace period, redemption period, or delete phase, giving you the upper hand in aiming to buy or register it — the early bird catches the domain, so they say.
No matter how early or late you are, having as much information on domains is only ever a good thing. And factoring domain windows into business plans, brand development, or reselling opportunities is even better.
Simply, expiry lists give you a whole load of soon-to-expire domains, casting a wide net for potential targeting.
Backorder services offer a similar outcome but with a little more focus behind them. For example, instead of checking a list, spotting a domain, and assessing its status, here you’ll be casting a line and leaving it for hours rather than sweeping a net and hoping to score.
Backlinking services allow you to pre-order domains that are soon to expire.
It’s worth noting that the providers of backordering services, registrars, or platforms like Dynadot, will attempt to order them when they expire. Using automation, these services aim to grab the domain as soon as possible.
Expired domains can enter a private auction if there’s a conflict, deciding who the winner of the domain will be through bidding.
In any case, it’s worth using backordering to try and get numerous domains as a failsafe.
A rarer opportunity than the previously mentioned approaches, trying your hand at bartering can be worth it.
Someone has something you want? Make an offer.
You can find the domain owners' contact information through the WHOIS database. Emails, numbers, and names are generally listed.
If that fails, try their site. Contact information is usually available, so it’s always worth a shot. In the case of grace periods, it may be worth slipping in early and having a word with the owner — there’s always a right price.
Just because the price is right, doesn’t mean the domain is.
Buying a domain is like buying a piece of real estate: serious damage can be hidden away in the walls. Before you take the plunge and purchase expired domains, you should conduct a thorough inspection.
Here are the factors determining the health of a domain.
The WHOIS public database is the crux of the Registry organization behind the Domain Name System. The age of a domain is among the information maintained there, along with the contact information of the registrar.
As a general rule, older domains are more valuable — especially when considering expired premium domains.
Their seniority can mean boosted search visibility, like with pre-existing redirects and old traffic. But old traffic isn’t always good. It’s essential to conduct a problem check for any domain you’re considering — just because something’s listed as a ‘pristine antique’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for scuffs.
In short, aged domain marketplaces could hold the domain you’re looking for, always give an aged domain for sale a check, you could be looking at a pre-packed goldmine.
It’s important that the domain is listed in the Google index, a library that stores a copy of every web page that Google visits and finds valuable for users.
Trying to get a domain back up to par in the eyes of Google’s indexing can be hard — at best, it takes a long time, at worst, it might never happen.
You can look domain names up in Google’s cache, a public, online tool that allows you to see what version of a page is currently in its index. Enter "cache:domainname.com" in the search box. This will return a snapshot of the last time Google crawled the site, a version of the site that was indexed.
If the search returns no results, you might want to grab your magnifying glass and start investigating.
To get a good idea of how a domain was doing in its past life, you should check its traffic numbers when available.
A site’s Alexa ranking provides the first proxy to traffic in relation to the content areas and ‘search’ keywords. Ahrefs and SimilarWeb have built excellent traffic estimating tools that are available for paying members, too.
Some auction sites are run by registrars that also offer web hosting. They’re in an excellent position to post traffic numbers based on DNS lookup data and pages served on their auctions listings.
The type of content on the site in its past life could help or hurt you.
There’s an easy way to check if a domain that recently dropped will help attract quality traffic. Enter the domain name into the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive. They have been “saving a copy of the internet” since 1996.
Historic versions of the content of almost any domain that once hosted a public site can be browsed there.
The bulk-email community is always involved in expired domain markets. Yes, spammers are constantly finding domains to send emails from that are yet to be blocked by anti-spam filters.
The problem is, by the time they’re through with a domain, it may have been placed into backlists, making it pretty much useless. Search engines will have banned it from their indexes, as backlinks from this domain weren’t created to genuinely help users.
Spamzilla uses a proprietary score to measure how clean a domain is, a useful guide to aid your search for acceptable domains. They take into account multiple data points extracted from the life of the domain and analyze them for potential spammy practices.
Check them out.
We’ve spoken about the quality of links affecting SEO and ultimately impacting the effectiveness of the domain. Dodgy links can ruin them. And with the potential for your favorite expired domain to have an unhealthy number of bad links, well, it’s something you need to check.
Tools that exist to assess the quality of backlinks, and help you decide whether the expired domain will be a good investment or not. Tools include:
When you buy a domain with backlinks, you’re not necessarily interested in just the raw citation flow, or the number of links pointing to the domain. You’re also looking for a level of quality in the domains from which the links are coming.
The authority of a site is high if it’s recognized as a well-maintained provider of high-quality original content.
Sites are boosted if they’re linked to high-quality sites. At the other end of the scale, link farms, sites that auto-generate links, have very poor rankings.
The authority of the sites pointing to the domain you may be considering becomes part of the metric of trust flow, which is citation flow aggregated and corrected for the quality of the originating sites.
Majestic maintains trust flow metrics for backlinks as part of its powerful suite of domain-checking tools, so check for citation flow and trust flow easily there.
Another approach to assessing the power behind a domain name is measuring how much the name influences a site’s ranking in search results. This is largely down to the authority of backlinks, but it can hint at other factors that might be at work inside the rankings mechanism.
Moz boasts its highly acclaimed Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) scores with the above in mind. Its free browser extensions make powerful SEO analytics available to anyone. SEMrush and Ahrefs provide score checkers too, check them out to find your favorite.
When searching for a name with high domain authority, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: you don’t always need to be looking for the perfect DA, but it’s worth prioritizing it if you’re wanting to get an edge over your competitors.
Whether it’s an expired domain or not, relevance to your industry or niche is a serious consideration — choosing carsales.online wouldn’t do so well as a food delivery service. You need to think about brand perception, click-through rate (CTR), visit numbers, memorability… the list goes on.
With expired domains specifically, the relevance of site content can contribute to SEO, carry over a user base, and build on the foundations in order to grow your brand from the domain’s history.
We’ve covered user base history already, but when it comes to changing industry, any respectable users attached to an expired domain won’t mean much if your direction doesn’t account for their interests.
Keeping up with everything in the modern world can be laborious, and even the odd expired domain check can take up time.
If you’re managing multiple domains, or you're a domainer with a reasonable portfolio, you’ll want a means of checking the status of your domains.
Thankfully, it’s simple.
Most registrars will notify you of your domain status on their respective sites. Account details and domain management pages are the go-to places here, and they’re usually the most up-to-date.
Namecheap, for example, offers an easy-to-use Domain List, letting you see the status of each domain registered.
Another quick way to check your domain status is the WHOIS database. Just look up the specific domain you want to check, and you’ll see the expiry date listed clearly.
After checking the status of your domain through your registrar and other tools, you may feel a rush of panic come over you — let’s look at what happens if your domain expired, and how to get it back.
Getting your domain back into your portfolio depends on the three stages we’ve covered already.
The grace period, depending on the registrar, lets you renew the domain at a regular price. This is usually done through the registrar itself.
Namecheap offers an Expired/Expiring page for your domains, where you can check and renew the domains you need to. Other registrars offer similar services like 123reg’s control panel.
The redemption period is potentially trickier. As you’ll know, in this phase, the domain could be auctioned off to someone already. If it hasn’t, then you can claim it back but at a higher fee than the grace period.
While this isn’t as straightforward as simply reactivating your domain in a few clicks, contacting customer support with your domain details and a request to renew the domain shouldn’t be a challenge either. Now you know what to do if your domain name expired.
Let’s say you’ve never bought a domain in your life, and this post is the first exposure to their benefits, let alone what they are.
After learning the pros, qualities, approaches, and strategies, you may be ready to start your expired domain portfolio.
The first step is, of course, seeking and assessing viable expired domains. Once you've got your eye on one or more, now it's time to reserve.
We already mentioned backordering, essentially placing a reservation on the domain. When the domain expires and is released by the registrar, the backordering service will attempt to register it on your behalf.
You can also have a word with the current owner, maybe they’ll accept your offer, essentially reserving the domain until it expires.
Speaking of people, domain brokers can help too. They’ll reserve domains for you, probably via backordering or other insider methods, and give you an expert upper hand in getting ahead of the game.
Once you’ve bought your expired domain from an auction or marketplace, it's best to transfer it to a registrar. Providers support domains through a range of utilities, but security, hosting plans and site tools are the most prominent.
Each registrar has its selling points. And it's always good to weigh up your options.
Namecheap offers a range of reasons to transfer your domain, and the process is easy too.
Check out the specifics of domain transfer here.
Searching for your dream domain is a creative and engaging process that can lead to great websites in the future, not to mention brilliant returns on investment. Thankfully, Namecheap has valuable tools for those looking to buy cheap expiring domains and old domain names for all purposes. From the Marketplace to WHOIS, premium domain listings to Domain Name Generator tool, all you need to bag the perfect domain is always available with us.