What’s in a name? More specifically, what’s in a domain name? Aside from being the most prominant feature of your website (Hello! It’s the base of your URL structure!), domain names can play a crucial role in your SEO campaign’s success. There are plenty of articles floating around about how to find the right domain name at the onset of creating a website and search engine optimization strategy. But what about buying an established domain that will simply be an addition with a 301 redirect? There are direct benefits to this for SEO, but caveat emptor - potential pitfalls do exist.
What Are the SEO Benefits of Buying an Established Domain?
Does the established domain contain one of your high search volume, targeted (if not coveted) keywords? Does the domain rank well in the SERPs? By “well” I mean at the minimum on page 1 for that targeted keyword. If you can answer yes to both of these questions, the domain is likely an assett worth purchasing. But that doesn’t answer my big question – how does that benefit SEO?
Buying an established domain can be your ticket to quick page 1 rankings and increased traffic and leads. (I’m jumping over several assumptions, but I’ll cover those in the pitfalls section!) Due to the high value that Google, et al, place on the age of a domain – your purchase includes that history. Additionally, you will inherit the link profile associated with that domain. When you place a 301 redirect on the purchased domain, the domain age and link profile strength will be passed to your website.
What Are the Pitfalls to Buying an Established Domain?
The first, and the lesser of evils, is that nothing happens. You buy the established domain for a premium price, implement a 301 redirect and instead of leap-frogging to page 1 – you stay put in whatever bottom feeder position you were in before. In this scenario, while you will be out the initial cash investment – your website and SEO campaign are left intact to fight another day.
Worse things can happen. Like a “Google Slap.” On a technicality, buying an established domain and immediately placing a 301 redirect on it is on par with buying links (a big no-no) and can be viewed as buying rankings (something Google wants to avoid). It is possible that your actions could be construed as black hat and will result in not only missing out on achieving page 1 rankings, but other forms of punishment. Punishment could mean you see a loss of PageRank, lose any/all link equity from the purchased domain or worse yet see a drop in rankings across your entire spectrum of keywords. This has been documented, but there were allegated black hat tactics in play. Regardless, the Matt Cutts/Aaron Wall case is worth noting.
What’s an SEO To Do?
Persevere. Just kidding. Seriously though, you should carefully review the opportunity before you. Consider the established domain’s assetts: specific keyword rankings, link profile (including link neighborhood), and how long the domain has been registered. Does the cost of that domain fall in line with the potential benefits? Does the domain appear to be “clean”? If so, it’s probably a safe bet to buy without fear of retribution. However, you sould also consider that creating a regular habit of buying and redirecting established domains could lead to a major red flag for your website and SEO campaign. So, again – carefully review the opportunity, consider previous and future domain purchasing activity and make a decision accordingly.
What has been your experience with buying established domains for SEO? Leave me a comment and share your experiences!