Buying Sites For SEO

Stephan Spencer is moderating our panel with speakers Gab Goldenberg (SEO ROI), Todd Malicoat (Stuntdubl), Jeremy Schoemaker (Shoemoney Media Group) and Jeremy Wright (B5 Media). Jeremy Schoemaker couldn’t make it in person because his wife is about to have a baby so he sent a video presentation. Sweet!

In 2004 during a conference, Jeremy heard that there were all these domains out there that were expired but were linked to by government, military and .edu Web sites. People listened and laughed it off, but Shoemoney asked how many sites like that were out there. He then went home and started doing some research. Him and a partner talked about how they could find these expired domains with all these high trusted links. They built a spider that used GYM to seek them out and check how many backlinks it had and if the site was listed in any of the major directories. In a month and a half they found more than 1500 domains that were out in the wild. They used them to dominate a lot of niche markets.

What did it tell them?

People thought that when a domain expired that it “reset” to Google. Not true. The test showed them that Google gave weight to the links, not to the domain. What’s not bread and butter search engine optimization has a very limited shelf life. The link age still works today.

Fast forward two or three years, they’re slowly starting to die off. He found Joe Lieberman’s 2004 Presidential campaign domain. He registered it, made a blog about Joe Lieberman and instantly it was a first page Google results and ranked fourth for [Joe Lieberman] then he switched it over to a niche site. Within 3 or 4 days it was completely delisted in Google. That told them there’s something going on where you have to stay in the same niche zone. It’s not as easy as it used to be. You can’t just register a site and throw whatever you want on it. There’s some kind of human element at play.

Fast forward to now and he says it’s probably not worth your time to do the domain thing.

Be careful when 301ing. If you buy domains that are expired or parked, you want to slowly 301 the links. You’ll set off alarms if you do it overnight. There are many domains out there that are expired to this day that have great links to them. You may not get the keyword value, but you’ll get the PR value.

Now they buy domains for branding, not for search engine optimization. He thinks the value of search engine optimization is falling a little more each year. He paid $9,000 for the Auction Ads domain. They’re for branding, not for SEO. If you can get the keyword domain for what you’re doing, that’s almost priceless.

And that’s it from Shoemoney. Most awesome video presentation ever!

Jeremy Wright is up.

Jeremy lets us know he’s not a search engine optimization guy. He runs a media company. It’s not quite as sexy as SEO.

They buy sites for eventual revenue purposes. Potential, specifically unrealized potential, is what they’re looking for. They’re not an SEO company!

Core metrics: Existing traffic, uniques, revenue, feed subscribers, Google PageRank.
Secondary Metrics: age of a site, stability, age of domain, amount of content, existing search engine optimization metrics, stableness, etc.

Tertiary questions: Is it/can it be a blog/ Does it cover a unique area? Does it add non-core value we can put a number to? Does it have a real brand name in its industry?

Tools they use to valuate blogs: Blog Valuation Calculator (an internal tool),, ComScore, Search Depth Calculator (another internal tool).

Mistakes You Can Avoid

  • Always verify traffic (Google Analytics, SiteMeter, Omniture)
  • Don’t believe the potential someone else pitches you on, arrive at your own.
  • Don’t deviate from your playbook (though your playbook should include some flexibility for lager purchases).
  • Don’t be afraid to buy partners early if you see early success
  • Avoid properties that depend on specific personalities being bought in for the site to retain its value to you
  • Watch out for “inflationary schemes”.
  • Buy early, buy often, admit failure quickly.

Gab Goldenberg is next.

Buying sites for search engine optimization is like climbing Mt. Everest. You want to do your research, protect yourself from changing conditions along the way and have a good base camp to start from. As far as search engine optimization goes, that means having a good domain to work from.

Content is extremely undervalued. You want to look for indices of high quality Web sites. Google is doing “submarine crawling” where they’ll query a search form or they’ll execute JavaScript to find deep Web content that isn’t linked to from the site itself. If you can find out that Google is doing this kind of crawling, you know that this site is well trusted by Google.

How do you find those sites?

Do a [site:] search. That will work for one site, but what if you’re looking at an entire industry? You can look for a footprint.

What’s a footprint? A footprint is an identifying characteristic that many Web sites share. If you look at a CMS, there will be various footprints that are attached to it. He shows us the footprint for a high quality WordPress blog.

You’ve done your research and found the site, but if you change the WHOIS and the hosting, you can get the value reset. How do you protect your investment? You use a trust.

A trust is legal mechanism whereby one person holds legal title and the other person gets to be the beneficiary of the site. This allows you to get away with not changing the WHOIS while still taking over the site.

How do you get one? Go to a lawyer specializing in trusts. Make sure the contract includes the intent to create a trust, that there’s certainty over the property and that you consider other specifications like including that the hosting is part of what you’re buying.

The single greatest value you’re buying when you get a site is the domain. Realize that.

Todd Malicoat is up.

Todd doesn’t have an intro because he was fearful of even speaking on this panel. To make up for it he starts off with a joke: What’s orange and looks really, really good on a hippie?


Oh Jesus. Back to buying old sites, eh?

Finding Old Sites

Think like an old site: If you were an old site, where would you be? That’s how you come up with the creative queries. And beyond that, you want to automate that process.

When you’re contacting the site owner, it’s tough. Be Credible, be brief, be lucky.

When you’re valuating a site, look at the domain, age, links, theme, traffic and revenue.

Negotiating and Closing a Site Purchase

  1. Lowball, but don’t offend.
  2. Get a price.
  3. Counter.
  4. Agree.
  5. Sign Agreement,
  6. Escrow Service
  7. Transfers – files and WHOIS

Todd ends with more jokes!

How do you starve a hippie?

Hide his father’s credit card under a bar of soap.

Oh, brother…

Question and Answer

Aside form, can you recommend any other tools to use?

Todd: Premium Drops.
Jeremy: A couple of the URL shortening services will let you buy data from them.
Stephan: Get good with your advanced query operators.

Are there things you can do to crash, reset a competing site that sold?

Todd: Same as you can do in the search results. He’s sure you can, but he doesn’t know anything specific.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (4)
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4 Replies to “Buying Sites For SEO”

Great post Lisa. The video by Schoemaker is very interesting indeed. I wonder if these methods still work.

Thanks for the coverage Lisa, and for doing a good job of summarizing it too. That’s really hard to do, n it’s easier to just take presentations as dictation. You really got the gist of these presentations though, imho. I think Todd had a couple extra points covered at SEJ, but yeah, nice work.
p.s. That bouncer lady was a jerk, no need to let her bother you!


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