I’ve found a handful of reasons, when developing new websites, to want to acquire existing websites or domains. I do not mean parked domains, I mean websites that are active, but not successful, and are in the Google SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). In this post I’m going to discuss why you should be researching domains and websites that show up in SERPs for your website’s targeted keywords.
Skip the Sandbox
Things are always changing in the Google algorithm, but it’s been known for some time that Google tends to limit the exposure of brand new websites. Unless you can burst onto the scene and get tons of links quickly, you won’t show up on the first page for the keywords you are targeting for quite a while. It used to be a rule of thumb that you wouldn’t see your website in the top 10-20 pages in Google for 6-12 months after its release. Google has become much more dynamic, but mostly with content on existing, well ranking, websites. But one thing you can bank on is if you purchase an existing domain that is 2+ years old you can skip any type of sandboxing of your website in the SERPs. So sometimes acquiring an existing domain is better than coming up with a brand new domain name. Do some searches for websites that rank decently for your keywords. Getting your website in the top 5 pages right out of the gate is a great start. You will hopefully be building backlinks after the release so your site should move up in the SERPs. Any website that has the keywords in the domain will be easier to optimize for search engines, but this doesn’t mean it will be the most marketable domain available. Most of the big internet websites don’t include their purpose, or keywords, in their domain.
Let’s say you start a new website about Poker. Let’s say that the #5 website in Google when you search for “poker” is something like “pokerpoker123.com”. Your website has a more marketable name like “Donkfest.com” (a humorous poker term). If you can negotiate a purchase of “pokerpoker123.com” you can set up a 301 (moved permanently) redirect to “Donkfest.com” and once Google picks up on this, suddenly “Donkfest.com” replaces “pokerpoker123.com” in the SERPs. Now you’ve jumped from nowhere in Google to the #5 spot. Most of your keyword competitors will ignore this failing website and you can just snatch it up and jump right into the competition.
The main reason that SERP Jumping works is that when you 301 the domain to your website you suddenly acquire all of its backlinks. So if that website had 500 backlinks and you had 20, now you have 520 backlinks. This obviously creates an increase in your Google PR. This will also help you with Bing/Yahoo and other search engines. But aside from the SERP jump you will now start getting referral traffic from these websites that linked to the other website. You could see a significant amount of traffic from visitors trying to visit this older website via links.
Kill the Failing Competition
Sometimes you’ll have a competitor that has been around so long, and has so many backlinks, that they stick at the #1 spot in Google for your keyword despite getting half the traffic you do. Their site is not as successful as yours, they aren’t updating it, but they maintain that #1 spot with no effort. You might convince yourself that since you can see more activity on your website than on theirs that #2 in Google is just as good as #1. The concern here is, what happens if someone with some drive and vision decides to purchase that #1 website and totally revamp it? Now you have a driven competitor who already has the upper hand with the #1 spot in the SERPs. This could cost you thousands in advertising if you suddenly feel that you have to convince searchers that your site is actually better/bigger/more important than that #1 site that used to be so lackluster. Don’t risk this happening. If you can acquire that #1 site for the cost of a few months of revenue, you can save yourself tons in advertising expenses should someone decide to buy the site and revamp it (or 301 redirect it to their existing website). So, with purchasing that #1 site you can SERP Jump and remove a potential thorn in your side at the same time.
Make a Deal
If you get an individual to agree to sell their domain to you your going to want to have them sign a contract that includes a few specifics before you even consider how to physically pay for and transfer the domain.
- Make sure that the seller agrees to sell you any related domains, not just the domain that you discovered. I once purchased a domain only to discover later that the seller had other domains that had been linked to the same website. Once the 301 was set up to my new website, instead of SERP Jumping, the sellers other domain just replaced the original one in the SERPs. I’m still not 100% sure how this happened, but it’s my fault for not making sure that a) he didn’t have other related domains and b) that he agreed to take down the website content that had ranked well for the keywords.
- Require the seller to agree to not make any WHOIS changes prior to the sale. This can delay the transfer as some registrars lock domains for 30 days after a WHOIS change.
- Ask the seller to not make any website changes from the time of the sale to the time of the transfer. You don’t want them to adversely affect the website’s ranking right before you buy it.
- Use Google Webmaster Tools to tell Google about the website move.
- Don’t think that you have to fork over tens of thousands for a domain. I’ve been able to acquire domains for only $2,000-$3,000 that had much more value to me than that, as expected.
- Make sure to have the seller sign a contract that holds him to these promises.
Complete the Purchase
Your best option for safely acquiring the domain is Escrow.com. Escrow.com allows a buyer and seller to make the transaction online without any chance of one party being cheated. The purchaser will pay Escrow the money for the domain, an amount that was agreed upon by both registered Escrow.com users. Escrow.com will then instruct the seller to transfer the domain to the buyer. Escrow allows the buyer to register their WHOIS information and only releases the funds to the seller once the domain’s WHOIS information has changed to the buyer’s information. This way everyone is safe and the sale and transfer goes without a hitch.
Setup a Redirect
Once you acquire the domain you’ll want to 301 redirect the main domain to your new site. Research any page on the old site that might be in line with current pages on your site and 301 those pages directly to the pages on your site that relate. Be sure that you have a custom 404 page set up so that users get your website navigation if they visit a page that does not exist. You don’t want them to get a web server 404 page with no navigation.