Google on Dealing With Sneaky Use of Expired Domains

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about the use of expired domains for ranking purposes. He explained how there are many legitimate reasons why expired domains registered and why balance and caution must be used for detecting which ones are used for sneaky purposes.

Question About Expired Domains for Ranking Purposes

Expired domains have been a popular way for sites to instantly acquire links for many, many years. It’s a practice rick that’s as old as exchanging reciprocal links (agreeing to link to another site in exchange for a link back in return).

Screenshot of Google’s John Mueller Discussing Expired Domains

Google’s John Mueller said there were many legitimate reasons why expired domains are used for websites but that overall he was satisfied by well Google handles them.

There is nothing new or cutting edge about it.

It’s a popular tactic that has continued to grow in popularity.

Here is the question:

“I see many discussions about people buying expired domains to take advantage of links associated with the expired domains.

What they do is build a site on an expired domain or they redirect an expired domain to a second domain that they want to rank.

Does Google reset the backlinks of expired domains so that they don’t have an effect when someone buys them and builds a site on the expired domain.”

Google’s Mueller began his answer by stating that this is an old practice that Google is well aware of.

“Now… I don’t know… these discussions have been around since like the beginning, when domain names started expiring and people try to keep… I don’t know… keep using some that had some good history and trying to build things there.

I think initially probably just to keep the name alive and then at some point for SEO reasons as well of course.”

Lack of Specific Factors for Identifying Spammy Uses

Mueller confirmed that their algorithms attempt to detect what an expired domain is being used for but acknowledged the difficulty of doing so because of the fact that re-registered expired domains are used in ways that are completely innocent and legitimate.


“Our systems try to understand what to do here and for the most part I think we get this right.

So it’s not that there’s this any one specific factor that we would look at and say, oh they’re trying to do something sneaky with those expired domains.”

Dealing with Expired Domains Requires Caution

Mueller then noted that the process of dealing with expired domains requires a great deal of caution.


“We need to be super cautious.

Sometimes people revive expired domains and they really kind of run the old website again. Sometimes people sometimes pass on a website from one owner to another, so… domain name changes ownership.

And those are all normal situations and it’s not the case that Google should go in there and say oh… we need to be extra cautious here.”

Identifying Motives Behind Expired Domain Use is Tricky

Mueller then underlined that dealing with expired domains requires care.


“So, finding those situations where essentially people are trying to abuse the system by picking up expired domains that are totally unrelated to what they’ve been working on and hoping to get them to rank well in search… uh… that’s something that’s sometimes a bit tricky.

We have a lot of practice with that. I don’t think we always get it right but at least the many cases I’ve looked into there, seems to be working out okay.

But, anyway, this has been around… I think will continue to be around as long as people can change ownership and kind of reuse existing domain names.

It’s kind of a part of the web.”

How Google Handles Expired Domains

Google’s Mueller explained that caution is necessary for handling how people use expired domains.

He said that there is no single tell-tale sign that an expired domain is being used in an abusive manner.

So many domains have been registered and allowed to drop that it can seem nearly impossible to identify a domain that hasn’t been previously registered at some point in time.

So that must surely complicate the process of identifying if someone registered a domain name during the normal course of creating a web presence or if someone knowingly registered the domain for ranking purposes.

Interestingly, Mueller did not answer the question as to whether the links to the domain are reset. To reset the backlinks means to not use pre-existing links to the domain for ranking purposes.


Watch Mueller Answer How Google Deals with Expired Domains that Are Re-registered