Launching a new website can be hard, especially if it's brand new.
You need to choose the right platform to build on, design the website, build the website, create copy, craft imagery, come up with an SEO strategy and so much more.
But before you can even begin, you need to have a domain name.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the address of your website, otherwise known as a URL. Everything after the 'www.' all the way up to and including the suffix or extension at the end, whether that be .com, .co.uk or almost anything you like.
Domain names are created to make internet protocols, or IP addresses, more human friendly.
An IP address is assigned to every computer on the web. They work much like street addresses and allow you to visit different places on the web.
It's much easier to remember a website by its domain name rather than a bunch of numbers, which is why we use domains.
So instead of 126.96.36.1991 we can remember something like bigrocket.co.uk much easier instead.
A domain name is essentially a friendlier address for your website, something more memorable that is associated with an IP address.
What is an expired domain?
An expired domain name (sometimes known as aged domains) is a domain that was previously registered but hasn't been renewed.
Put simply, the previous owner hasn't paid to use continue to the domain and so the domain name is available for someone else to re-register.
Domains can expire for many reasons, such as a business changing its name, closing or simply not being needed any more.
While most domain names automatically renew, sometimes people forget to renew them!
The guy who bought google.com.ar for £2
This is exactly what happened to Google's Argentinian domain name in 2021. Due to a hiccup with the domain registrar, Google's very own google.com.ar was available to buy!
So a designer bought Google's Argentinian domain for just £2!
Needless to say Google eventually got it back, but not after a few hours of the google.com.ar search engine going down and some worldwide fame for the guy who bought it!
Why would you want an expired domain name?
So why would you want to buy an expired domain name anyway? Why not just buy a brand new domain that's not been registered before?
The short answer is for SEO (search engine optimisation). When searching for a website, most people only ever click on the first page of results. When you publish a website online, it's very rare for a website to appear in the top 10 results by itself without any SEO.
In short, SEO is the art of making your website appear higher in search results, for search terms relevant to your website's content. SEO is a very diverse and can range from on-page content such as creating content that answers a particular search term, to technical SEO where you make your website as user-friendly and crawler-friendly as possible to outreach and digital PR where you earn backlinks to your website.
Backlinks are links from other websites to yours. Receiving backlinks from websites that have a stronger backlink profile than you act as a 'recommendation' to Google.
The stronger the backlinks your website has, the more powerful your own backlink profile becomes. Websites with strong backlink profiles tend to perform better in search results as Google sees these websites as more trustworthy.
Therefore, if you were to buy an expired domain which already has a strong backlink profile, this could give your website a head start.
Age of the expired domain
The longer a website is online the more 'trusted' it is seen as. This is yet another metric that can have some influence over how well a website ranks.
Google sees an older website as being more established, however a newer website with a stronger backlink profile and better SEO can still outrank an older website.
SEO and building backlinks takes a lot of time. Rarely do websites start ranking well overnight.
New content needs to be added regularly, backlinks built, SEO is very much a long term strategy that can take months or even years.
An expired domain name looks tempting because if it has a strong backlink profile already, this can save a lot of time and give your new website a head start.
How much do expired domains cost?
Expired domains tend to cost a lot more than brand new domains. Domain name registrars have caught on to the value they have for new businesses and so price them accordingly.
You can buy a brand new domain name for as little as a few pounds, even some 'premium' domain names only cost a couple of hundred pounds.
Expire domain names, depending on how old they are, the traffic they have received and their backlink profiles can cost tens of thousands of pounds.
After a quick search, we found expired domain names that cost anywhere from £1,000 to close to £100,000.
Of course this varies massively, but the bottom line is expired domains cost a lot.
Pros of Expired Domain Names
Buying an expired domain name could be exactly what you need to get your website found fast. Earning backlinks can be difficult and take time, so buying an expired domain name with a strong backlink profile could jump your website to the top of the rankings.
Expired domain names are old
Most expired domains have been previously registered and used. This means most expired domains will be much older than a brand new domain you buy today.
How much older varies for each individual domain, but since age is an advantage when it comes to SEO, this could be valuable.
Existing backlink profiles
Unless the previous owner of the domain went through every backlink to their website and asked the owner of the website linking to them to stop, most expired domains will have a backlink profile.
How good the backlink profile will be will vary massively between each website, but if you do your research, you could land yourself with a domain with a lot of strong links pointing its way.
They are readily available
Expired domain names aren't few and far between, there are thousands of previously registered domains available to buy.
There are also a wide number of websites specialising in selling only expired domains. We won't mention which ones as you may wish to consider the cons first.
Cons of Expired Domain Names
Buying an expired domain name sounds like a good idea right? But before you go and spend money on a secondhand web address, it's important to consider the not so positive sides of buying an expired domain name.
Choice is limited
When buying a new domain name, you can buy almost anything you want, as long as it isn't already registered.
Buying an expired domain name is different because you are limited to what is already out there.
Finding a domain name that suits your business can be tricky, and if your business already has a name, it might not make sense to your users if it is hosted on a domain with a completely different name.
You could always change the name of your business, but then your customers may become confused between your business and the one that used to own the domain.
Expired domains can be expensive
As we've mentioned, expired domains can command a huge price compared to buying new. Domain registrars are clever and price expired domains accordingly.
Some expired domain resellers hold bids and there can sometimes be bargains to be had, but be aware you could be bidding against someone who wants that domain more than you.
Not all backlink profiles are good
A website with 10 backlinks from strong, established websites it better than a website with 10,000 backlinks from websites that aren't very strong or even considered spammy.
So while an expired domain name may have a backlink profile, it might not always be a good one.
Most places that sell expired domains will give you an indication of the domain's strength, usually with Moz's DA (domain authority) score or Ahrefs DR (domain rating score), but it's always better to double check where the links are coming from.
Here at Big Rocket, we would always advise buying a brand new domain over an expired domain. Although you may get lucky, it's simply not worth the risk or the cost for your newly invested website.
Starting fresh means you have full control over the SEO and have complete knowledge as to where your backlinks are coming from. It may take more work to get off the ground, but it will be worth it in the long run.
But if you're set on buying an expired domain name, here are two pieces of advice:
Check before you buy
Here at Big Rocket, we use Ahrefs and this is how we would check the backlink profile of a domain:
Login to Ahrefs, head over to the Site Explorer and past in the domain you're looking to buy
Here you'll see an overview of the website. The 'DR' rating (or domain rating) is Ahref's own score of the website's backlink profile.
Ahrefs domain rating is a scale from 0 to 100 of a website's backlink profile compared to all other websites in its database. The higher the number, the stronger the backlink profile.
You can also see here how many backlinks the website has and from how many domains.
But let's dig a little deeper to see exactly what links are being linked to this domain.
Head over to 'Backlinks' on the left panel. This will show you all of the websites that are linking to your domain.
Next, click 'DR' at the top of the table. This will put the websites that are linking to you in order with the strongest DR first.
Click that 'DR' again to reverse the order and see the not so strong websites linking to that domain.
Look for any that might look a bit dodgy such as websites with little or no DR rating or anything that looks plain weird.
Think about the cost
Lastly, is it really worth the cost? Could you achieve even better results if you used the budget you were about to spend on an expired domain on SEO you control yourself?
We totally understand the want and desire to have your new website ranking well, receiving lots of traffic and leads but trying to speed up the process isn't always possible (or the right thing to do).
Even if you did buy an expired domain, will it get you the results you would be happy with? Or would you have spent a lot of money on someone's old web address?