Purchasing a previously owned domain can be risky, but we have some tips to help you vet the domain and ensure a smooth site migration.

With over 1 billion websites on the World Wide Web today, it comes as no surprise that the domain name you may want to use is already owned by someone else. Luckily, in some cases, the current owner might be willing to part with it — for the right price.

Acquiring a pre-owned domain can have a drastic impact on your SEO efforts, so it is important to approach such a purchase with caution. It is recommended that you do your due diligence — it’s not uncommon for a domain name to have changed hands many times, and just like buying a used car, it’s often difficult to get the full history.

While examining the SERPs and scanning for any spammy links may be a good first step, it’s important to conduct a thorough assessment to ensure that the domain does not have a manual action penalty or warning from Google. There are many small issues that may not initially be cause for concern; however, in aggregate, these problems can seriously hamper your domain’s ability to rank.

If you’ve bought, or are looking to buy, a pre-owned domain, read below for 10 things you should check before proceeding with a site migration:

1. Google Search Console

Obtaining access to the Google Search Console account is critical for analysing the health of the domain you’re looking to acquire.

2. Google Analytics & Bing Webmaster Tools

If you have access to Google Analytics (GA), poke around the account and make note of any abnormal traffic patterns or unusual URLs receiving organic traffic. You can also look at referral traffic to determine if spammy websites are mainly responsible for driving traffic to the site. If the site does not have GA set up, you won’t be able to backfill the data, therefore making this check null and void.

3. Site indexation (SERP analysis)

Use the site search operator [site:yourwebsite.com] to conduct a Google search, and check for any spammy or malicious landing pages in the SERPs. You can also add on the search operator [inurl:keyword], replacing “keyword” with red flag terms like “online games,” “gambling,” “porn” and so on.

4. Blacklist status

Your domain may be blacklisted if there is a history of sending spammy emails, which may in turn lead to your email server’s IP address getting blocked.

5. Internal & external linking

One telltale sign of domain misuse is link manipulation. A compromised domain may use overly specific anchor text phrases to link out to other spammy content.

6. Anchor text usage

Another important but often overlooked off-page factor is anchor text usage. Anchor text is simply a word or phrase that is hyperlinked and takes a user to your website.

7. Local citations

Local citations that reference your business’s NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) are a critical local ranking signal. A citation is whenever your NAP information shows up on another website or directory. Before migrating to a pre-owned website, you should identify all instances of NAP that appear on the web and update them.

8. Hosting location

While hosting location is not a direct SEO ranking factor, it’s important to at least make sure your website is hosted in the same country where you do business in. In fact, IP location has been shown to impact page speed, which in turn can impact your site’s SEO performance.

9. Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA), a proprietary metric coined by Moz, aims to predict the “ranking potential” of your website. In an ideal world, the site you are looking to migrate to would have a higher Domain Authority than your current site. The higher the Domain Authority, the more likely you are to appear in the SERPs.

10. Page speed

Last but not least, one of the most important factors to benchmark prior to any migration is page speed.

Final thoughts
Once you’ve completed these 10 checks and resolved any issues, you should feel confident to proceed with your domain migration. Before you begin, there are a few important properties you should make sure are set up correctly so you can start collecting data.

Or if you would like LK Web Media to do all the checks and migration, contact us today >>

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