A Comprehensive Guide to Spam Checking Expired Domains

Spam checking is probably the most integral part of purchasing expired domains. It doesn’t matter if you buy domains from us, another broker or you're finding them yourself, you're going to want to make sure they’re adequately spam checked.

I’ve been there. I bought a domain I thought was free of spam only to find Chinese anchor text which translated to “click here for a harder erection” lurking on a sub page of the domain. Ouch!

The Four Pillars of Spam Checking: MOAT

  1. Majestic SEO
  2. Open Site Explorer
  3. Ahrefs
  4. Time Machine

When I first started out, I spam checked using the limited access (free!) I had to Majestic, Ahrefs, OSE and of course Way Back Time Machine.  The process looked like this.

  1. Hunt for domains and use OSE or 99webtools (terrific free resource, no affiliation) to check PA/DA as well as linking domains.
  2. Plug it into Time Machine.
  3. If it’s spam free plug it into Majestic. Check anchor text.
  4. Preliminary anchor text spam free? Small Purchase? Yes -> Pull the trigger. Small Purchase No? Plug it into Ahrefs.

Rinse and repeat until I was left with no more Ahrefs queries. Continue using Majestic (they give you more free checks) and swap Ahrefs out for OSE (an inferior tool for looking at the backlink profile). Run out of majestic checks – do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars a fresh domain.

This is the spotty process that later leads to discovering Viagra spam on your site. It’s a pretty inefficient way to spam check. Without a proper account you can't see the full anchor text profile, the referring domains etc.

Every domain you purchase from Domain Colosseum comes with full Majestic an Ahrefs reports (free of charge). We're confident in our spam checking techniques, but we know you like to double check. And hey, if you find spam on the domain we’ll swap it or refund it (and eat our shorts).

We also offer a spam check service – if you purchase domains from elsewhere but want to spam check the domains to be sure they're squeaky clean, we’ll provide the Ahrefs & Majestic reports for just a few bucks (or we'll do the full spam check for a few more).

Why We Use Ahrefs AND Majestic Reports To Spam Check

Often times Ahrefs, Majestic & OSE will paint very different pictures. If you have a private blog network you know what I’m talking about – a domain with DA 29 PA 39 but a max CF of 8 & max TF of 6.

It doesn’t take an in depth analysis to realize something is amuck here. Remember the days when the gold standard was PR? At some point someone figured out you could fake a PR by using a simple redirect and they’d turn around and sell these backlink-less domains for hundreds of dollars.

By looking at the full picture (DA/PA, CF/TF & Ahrefs #) you’ll often discover gamed/poor domains. If you’ve been building sites for a long period of time you’ll know it’s possible to spam your way to a high PA/DA.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 7.12.27 PM

This Domain has a DA/PA 20 & 32. The highest TF on this site is 10 and the highest CF is 20. Upon further inspection we find out that one of the links no longer exists and the other three came from spammy websites.

The Types of Spam & How to Identify It

  1. Outbound Link Spam
  2. Anchor Text Spam
  3. SEO Spam

Outbound Link Spam

The worst spam to find on an expired domain is outbound link spam. This usually comes in the form of links with Chinese or Pharm anchor text littered all over the site. This is the easiest, yet most time consuming spam to identify. Here is how we do it.

  1. Head over to Way Back Time Machine (archive.org)
  2. Plug your domain in and hit search. What Way Back Time Machine does is it provides you snap shots of the old website.
  3. Initially I like to click on the first recorded instance of the domain to establish what the site’s original purpose was, this will give you a starting point to find any inconsistencies. In a perfect world, the site will have been owned by one person.
  4. What you’re looking for as you click through the snap shots of the domain are bizarre outbound links. Sometimes they’ll be hidden in the footer or the side bar so check those areas as well.Normally, the spam will show up front and center on the homepage. Chinese anchor text and keyword stuffed paragraphs with multiple outbound links are the most common culprits.
  5. Finally, you should also check Ahrefs for other powerful inner pages. To do this, type your domain into Ahrefs, which will allow you to pull up “top pages”. In some circumstances the inner pages actually have better metrics and more links than the homepage. Crafty SEOs will either have re-directed those inner pages to the homepage or in some instances they’ll have re-built the pages and used them to blast links.
  6. If a domain has been abused in this manner you can just about bet it’s received a penalty. These aren't really worth pursuing unless you're a bit of a gambler and can get them at a steep (and I mean steep) discount.

Anchor Text Spam

Anchor text spam produces another major red flag. The difference between anchor text spam and SEO spam is anchor text spam isn’t relevant. Often times this shows up immediately when you plug the domain into Majestic and you get a block of “Buy Cialis” anchor text.

Alternatively you can plug the domain into Ahrefs and it’ll spit out the anchor text cloud, which is a fairly handy feature. Assuming it’s not showing up on the homepage of Majestic you can head into the “anchor text section” to get a better picture of the link building.

You might be wondering why a SEO would send spam to the site. In some cases it’s an attempt to damage the site through negative SEO. Other times, the webmaster who owns the domain may have built those links. It’s not uncommon for SEOs to use an automated tool such as GSA to try and re-purpose a domain. Re-purposing a domain helps establish relevance for whatever related keywords they're trying to rank.

For instance, if you had a money website about soccer balls and you found an old domain about real estate. Blasting the old domain with “soccer” related links (for example, a link from a web 2.0 about the best soccer teams in the world) can help provide a boost in relevance.

Another common reason for this spam is that the domain had dropped before and had been picked up by a pretty slimy SEO trying to rank for these spammy terms. They'll typically buy up a load of semi-powerful domains, absolutely abuse them until there's nothing left, then drop them when they get penalized, and move on.

Like outbound link spam, anchor text spam often is an indication of a penalized domain.

One thing we've done to help identify dozens of spammy sites that looked great on first inspection is use Majestic SEO's Historic Index to check anchor text. This way we can identify not only if there is spam directed to the site right now, but if at any time, any where, someone had thrown a few nasty links at the domain. We've had quite a few disappointments this way, but we only sell the most premium, clean domains, so even a single dirty link puts us off.

SEO Spam: AKA Relevant Exact Match Anchor Text

SEO spam is by far the most interesting and difficult to spam to gauge. Let me illustrate this.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 7.31.51 PM

This domain is a residential painting company, which ranked very well for several years and still sits number 10-12 for most major keywords. It’s clearly been SEO’d evident by the 20%+ exact match anchor text referencing “Residential House Painting”. For whatever reason it hasn’t incurred a penguin penalty and still sits in the top 15 in Google for local terms despite it being a defunct company.

This domain is going to be dropped the next time it becomes available for registration. I know because back in the day, I was the SEO and the owner is a close friend. Depending on the metrics I might keep it and isolate it, yet by every indication it has SEO spam. Without knowing the history how can we possibly know if the domain was dropped because the site was penalized or because the webmaster didn’t want it anymore?

Clearly the domain has a decent link profile, otherwise it wouldn’t rank. I don’t think there is any doubt that this domain would pass some juice on.

We avoid re-selling domains that have SEO spam on them.

Do I sometimes keep & build out SEO spammed domains? Absolutely, I think they can still have tremendous value, but the risk that they have little to no power is very real – that's why we totally remove that risk for you by not selling this kind of site.

Who Cares, They’re Just Expired Domains

Intuitively, you can draw the conclusion that a link from a clean 25/30 domain with several quality back links will provide more juice then a link from a spammed 25/30 domain with thousands of shitty links.

I also believe a domain that has been penalized carries far less weight (if any at all – and they may actually hurt you).

We spend so much time trying to keep our personal networks discreet. We mix up the IP addresses, we either change or block our Whois info, we carefully setup our links so our expired domains don’t link to each other. Yet we're willing to roll the dice with potentially penalized domains?

Purchasing clean domains that are free of spam is just one more way we can fly under the radar. I’m not trying to fear monger – I don’t think having a few spammy expired domains in your portfolio is going to end up with the big G at your door. But unless you're receiving those domains at a massive discount (or you're finding them yourself) it seems like a poor use of resources.

We're rigorous about every domain we sell, if it has an inkling of spam it comes off the block. As I mentioned before, often times we'll keep some of those domains, but we won't sell them. We believe it's a poor business policy to sell anything but the cleanest of domains.

A Fancy Extra For Squeaky Clean Domains

We look for the big 3 that I outlined above, but there are other things that you can do to be absolutely sure a domain is clean.

While looking at what other providers are selling, I just so happened to check to see if their domains were indexed (all of ours are). I typed site:DomainName.com into Google and sure enough it was indexed. Hm, I thought, Okay…wait a minute!

It was indexed alright, but the title and meta description came up with your stereotypical spam keywords stuffed left, right, and center. A quick glance at Majestic and Ahrefs wouldn't have revealed anything untoward going on, and so it would have been easy to miss the obvious spam if you were just doing the quick checks most people do.

Luckily, we've added a nice little Google search into our spam checking routines to identify just this type of thing.

Hopefully this gives you some insight into our process and helps you out when you're checking domains from us and other providers. A lot more goes into finding a totally clean domain than most people teach – we've spent an hour on a single domain before going through the backlinks to be absolutely sure that the links from sources we don't normally see were legitimate. We pulled out the translator, clicked on probably hundreds of links to see the sites they came from, and even did research into a particular keyword that was being used to link.

Resources

Majestic SEO

99webtools

Open Site Explorer

Way Back Time Machine

Ahrefs

Domain Colosseum Bulk Spam Checking Services

About the Author pbnhq.com

We strive to make PBNHQ a complete one-stop-shop for everything PBN related. Together we are showing SEO agencies and SEO practitioners not only HOW to rank their clients sites, but also providing essential tools and services that facilitate them reaching the first page of Google.

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