So, you've decided you're interested in affiliate marketing. You've done some serious research and selected a niche you believe will be viable, profitable, and interesting. And now you're ready to purchase a domain and get started.
But wait. What domain should you choose? And how? And also, should it be new or expired?
In this post, I’m going to answer all of those questions (plus more), preparing you to make a savvy choice and purchase the right domain with confidence. But first, let's go back to basics for a couple of paragraphs. Bear with me, and I promise we'll circle back to the main topic at hand—just with a little more background and context.
Affiliate marketing is an advertising model based on companies paying individuals (affiliate marketers) to generate traffic or leads for them.
When you become an affiliate marketer, you aim to build a high-ranking, high-authority website (or blog) that nurtures an audience of dedicated visitors. These visitors ultimately trust you and your content and are, therefore, more likely to check out products you use or recommend to them.
Presto! Every time an audience member clicks one of your affiliate links (or, in some cases, creates an account or makes a purchase), you receive a commission.
Seems pretty straightforward, especially if you've got a lot of great content ideas and are truly excited about the products you're promoting. But how do you go about building a high-ranking, high-quality website or blog that will nurture a dedicated audience?
In affiliate marketing, the main premise of your strategy will be to rank pages on Google for your commercial keywords. That way, when people search for products within your affiliate marketing niche, they'll find your site.
Now we've come full circle—back to the point where I'll talk about how to select the best possible domain for your project.
Let's dive in!
Fresh Vs. Expired Domains
Many novice affiliate marketers might be forgiven for automatically assuming that purchasing a fresh domain and building it from the ground up would be the only obvious route to success.
But, as it turns out, they'd be wrong.
While brand-new domains are blank canvases with endless potential (plus, usually the only option for sites that require brand-specific domains), they come with zero backlink profile, age, or authority and will take a long time to rank.
Expired domains, on the other hand, come with history—and if it's the right kind of history, they can be total game-changers. Though sometimes pricey, they have massive potential. A strong expired domain can help your site gain traction fast and rocket up through the rankings, right past the competition.
But, (and this is a big but), you've got to know what you're doing. So, let's start at the beginning and build out your understanding of how to select the perfect domain to launch your affiliate marketing dream.
(Note: Not covered in this article is the third option of purchasing a non-expired domain. I've decided to focus on expired domains because existing domains are often prohibitively expensive.)
What Is an Expired Domain?
Like the expired milk at the back of your fridge, an expired domain has passed an important date. Unlike your curdled milk, however, that doesn't necessarily mean it's rotten or undesirable. Let me elaborate.
When a domain is purchased, it’s only registered to the owner for a finite period of time (usually one year, but sometimes more). As that time period draws to a close, the website owner will be reminded to extend payment for their domain registration. If they don't, the domain will expire and become available for another buyer to purchase.
There’s a redemption grace period (usually 40 days) where the website owner can renew the expired website—but it can also legitimately (and fairly) be snapped up by someone else during that time frame. Once that grace period is over, if no one has shown interest, the domain gets put on the deleted list (a.k.a. getting dropped—see next section).
As you can see, the fact that a domain is expired doesn't inherently mean that it's a bad site. It could be a bad site for any number of reasons (spammy links, poor authority, used for a PBN, etc.), and that could be the reason why it's not being renewed. But brand-new could also be a great site whose owner opened a new business, migrated their site to a new domain, passed away, or simply forgot to renew their domain (this happens more often than you'd think, even with the multiple reminder emails that domain registrars send).
I'll level with you. Out of the millions of expired domains out there, only a handful will truly be worth pursuing. But, if you do the math, that means there are still thousands (if not tens of thousands) of high-quality expired domains just waiting to be discovered and put to good use.
You just have to know how to comb through them.
Dropped Vs. Expired Domains
An expired domain is still retained by the registrar. A dropped domain, on the other hand, has fully expired and is available to be purchased from any domain registrar. Dropped domains can take months to recover their SEO value, while expired domains maintain their domain age and have more SEO value.
My advice? Stay away from dropped domains. (More on how to find and value expired domains in a minute.)
Benefits of Expired Domains
High-quality expired domains can come with a lot of benefits, but the top three would have to be: A quality, pre-existing backlink profile; organic traffic; and domain age.
Let's take a closer look:
A strong backlink profile is the single most important aspect to keep in mind when searching for expired domains. In fact, according to Matthew Woodward, 95% of an expired domain's value comes from its backlink profile.
Backlinks—a.k.a. external links—are links pointing to a website from other domains. A strong backlink profile that already includes high-ranking, high-authority sites is invaluable. Not only does it give an automatic injection to your Google ranking status, it also saves you immeasurable time and effort building up a high-quality backlink profile from scratch.
Though you'll no doubt continue to build and expand your site's backlinks, it's an amazing advantage to start with a solid framework already in place.
Existing traffic is a great boost to a website that's just getting started. Whether visitors are looking for the previous website that used to exist at your new domain, have been routed to the site by still-active backlinks, or are simply curious about your domain name, Google will look favorably upon a website that generates organic traffic right off the bat.
Plus...all exposure is good exposure (for the most part), because exposure can convert to more sales in the long run.
Having a long history in a search engine is almost always a positive. It makes indexing easier and may even be a Google ranking factor. Don't discount age and maturity as significant benefits of purchasing an expired domain (as opposed to a fresh one).
What Can You Use Expired Domains For?
So far in this article, I've been focusing on the concept of using expired domains for building authoritative affiliate marketing sites. That being said, there are also other ways to harness expired domain power (though some of them come with a warning).
Building Authority Sites
If you're building an affiliate marketing strategy (or otherwise looking to quickly grow an authority site for any purpose), purchasing a high-quality domain is a great starting point. With benefits like pre-existing backlinks, traffic, domain age, and branding, an expired domain can give you a major headstart over the competition.
Building a PBN (Private Blog Network)
Private blog networks are networks of donor websites that are groomed and maintained specifically for the purpose of increasing the rankings of your main project (a.k.a. your promoted site or money site). These donor websites are often built using expired domains that have already achieved high SEO authority. Expired domains are essentially refurbished with new content relevant to the money site and become a feeder source of high-quality backlinks.
If you’re considering building a PBN to help your affiliate marketing site (or any other money site), be sure to understand the pros and cons in depth, cover your bases, and enlist the help of someone trusted who is familiar with smart PBN building.
Though they have the potential to quickly provide major rewards, PBNs are not looked upon fondly by Google. Google can (and does) penalize websites associated with PBNs, which can make it incredibly difficult to gain any SEO traction at all for your business in the future.
Like PBNs, 301 Redirects must be treated with caution. While it may seem simple enough to just 301 redirect the expired domain you've just bought to your main site, this is not considered an up-and-up SEO strategy. You may get away with siphoning the link juice from one or two expired domains, but I don’t recommend making a habit of this practice.
How To Find Powerful Expired Domains Easily
Alright, I've talked a lot about expired domains and why you might want to find one, but how do you actually do that?
As it turns out, finding expired domains is easy. It's evaluating them that's trickier (which I'll delve into in the next section)!
There are many platforms that offer expired domains for sale, but not all are created equally. Particularly if you're a novice, you don't want to end up spending a pretty penny for a domain that's ultimately a dud.
Reputable services include SerpDomains, Domain Hunter Gatherer, GoDaddy Auctions, DropCatch, and SpamZilla (which is a cloud-based platform).
That being said, my top pick is Odys Global, a company that has built its reputation around acquiring top-notch expired domain names and then selling them to website builders. Odys is trustworthy and can help take a lot of the growing pains out of the search for the perfect expired domain. The platform will even help you actively seek an expired domain in your specific niche if it doesn't have anything available in its current stock.
How To Value Expired Domains
While trusting a service like Odys to match you with a high-quality expired domain is a great starting point (and highly recommended), it’s still wise to have some knowledge under your belt about how to value expired domains independently. Knowledge is power, and a savvy purchase always begins with identifying and understanding the criteria of what you're seeking.
The more quality backlinks in a site's backlink profile, the better. Consider how much time and money it would cost you to recreate the profile in question and move forward accordingly. As a rough starting point (based on the rates of reputable link-building services), you can estimate each high-quality, niche-relevant link at around $170 and each editorial link from a major hitter (like The New York Times or BBC) anywhere from $2,000-$5,000.
On the flip side, remember that low-quality, spammy links can actually detract from the value of the domain in question.
Though a little less straightforward to value numerically than backlinks, I've already established that existing traffic is a boon. Robust traffic metrics are definitely a positive when evaluating an expired domain, so don't overlook them!
Consider both the quantity and quality of previous content on a domain. Using tools like Internet Archive (a.k.a. Wayback Machine), you can identify historical posts that pulled in a lot of backlinks and replicate them on your new website.
Ultimately, you want to redirect old traffic to new pages with engaging content (and profitable links, in the case of affiliate marketing). Understanding your domain's old content structure can help you achieve that goal with success.
Beyond just domain age (which is important in and of itself), it's also crucial to consider other aspects of a domain's history:
When did it first appear in search results? How long has an active website been built on the domain? Was there any history of spam, gambling, adult content, or other content that could have resulted in past penalties? How recently was a website active on the domain?
These are questions worth seriously delving into before you commit to purchasing an expired domain.
Does the domain appear in Google results (even just for the domain name), or has it been deindexed? While a deindexed domain is nothing but a headache, a domain that still shows up in Google results after expiration likely still has a lot of power to pay forward.
In the end, the purchase of a poorly researched expired domain can cost you both financially and time-wise. It will only benefit you to be selective. Pay attention to red flags, and don't settle for a site that leaves you with any questions as to its quality.
To conclude, purchasing a high-quality expired domain is a smart, legitimate, and impactful way to get your affiliate marketing site started with a bang—provided that you do it right. With proper research and understanding of the features you’re looking for, it shouldn’t take you long to find a suitable option.
As always, I’m here to help. If you have further questions about expired domains, affiliate marketing, or any other aspects of SEO or digital marketing in general, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at SerpFocus. I look forward to working with you and helping you along your digital marketing journey!