How can I research a domain that I may want to purchase?

Today’s question comes from Wally in Reno.
Wally wants to ask, “How can we check to see if a domain (bought from a registrar)
was previously in trouble with Google? I recently bought, and unbeknownst to me the domain isn’t
being indexed and I’ve had to do a reconsideration request. How could I have prevented that?” Great question. Okay, so you know you always
have a choice. You could start out with a fresh domain that you’re registering, or
you could try to buy a domain from someone else or from a registrar. And how do you know
that you’re getting what you paid for? You know, the spammer hasn’t taken this domain
and burnt it to the ground. So a few rules of thumb: First off, do a search for the domain
and do it in a couple ways. Do a site: search, so, whatever it is you want
to buy. If there’s no results at all from that domain, even if there’s content on
that domain, that’s a pretty bad sign. If the domain is parked, well, we try to take
parked domains out of our results anyway, so that might not indicate anything, but if
you try to do site: and you see zero results, that’s often a bad sign. Also, just search
for the domain name. Or you know the name of the domain minus .com or whatever the extension
is on the end, because you can also find out a little bit of the reputation of the domain.
So, were people, you know, spamming with that domain name? Were they talking about it? Were
they talking about it in a bad way, like “This guy was sending me unsolicited email and leaving
spam comments on my blog?” That’s a really good way to sort of figure out what’s going
on with that site, or what it was like in the past. Another good rule of thumb is to
use the Internet Archive. So if you go to and you put in a domain name,
the archive will show you what the previous versions of that site look like. And if the
site looked like it was spamming, then that’s definitely a reason to be a lot more cautious
and maybe steer clear of buying that domain name, because that probably means the previous
owner might have dug the domain into a hole and you have to just do a lot of work even
to get back to level ground. So check with and see if you can find previous
versions of the site. If it’s auto generated spammy content, that’s a really bad sign
and may be a reason to avoid that domain. Also, you might if you’re talking about
buying the domain from someone who currently owns it, you might ask, okay, can you show
me, let me either see the analytics or the Webmaster Tools console to check for new messages.
Or screenshots, something that would let me see the traffic over time, because if the
traffic is going okay and then dropped a lot or has gone really far down, then that might
be a reason why you want to avoid the domain as well. If despite all of that, you buy the
domain and you find out okay, there was some really scuzzy stuff going on and it has some
issues with search engines, you can do a reconsideration request. Before you do that, I would consider—
ask yourself are you buying the domain just because you like the domain name, or are you
buying it because of all the previous content, or the links that were coming to it, or something
like that. If you’re counting on those links carrying over, you might be disappointed because
the links might not carry over. And especially if the previous owner was spamming, you might
consider doing a disavow of all the links that you can find on that domain to try to
get a completely fresh start whenever you are ready to move forward with it. But overall,
if you do a site: search or you search for the domain name or you look for it in the
Internet Archive, that’s a really fast, quick, easy way to get an idea of whether
it was owned by someone who used it for ill, or whether they were doing some good stuff
with it in the past. Hope that helps.

Comments 19

  • If you're thinking about purchasing a new domain name, but you're not too sure about the domain's past reputation, here are some things that you can try.

  • It would be nice if there was a reset button – to disavow all current links. You wouldn't want to disavow all domains – In doing so, you might kill major sites forever.

  • I only wish that companies would do this before they try to buy a domain, I end up working on so many clients that have done this. 

  • Thanks for best tips for domain name

  • the domain so were people you know spamming with a domain name where they talking about it where they talking about it in a bad way like this guy was an Indian solicited email on leaving spam comments on my blog.

    Mr. @Matt Cutts, here what do you mean by Indian guys?  Are you trying to demolish image of Indian citizens or what is your aim? please clarify… @Google Webmasters 

  • A Google employee wears a T-Shirt with a Firefox logo instead of Goolge Chrome Logo. LOL 🙂

  • Besides checking content on it is very important to see what kind of external links this Domain has and check their anchor text.
    Does the site forwarded to another site by 301 redirect?
    How many times the domain has changed owner?
    Also check for Adsense sandbox….

  • Here is my question.. Matt says that the links don't carry over.. If that's the case, then what is the point of disavowing all the prior links? This is somewhat of a contradiction. So if what he is trying to say is that "sometimes" they will and other times they won't, then how will we know for sure when the links will not carry over and when they will? @Matt Cutts should be more clear on this…

  • isn't there sites to check if the name is banned from adsense 

  • Google guy wearing Firefox shirt, where is chrome?

  • Hi Matt. Great video. Possibly a followup video Q but is there any rule for choosing a domain suffix & is it true Google prefers common domains to .co?

  • Shopping for a custom domain for your blog or website? Research its history first

    @Matt Cutts suggests you look into a domain's history before you buy. Be sure to include its possible history with AdSense in your research.

    It's not just the domain's previous content and SEO practices that should concern you: sometimes a domain is abandoned when AdSense disables ad serving. It can be very difficult to get ad serving restored as a new owner of the domain, so it's best to include potential AdSense issues when researching a domain's history.

    How can you check to see if a website or domain is blocked from displaying AdSense ads?

    • Try entering the URL into @Amit Agarwal's unofficial AdSense Sandbox and see if any ads appear.

    Unofficial Google AdSense Sandbox

    • Do a search for the domain name along with the word "AdSense". It may turn up questions or complaints about ad serving from the previous domain owner. And if your discover posts or comments asking people to click on the site's ads, I'd give the domain a pass.

    • Consider the content associated with the domain. If it was previously associated with a website offering cracked software downloads or porn, that could be a problem.

    Internet Archive: Wayback Machine

    • Ask for suggestions in the AdSense help forum before you buy.

    AdSense Help Forum!forum/adsense

    • If you've already purchased the domain, and AdSense ad serving is indeed disabled, you can try to submit an appeal.

    AdSense Help: AdSense was disabled to your website

  • Matt the Firefox better than Chrome, yeah?)

  • It's cool that Matt mentions aka Way Back Machine. They don't seem to hold the image data as long as they use too. It's fun to look back at what sites used to look like too.

  • In my opinion, the person should buy a fresh domain that has not been used by any one related with his brand. Even you make all efforts to keep the domain clean, Google new spam policy may spoil all your efforts. Play safe and be safe in future too.

  • Check Japanese text version here!
    MattCutts in Japanese is #マットカッツ

  • Isn't the entire process of penalizing a domain like this similar to arresting someone that rents former crack house/apartment? They don't sell crack, they don't cook meth, but because a former tenant (you don't buy a domain, you rent it so it isn't even really yours) did those things you can now 'go to jail' for them as if you had done them yourself? 

    It doesn't matter how much you fix it up, or what you do to build something new, that fact that in the past it was used for something Google does not approve of, the current tenant is at risk for being penalized for something they had no control over. 

  • fes

  • Thank you so much… simple and powerful tutorial. For best Domain Names Research of your niche check this out

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