Interesting SEO Discovery – Part Two

Well yesterday’s post about an interesting SEO discovery I recently made has drawn a lot of great comments, and plenty of different opinions and viewpoints. Since there’s already twenty comments on this thread I thought I would up-level this a bit and help share some of the comments that have been made in a single post.

I know that when a blog post gets a lot of comments sometimes really incredible comments get lost in the shuffle. Yesterday I got some truly phenomenal comments from some very well-respected people and I want to make sure they get the credit they deserve! If you haven’t read my post from yesterday read it now before continuing or you won’t have any idea what is going on.

Two of the main points/questions I saw come-up in the comments were:

  • The reason this domain was passing link juice is because of its previous backlinks and PR
  • Do search engines have a problem with this?

A number of good points were brought-up around why forwarding this particular domain name may have driven the rankings that it did. The point that was brought-up most consistently was that when you’re forwarding a site with existing back-links and PR then it will offer this SEO benefit. The domain name I am forwarding here, is an expired domain name that I purchased, which, according to Google themselves, won’t carry the links or PR from the previous site. Below is a quote from Matt Cutts at Google from Search Engine Land:

“There are some domain transfers ( e.g. genuine purchases of companies) where it can make perfect sense for links to transfer. But at the same time it wouldn’t make sense to transfer the links from an expired or effectively expired domain, for example. Google (and probably all search engines) tries to handle links appropriately for domain transfers. “(Matt Cutts (Google) – Search Engine Land)

In his comments Matt actually addresses this exact issue:

“The sort of stuff our systems would be designed to detect would be things like someone trying to buy expired domains or buying domains just for links.”

So in this case Google themselves is saying that buying an expired name for the link juice won’t work. That’s what makes my discovery yesterday so counter-intuitive for me. Over the last few years I’ve always thought that the backlinks and PR of expired domains were devalued, this has been a commonly-held belief in the SEO world. I’ve always liked buying expired domains with links because I’ve found if you build a related site on the domain, the links can come back to life. That being said, based on everything I’ve read and experienced in the past, domains don’t carry their link juice after expiration when all you’re doing is forwarding the name.

The discovery that I recently made would seem to show that this is not the case. When a domain name expires the link juice is still active, at least in this case, despite Google claiming otherwise. I would be interested to know if anyone else has some solid examples of this because we may be cracking the case on an interesting issue in the SEO world that may be incorrect just about everywhere!

The second theme that came-up in the comments was concerns around Google penalizing you for forwarding a domain to your site. I’ve been an SEOMoz fan since the very beginning (I started doing SEO in 1995!) and I think their article about buying expired domains really is a must-read when it comes to this topic. In the article they say,

The easiest and least time consuming option is to 301 redirect the old domain to your existing site. This tactic obviously works best if both sites are in the same sector and are targeting the same keywords; otherwise, if you have a pet supply site and you buy an old Texas Hold ‘Em poker site, a redirect probably might raise some eyebrows among the search engines. If, however, your site is and you buy and 301 redirect the domain over, you’re inheriting a lot of topical and appropriate links. (SEOMoz, Buying Expired Domains: What’s the Best Strategy?)

This goes-along with how I’ve always forwarded domains. I buy domains in a particular niche and forward them to related sites in the same niche. Where I think you’d get in trouble with search engines is forwarding a domain to a completely unrelated site. As they say above, forwarding a poker site to your pet site might raise some red flags but forwarding within the same niche shouldn’t yield any search penalties.

I know many Domainers and Developers who forward related .COM domains in their niche to their main site. This has provided them with some great valuable type-in traffic. If you have 50 .COM’s in one niche, each generating 30 visitors/month you could bring another 1,500 targeted visitor to your site each month. What Search Engines wants to avoid is confusing or misleading people and SEOMoz hits the nail on the head in their article on this topic.

I hope this addresses two of the main themes I saw in the comments – as always continue commenting and sharing your thoughts! It’s fun to learn more about this together and I really appreciate all the great comments that have been made so far!

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton