NB1: Please forgive me small mistakes, English is not my first language.
NB2: I’m still figuring out why the embedded video doesn’t start from the beginning.
Today we will talk about how to find good domains. How to check domains, how to locate good domains, how to filter good from bad domains. I will tell you about our experience, reveal our secrets from the last few years. And we have massive experience, because we have built a lot of sites from drop domains, from abandoned domains, – for our own projects, our own networks in many verticals, and also we have built many sites and networks for our clients, huge networks of hundreds of sites, in total we have built more than two thousand sites on domains we’ve found. And we are constantly checking domains. I personally spend 1-2 hours every day, – I’m going through daily drop lists, and other lists, like available domains scraped from different sites, auction domains from different registrars, and so on. So our experience is really immense.
And we have some tools, certain toolset, some secrets, some methodology – how to find really good domains.
So, first of all: How to find good domains?
Good domain is defined by its backlinks. Only backlinks define whether the domain is good or bad.
And also site history.
So we check these. And not any metrics.
Rule #1 of checking domains:
All Metrics Don’t Matter. No Metric Matters. Only Backlinks Do.
And also the Site History. Whether the site has some spam history, some PBN history, some redirect history, some doorway history, and so on.
But the most important – backlinks.
So, – how do we check backlinks? We take a domain, and check its backlinks. It’s actually a manual work. There is no automatic way to do it. We can automate, robotize different stages of the process, but not actual manual checking of domain’s backlinks. This is the most important part. And if you delegate this task to robots, to scripts, to automatic programs and software, – here you will fail. Because only a human eye is able to evaluate whether the backlinks are good or not.
But all the preparation work you can entrust, delegate to bots. So here we use SEO metrics. SEO Metrics are the mere sign of – whether it’s worth to spend time checking the domain’s backlinks. Nothing more than that!
Because our time is unfortunately limited. Each one of us should decide for himself, how much time he or she can invest into this domain search process daily. Because if you take a huge list of domains, whether it’s 100 thousand daily drops, whether it’s tens of thousands from GoDaddy auctions, or whatever, – we just don’t have this amount of free hours a day. And we still have some other jobs, we have some SEO tasks, we have this and that, and sales, and development, and whatever, – and then we have our life. We have our families, we have our kids, and so on. So, basically, we all need to find some balance – how much time we can dedicate to domain checking, daily.
The more we rely on SEO metrics, – the less we are accurate, the less good domains we can find, and the more good domains we miss. And if we don’t trust SEO metrics at all, we miss zero.
If we take, for example, daily list of drops, it’s in average 80-130 thousand domains every day. If we take each one of those domains and start checking them for backlinks, we will probably need a week. If we have our staff of dedicated helpers, of offshore workers, we can delegate this task to them. But of course we don’t. So we take some SEO filters, some metric filters, and using those filters we can decide whether it’s worth actually to take this domain and to check it. And the tighter filter we have, – the more chance we have that we can miss some good domain and even some great domain. Because often time good domains just don’t have good SEO metrics.
So I choose, for example, to spend two hours daily, and to miss a certain amount of good domains daily. But I don’t regret it, because I still need time for other tasks and jobs, I need time for my life, for my family.
This is basically the first and the most important rule we all should remember. Often times we have these revelations of SEO Gurus, long reads, long blueprints, long PDF’s, and they can even take huge money for those, and they say for example: “You need to take domains with DA 22+, or 15+, or whatever, and a quantity of .edu backlinks should be minimum 3. Or 10. And then your site will be at the 1st position in SERP. In Google.” And then I can exactly say when some of these SEO Gurus reveals, or sales, his new revelations. Because we are starting to get many requests of the same kind: “We need domains with DA 25+ and .edu backlinks 10+.” Why?? What do people want to get, with domains chosen by metrics? – Nothing. They don’t know. They just read some SEO Guru stuff.
So what we should do – is to really take domain by domain and to check them in Ahrefs.
And how do we choose them? By names? To go through 100K names? Okay, this one may be good… Let’s check it in Ahrefs… Nothing.
So we use some SEO metrics. And here, SEO metrics are our tool, and nothing more. Our tool for filtering domains, to free our time spent on domain research.
There are lot of SEO metrics. Like Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, this and that. And there are never ending arguments – which SEO metrics are better, are more relevant for defining whether a domain is good or not.
We find that DA, Domain Authority by Moz, is quite OK for filtering the results; maybe it’s not very relevant to the real domain power, but it’s actually quite good for cutting off bad domains.
I personally love DR, Domain Rank by Ahrefs. It’s very good. But – there are lot of good domains that have low DR, so we cannot really rely on this metric.
So we have our own set of reliable metrics.
We can take endless, limitless number of metrics – we can take all like 10 metrics by Moz, all like 10 metrics by Ahrefs, all like 10 metrics by Majestic, and then we have SimilarWeb, we have Alexa, we have this and that; and if we have like 50 different metrics and put them into the Excel sheet, we have a mess, we have a huge mess that we just cannot operate. So we need somehow to limit these metrics, because if we have like tens metrics, we can’t… Our eyes, our sight can’t really take something from there. From another hand, one metric would be not enough. Only DA, or only DR, is not enough, we need to have some broader picture. Not too little, but not too big data.
So what do we do, – we have our CSV file with domain metrics… I don’t tell you how to get these metrics, because that’s what everybody decides for themselves. The obvious way is to go and purchase all the subscriptions of all these services – Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, etc., SemRush, SimilarWeb, – but it might be very costly, it can be more than a thousand dollar per month, and just not everybody’s business can afford that. So there are different sites, different tools, different services that gather this data and give it to you for some subscription price or whatever. But all these services can glitch, can bug.
So, you get this file, and you copy-paste the data to your Excel sheet. So now we have our data sheet, whether it be the daily drop list, like this one, or any list of domains. You get their metrics and you put them here.
Which metrics do we have here? This is, first of all, Moz. Moz metrics are not as relevant, not as powerful as they use to be few years ago, but still, as I said earlier, DA is a very good indicator, and it’s very good for cutting off bad results.
What we do here, we sort results, and in this dataset, I use cut-off by 20. DA 20 is my Floor, my lowest point where I want to spend my time on this domain. And I know I may miss here some domains, because there are still lot of domains with DA like 15, 17, in 15 to 20 range, which might be good, but time I would spend on investigation those domains will be huge. So I decide for myself, that I don’t take domains with DA lower than 20.
We see that this table has lot of clutter, like this, a lot of data, and we want to somehow clear this clutter. So, another cut-off for me is 24. It’s my personal number of choice, you can choose your own, of course, like 15 and the secondary cut-off 20. I use 20 and 24. So from 24 I just delete the values from the sheet. What does it give to me, it diminishes an amount of clutter. The sheet becomes easier to work with. But here, every domain which doesn’t have DA, I know it’s still 20 to 25. I just don’t get them visible, so they don’t bring distractions to my sight.
Then we have Majestic. And this is our secret, which I can reveal now to you. Actually, everybody who have ever bought domains from us, Domains R Forever, knows it, that we use www for Trust Flow. And I don’t think than anyone else, any other service, does it. And it’s strange. If you read some SEO Gurus, they might say that www TF doesn’t matter, because it shows only some subdomain rank. And technically it’s true, www is subdomain. So maybe in some sense they are right, for some SEO stuff it’s like this, but for searching of domains TF-www definitely matters. Because if you take a domain and check its metrics, here you can see that TF is 18 and TF-www is 21, so you can say that most backlinks while the site was live lead to its www version, that’s why it’s higher. So if you don’t have this in your dataset, you will miss actually many domains. Like you see here, higher, higher, and I don’t see here examples, but there are domains that have very low TF but high TF-www. So if you don’t have this metric, you miss a lot of domains. Actually, a lot. I tell you: a lot. Maybe half. And here, with my method, you actually get them.
So this is my second secret. The first secret is: Metrics Don’t Matter. And the second secret: Always use TF-www.
Actually, I don’t know any service that gives you this info, so you should find it somehow.
And here we also make some cut-off, I take for example 5. A couple years ago TF was much more relevant. If I remember well, it was about 18 or 20, so below 20 it was not worth. But then, Majestic somehow changed their algorithm again, and many good domains fell to 0-5 range. So actually, now 5 is not so bad.
And TF-www we also make from 5.
And then we have another great metric – indexing in Google. Many people are searching for indexed domains. It makes perfect sense, but. Many domains, many good domains, if you see this, like 0 pages indexed but they have quite a good metrics, – many of these domains are de-indexed not because of some sanctions, or some bans by Google, but they are de-indexed just simply because they were sitting there idle without any site, for long time. Just because of that they’ve dropped from the index. And in most cases, when you take a good domain and build a good site on it or re-build a site on it, it gets back to index very fast. It’s my secret number 3. In most cases. Not 100% cases, but most cases.
So you should not worry much about domain being de-indexed. Of course, if some other signs are bad, for example in the domain history there was some redirect and so on, maybe it’s quite toxic. But if everything looks good, and it’s de-indexed – take it. As I said, in most cases it’ll jump back to index soon. If not, you always can file for reconsideration.
It actually depends on what site do you build on this domain. On the quality of this site. There might be different kinds of sites. If you take this domain for building some good site, white hat site, informational site, and so on, with good content, useful for visitors, you can really not worry about zero in the Index cell. You can always send for reconsideration, you can say, “I’m not responsible at all for what there was with this site before me, I just bought this domain.”
But if you build something weaker, something worse, like for example PBN site, it will depend on the quality of that PBN. If you built your PBN on copypasted content, or scraped content, or machine generated content, you obviously cannot send for reconsideration. And if you build a site for example for doorway, you of course cannot send for reconsideration. And if you don’t build a site at all, but use this domain for 301 redirect, – you just cannot take de-indexed domain.
So, this is in a way paradoxical: The better site you build, the less you can worry about its indexing or de-indexing. And vice versa.
But even if the domain is in index, you are not guaranteed in any way that it won’t drop from index. So it’s always a kind of lottery.
Here I also delete zeroes.
And then we have a very important one: the Age. In our case, the age is the first appearance in the web archive, archive.org. Archive.org works from ’96, and few times in my years of daily domain investigations, I stumbled on sites from ’95. But there are some sites that existed even before ’96 or ’95, and archive.org just don’t have that their history.
It’s an important metric. It’s not an important metric for your SEO, for Google results it doesn’t matter. But it’s an important metric for us, for our decision to look at the domain.
Then we have a set of data from Ahrefs. Here, as I mentioned, – Domain Rank. For me, it’s the most relevant metric among all. But for, so to say, preliminary filtering DA serves better. But DR is also good.
So what can we take off, it’s probably from 2. 3 is sometimes okay. It’s very important.
And then we have another important one – Referring Domains by Ahrefs. You can use Referring Domains index from Majestic or from Ahrefs, they show more or less the same. And here I use obvious cut-off on 20. Even 30-40 often times is not worth it. But sometimes you have domains with really good backlinks, like .gov or .edu backlinks, but they have only like 20 referral domains at all. I would take such domain any day. All the domains from here and below I delete, I don’t want to spend time on them. Let’s check, let’s see… I can tell you… Here, 16. But 16 referring domains – I don’t want it. So I select everything below 20 and delete it.
And then I also delete all these empty rows, and now my slider is here, at the bottom. So it’s now much easier to work with this sheet.
And then we have some very secondary metrics. We can skip them, but they give some indication. This is Ahrefs .gov and .edu referring domains. They don’t say us much, because all these .gov and .edu backlinks might be a junk. There might be university forum profiles, might be redirects, or whatever.
And I don’t take any other metrics. Many people love SimilarWeb. But SimilarWeb metric can be easily manipulated. If you take really good domain, you see that SimilarWeb is high. But if we take just any domain with high SimilarWeb metric, the chances are the domain is just bad. It’s easy to manipulate it. Much easier than with DA for example, and of course than with DR.
Also many people like to use CF/TF ratio. You can see that I don’t use CF at all. I just don’t like it, I never could see any meaning in it. But this CF/TF ratio can be really good. I just don’t like to have it here in my datasheet, and also with our two variants of TF, with and without www, it can be really difficult, because now we would need to have also two different ratios, with and without www. And there will be lot of visual clutter.
Some people like to use another ratio – Ahrefs Domain Rank to URL Rank. It’s also good idea, but this set is really enough for me.
And here we have Alexa index. It’s also can be easily manipulated, so if you have low Alexa for some domain, it doesn’t mean that the domain is good. But when you see many good metrics, for example this domain, you can see that the chances the domain is good are very high. I think, odds are 80:20 that this domain is good.
So I’ve explained you everything we have in our setup.
Then I make the following sorting. First of all, Age from oldest, then Alexa from lowest, then TF from highest, and in the end DA from highest. So now, I have my final file I work with. And we go.
DA. Very rare you can find really good drop with DA > 50. Because that just doesn’t happen. And if that does happen, you cannot really grab such domains because of course Dropcatch or Snapnames will grab them, and we see there auctions for thousands dollars for such domains. But often times these DA are wrong, because of redirects. If the domain was redirected on the last stages of its life, then its DA might show DA of the target domain, and not of this domain.
Now we can check domains. This we don’t check, and this, and this – we can of course look at names. Obviously, in some time of its life it was a real site about HR, but later it was obviously some PBN or whatever, because it’s de-indexed. I won’t even open and check it. I won’t waste my time. You can, actually, make this experiment and prove I was wrong.
This one looks like very spammy. “Handsome Suits”. 2008, but actually DR looks quite good. Let us check it. Why I do it here, in the address bar, – because if I make it here, Ahrefs will give me an overview, and what I need is the Referring Domains page. If you do it in Majestic, it will give you the last used page, but not here. So what we have here is all this Japanese junk, and it’s a sign of spam. Redirects, spam, PBN, and whatever.
Of course, Ahrefs is very expensive to use. If you are on a low budget, you can use some alternatives, like… Ahrefs is the best, you can also use Majestic, which I think is cheaper but for me is not so good, not so handy to work with, and the results output is much less intuitive. For example, in Ahrefs I see all domains sorted by DR and I immediately see if the domain is good or bad.
Or, if you are on really low budget, there are some free alternatives, like Openlinkprofiler or Linkpad, which you can start with. And of course then, when only you can scrape some budget, you should buy Ahrefs subscription.
So, this domain I pass. And this one looks good. .uk domains often times are great. With .uk I first check Whois. I first check if the domain is still free, still available, because once an .uk domain gets into drop list, in these days before the drop, the pending delete stage, it still can be renewed by its previous owner. So in order not to waste my time and Ahrefs units which are limited every day, I check in any Whois tool, and here I see it’s registered. So I don’t check it.
But, let’s say, for our experiment we’d say it’s free. So we go and check it. Nothing good here. But with some .gov’s. You see all these .pl, Polish stuff, it’s usually a sign of something bad. We open also these. Some gov, edu… And we see it’s actually quite a good link. Should be not from some forum profile or redirect, and it’s about “How to find a private tenancy”. Looks good… All the links look good. This is our first check. [24:27] And then we should look at anchors. And history. Anchors are really okay. And in history we see redirect. To “Easyroommate”. So we can say it was a legit redirect. What does it mean – that most probably the site was bought by its competitors or whatever, or the owners just moved to new domain. What we see here… You always look what is here, in the address, because often times the domain was changed but you can’t spot it. “FlatmateClick. The leader in flatshare and flatmate matching.” And here it’s most probably already redirected. Not yet. Wow, looks great! Yeah. Here it’s already redirected. [25:26] So we go and check in Moz Open Site Explorer. Yes. So this 62 is redirect to the new domain. A real DA is 31. Not bad at all. And then we check indexing. But it’s not indexed, it’s zero, because this domain for many years was without any site. So here we change it for 31, it’s not bad at all, and here we make some note for ourselves: I take it, I want it.
“Mcnealforbothell”. I have no idea what is that. Metrics seem good, but not indexed and the age is 2015. Three years ago. I’m curious. I check it out of curiosity. Wall Street Journal… Polish, Indonesian, Turkish stuff… I think it’s suspicious what is going on here. But let’s check… Yeah. “Also visit my website.” I think it’s junk. “Kingcounty”. What’s this .pl? Yeah. “HDB interior design Singapore.” You see, it’s not relevant to anything. So we pass this domain, we skip it.
“Birthday wish”, it just cannot be anything good. But this – of course we check.
Just imagine, if we had only DA for all of these. You would have to open every domain and just guess. The more data you have, the more time you save.
So we take this domain and investigate it. Stackoverflow, Arstechnica, Trello… But here is not so good. But let’s see.
The more domains you check, really every day, the more experience you get, because I can see if the domain is good or not only by looking at the referring domains, but it’s an experience of years.
“Adam’s bookmarks > Software development.” Looks good. Let’s see. Anchors… Noooo. “Fast cash loan.” Pity.
And we go further… Here is a domain that looks good. And also in a range of 41. Might be OK. It’s rare, but might be OK. Actually, you can skip most domains with DA > 40, most times they are redirects or spam or whatever; but in the range of like 20 to 30, 35 – it’s our sweet spot. Most good domains are in this range, here and below.
This one I believe is really good domain. Actually, with this .org domain, it was quite OK, because you see there is some forum, and at this forum probably there were only junk links. I would take this domain for my own projects, for sure. [28:50] And here we see some, I think, genuine links. So we take this to investigate. Ich nicht verstehen Deutsch, but everything here is in German, and also Germans love to use hyphens in domain names, it’s very normal for them, so I think the site is legit, totally legit site. Let’s check. Yeah, everything looks good. I take this domain, really.
Let’s check also this domain once again. Indexed pages. It’s not. So, taking this domain is a risk. If you want to use leverage, advantage of these great backlinks, really great backlinks, almost 2,000 referent domains, great Alexa, and to build a powerful site on it, – I would take it any day. Really. It will be very powerful site, it will jump back to index very soon, and if it doesn’t jump back to index I’ll just file for reconsideration, and if I build good site on it Google will grant it. But if you want to build a cheap PBN or to use it for redirect or doorway or whatever, you’d better not. Because here, it’s de-indexed. But I will take it.
And then we go on. It’s “year .org”, they are often very good. It should be some science conference or whatever. But also often they are very spammed. Because not only I love them but also many our colleagues. It might be already some PBN on it before. So we see here Wikipedia… And you actually see here very sharp, distinctive fall from 70, few domains with DR 70, and then already 40. It’s a sign that the domain is not so good.
“Augmented Reality Invoker.” The domain looks intriguing. Let’s check it. May be it will be good for some affiliate site, for Amazon or whatever. No, links are junk. You see all these .edu, Taiwan, Indonesia, Poland, it’s a sign of spam, of junk.
What we have here… “Iscramlive.” All metrics look good. .edu, .edu. Might be something good. Let’s check few of them. “Association for information systems…” Looks very good. Looks very good. “Link to full text”, pdf, I think the backlinks are genuine. [31:52] Looks good, I don’t see any viagra or loan links at the whole page. Let’s look at some more archive screenshots. Yeah. Very very good domain. Really good domain. Of course, if you want to make really good analysis, you open all these .edu’s and see their page code and so on. But this domain I take any day.
And so on. “Cambridge First”, of course it’s good, “Infosez”, maybe it’s good, obfuscation.org should be just great, if it’s not spammed. Wikipedia. .edu. Here are many Russian links. It’s not the best sign, but let’s see, let’s open some links… Wikipedia. “IP filter. How to. Obfuscation. Packet filter. For documentation…” I’d say this domain is great. If it was not spammed by some PBN owners. Let’s see… “How to.” Anchors are great. [33:14] And this is not so great. I don’t know what it means. Oops. You see why there were so many Russian backlinks? It’s PBN. Okay. What to do.
I would take this domain for myself, for my projects, I don’t mind PBN. My position: backlinks are great, backlinks are backlinks, backlinks are there, I don’t care what one of the previous owners of the site, of the domain has built on it, what site, I don’t care, I can use it for my projects. But in our shop Domains R Forever we prefer not to sell domains like this because most of our clients don’t like such domains.
“Fantastic stories of the imagination.” It’s interesting. Domain name looks very spammy, but actually all metrics… DR50. Let’s check it, just out of curiosity. Wikipedia. Kickstarter, very good sign. Gizmodo. .edu. “Stuart Baker creative works. Read at fantastic stories of the imagination.” Amazon. Boingboing. Gizmodo, Kickstarter and Wikipedia, let’s open these links. [34:37] “Science fiction magazine.” It’s OK. Kickstarter… “Ronald’s fiction published…” Should be very good. If. Anchors. “Fantastic stories…” Everything looks good. Let’s see. It looks like generic WordPress theme, but looks like it’s a real site. Most times when such generic WordPress site opens, you can think it’s PBN, because most of real sites people make on some tailor made engines. But I would say this is very good domain, amazing. Despite its name. “Mythology…” We take it. Good.
Then we go down, and we look… This is junk, I don’t want it. And here, as I said, the lower to 20-s the better the domains will be. So all these we can check. And these we don’t check. And all these we check. And you remember, I cut off by DA24, so these I’ll also check, but not all of them. For example, I will start from… Here I mostly look at the age of the site. This one I would check, this one I would definitely check. You see yourself.
And then we choose some sites, for example this, this and this, and then we sort the sheet, then copy-paste the domains to the txt document, and then we take these domains we picked, and the we sort them by extensions, .org separately and .com/.net separately, .info and whatever we have, and then I go to my VPS with DesctopCatcher, I paste them here, turn on scheduler for .org, and hit Run. And I have pretty good chances I will grab these domains. Actually, many of our domains we are grabbing with DesctopCatcher. It’s absolutely genius software. It has some learning curve to take, but you have this terrific feature one-by-one. COM. Run. And I forget about this list, and in the evening I get few emails in my inbox about some domains are registered.
I think that’s all. I hope you enjoyed my story, and my methods, how I filter and look through long lists of domains – of dropped, expiring, auctioned domains; how I check whether they are good or not to register. I hope you enjoyed it, and I wish you all lot of success and prosperity, and – let’s earn more money together. Bye-bye.
Moz OpenSiteExplorer (will be shut down soon) https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/
DesctopCatcher (affiliate link) https://site.domainsrforever.com/resources/desctopcatcher/
Server for DesctopCatcher: Green Cloud VPS (affiliate link) https://site.domainsrforever.com/resources/green-cloud-vps/