Expired Domain Case Study Update – August 2014

case study update - new vs expired domainsWow! It’s been a little while since our last update for the case study – it was in June!

This whole case study is about using expired domains for money sites rather than starting with brand new domain. Overall, I am trying to keep the variables equal so the only notable difference is the domain. Sure, there are some things that are a bit out of our control but I even try to keep the word count on the pages very close.

As of the last update in June, we are focusing on half of the case study sites – so that’s two sites. I realized I should only work on 2 sites within one niche to keep my sanity (and for my wife’s sanity, too!).

If you are just joining us on the case study, you might want to start here. That page has a link to all the posts related to the case study, including the initial post that lays the foundation for the whole case study.


We didn’t get a tremendous amount done but we are right on schedule. The Google sandbox period definitely reduces the urgency of completing certain tasks quickly.

Add Backlinks

We built a few more PBN backlinks since the last update, about 10 more per site. We could have added even more backlinks but as I mention the urgency is low. It takes 4 – 6 months to rank a moderately competitive keyword so we didn’t want to use up all the available PBN backlinks in the first couple months.

I am a fan of blog commenting to get relevant backlinks. It’s free and scalable. Just to be clear I am talking about manual blog comments that are relevant to the post and blog. There is no automated software in our blog commenting campaign. Yep, I know they are ‘nofollow’ links and that is fine with me. ‘nofollow’ backlinks help to make your backlink profile look natural.

Also, my wife loves to do blog comments – I’m not sure why but she likes it. So she has been commenting on niche relevant blogs for a few weeks.

We also had some HOTH package links show their power over the last few weeks. (That’s an affiliate link – I appreciate the support!The HOTH sets up Web 2.0 free blogs and then adds some private backlinks and a few other type of links to point to the blogs. I get the Platinum package since it offers the best value overall. Check out exactly how I order my links in this video. The video turned out so well that the folks at the HOTH gave me a shout out on g+.

I used to build the Web 2.0s by hand myself, hire a writer to produce the content, and order some fiverr gigs for the Tier 2 backlinks. That process is pretty time consuming and it turns out that the HOTH does a better job than I do anyway.

Even though that package was completed a while back, the second layer of links (i.e. tier 2 links) are added over a period of weeks. The other part is that it takes about 30++ days in some cases (really most cases) for backlinks to show their impact. We can see the real impact of the links down in the Ranking section below.

Now, let’s check out some graphics!

The Expired Domain for Niche #1

Last time, Majestic SEO showed 87 referring domains while ahrefs showed 79. (Compare the stats with the last update.) I’m mainly concerned with referring domains over the total number of backlinks. Let’s see where we are as of mid August, 2014.


Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Summary Report from Majestic SEO

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Summary Report from Majestic SEO

In Majestic there are 21 new referring domains that have been crawled and there is a pretty good variance with the referring IPs too. This is a nice distribution overall. Next, we’re looking at the ahrefs summary and it pretty much lines up with what we see from Majestic. Great.

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Summary Report from ahrefs

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Summary Report from ahrefs

The “Ahrefs Domain Rank” is now a big fat ‘0’ and I am not 100% sure why. Last update, it was 43. That doesn’t make me feel great but I’m not concerned about that right now…You’ll see why in a bit…

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Type Summary from ahrefs

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Type Summary from ahrefs

There aren’t as many links reported at ahrefs as at Majestic. That probably means that the crawlers for each of them crawl different parts of the internet which is no surprise. So I mentioned before that I am mainly concerned with the referring domains over the total number of backlinks. Why?

There are diminishing returns from additional backlinks from the same domain. Most likely, the extra links are from category, tag, or archive pages on the various websites. Some sites even have a sidebar widget that displays the “most recent comments.” So that’s how we end up with those inflated backlink numbers – and it’s the same reason why I like the referring domain statistic.

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Details Summary from ahrefs

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Backlink Details Summary from ahrefs

If you compare the graph below to the one from June, you can visibly see that there are more backlinks. Great. But you can also clearly see there are several lower trust backlinks…probably from blog commenting.

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Trust Flow vs. Citation Flow from Majestic SEO

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Trust Flow vs. Citation Flow from Majestic SEO

It’s nothing alarming or something that we need to worry about right now. However, that means we probably want to work on getting more high Trust Flow backlinks in the future.




The TF is down 1 point and the CF is up 3 points which makes sense based on the graph above. Again, nothing to freak out about but I’ll keep an eye on this.

The Anchor text distribution is looking awesome. The “Other” category is 53%, up from 30% in June. And, everything else is compressed down to fit into the remaining 47%.

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Anchor Text Distribution from Majestic SEO

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Anchor Text Distribution from Majestic SEO

Heading back over to ahrefs we can see the calendar view of the new backlinks and the lost backlinks.

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Calendar View of New Links from ahrefs

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Calendar View of New Links from ahrefs

Here is the same information in a graphic view. There are not any big numbers in the pink which is the Lost backlink category. Yay!

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Graph View of New and Lost Links from ahrefs

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Graph View of New and Lost Links from ahrefs

Lastly, this graph shows the number of referring pages (vertical axis on the left side) with backlinks to the expired domain. Then my favorite, the number of referring domains (vertical axis on the right side) are shown as well.

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Graph of New and Lost Links from ahrefs

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Graph of New and Lost Links from ahrefs

The New Domain for Niche #1

This is the brand new domain as of April 2014. All the backlinks to this site were created by me or my wife…so there are only a fraction of the backlinks for this site.

Let’s review the same exact data for this site on the new domain.


Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Summary Report from Majestic SEO

Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Summary Report from Majestic SEO

Last time, we only saw about 28 external backlinks from 10 referring domains. Notice the number of backlinks listed above from Majestic versus the number listed from ahrefs below.

Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Summary Report from ahrefs

Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Summary Report from ahrefs


Next, we see that most of the backlinks are “dofollow” with a handful of “nofollow” as well. Last time, there were not any “nofollow” backlinks.

Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Type Summary from ahrefs

Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Type Summary from ahrefs


Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Details Summary from ahrefs

Niche #1, New Domain – Backlink Details Summary from ahrefs


The TF vs CF chart looks pretty good. We have added quite a few new backlinks and you can clearly see that most of them have a low Trust Flow. That’s not ideal but it can probably be attributed to the blog commenting.


Niche #1, New Domain – Trust Flow vs. Citation Flow from Majestic SEO

The CF has gone up by 1 point and the TF has gone down by 2 points – similar to the expired domain.



The anchor text is less diverse than for the expired domain. There is actually a slight improvement from the last update when there were fewer backlinks. We can control the anchor text since we have a Private Blog Network (PBN) that we are utilizing for backlinks. That’s really one of the main advantages of owning your own PBN. (If you’re new to Private Blog Networks, read more here or check out the infographic here.)

Niche #1, New Domain – Anchor Text Distribution from Majestic SEO

Niche #1, New Domain – Anchor Text Distribution from Majestic SEO

Ideally, we should have most of the anchor text as the “Other” category. It is at 23% right now so that’s not bad. Any of the keyword related anchor text should be under 10%. The exact match anchor text should be less than 3%. Currently, the exact match is at 6% so a little bit higher than we want.

Nowadays, it’s best to have a very small percentage of exact match anchor text. Use generic terms like these:

  • Click here
  • check out this site
  • check out this website
  • look at this review
  • etc…

In addition, using the full title of your post or page would also be fine since the title would likely be a long phrase with a partial match. And, you can use different variations of the naked URL, like:

  • domain-name.com
  • www.domain-name.com
  • http://domain-name.com/
  • http://domain-name.com
  • etc…

Up next is the calendar view showing when the backlinks were added or lost.

Niche #1, New Domain – Calendar View of New Links from ahrefs

Niche #1, New Domain – Calendar View of New Links from ahrefs

And, a slightly different view of the same data.

Niche #1, New Domain – Calendar View of New Links from ahrefs

Niche #1, New Domain – Calendar View of New Links from ahrefs

Lastly, we have the referring pages along with the referring domains.

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Graph of New and Lost Links  and Referring Domains from ahrefs

Niche #1, Expired Domain – Graph of New and Lost Links and Referring Domains from ahrefs


Add Content

We also added more content to the sites – 5 more articles per site. I stepped it up this time though. Each of the 5 articles are about 2,000 words…I hired 2 different contractors from oDesk and asked them to write on the same topics.

You may remember that I had some issues when I tried to hire contractors for lower rates. Well, lesson learned on that…

I re-hired one writer that did a fine job previously for the same niche and gave him a raise. I also hired a brand new oDesk contractor for nearly the same rate. They both did a very good job.


Here is where we can really track the progress. If you haven’t launched your own niche site yet here is what you can expect: your site won’t get much traffic until you have some terms ranking on page 1 of the search engine results pages (SERPs). (That is true if you are relying on natural search engine traffic versus other traffic sources.)

So, I like where we are right now. It’s a good spot to be considering the 2 sites launched back in April.

All the graphs are directly from SerpBook. I have SerpBook set up to send me an email each day so I can easily see how the sites are ranking. I used to manually check rankings and that’s a poor use of time. (Here is the affiliate link if you are interested.) If you have more than a couple sites and you are tracking a few keywords, then you should definitely check them out.

Let’s dive into the SerpBook screenshots…

Keyword 1 – Expired Domain

kw1 exp-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 1 – New Domain

kw1 new-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 2 – Expired Domain

kw2 exp-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 2 – New Domain

kw2 new-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 3 – Expired Domain

kw3 exp-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 3 – New Domain

kw3 new-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 4 – Expired Domain

kw4 exp-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 4 – New Domain

kw4 new-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 5 – Expired Domain

kw5 exp-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com

Keyword 5 – New Domain

kw5 new-domain-90-day-ranking-aug2014-nichesiteproject.com


Well, you can clearly see that the new domain is not doing so well. It totally dropped off the map over the last month or so. Every couple days, one of the keywords will pop back up where it was and then drop back down.

I am not sure what the issue is exactly. In fact, my wife was asking about it and I didn’t investigate until now. So, look back up at the anchor text distribution for the expired and new domains.

What do you notice?

Yep, me too. The expired domain has a much greater variance of anchor text

I’m not 100% certain that the issue is anchor text over optimization but it’s top on my list. To help fix that issue, I will be working to get even more branded and naked URL anchor text.

That’s the huge advantage for the expired domain featured in the case study. It already had 100s of backlinks so we were fairly aggressive with the anchor text by using some keyword rich partial matches in our backlinks.

Like I mentioned, we control the majority of the backlinks to the money sites. So to address the anchor text issue, we can simply log into our PBN sites and adjust the anchor text. Simple and effective.

On to the expired domain…it’s going pretty well. I wish the sandbox was not causing the site to hang out just past the first page. That’s very annoying but it also means that once your site gets to the top 10, it will probably stay there.

We actually don’t have affiliate links over to Amazon yet. That is something that we will need to address in the next 6 weeks or so.

But for right now, it’s not a priority. Sure we might miss out on a sale here or there but that’s trivial at this point.


Things are going pretty well after about 4 months into the case study. As we’ve referenced before, new web sites take longer to rank – like 4 – 6 months. With that in mind, we will keep working on these sites by adding more content and more backlinks. We will need to add some affiliate links soon since we will probably start showing up in the top 10 occasionally.

Here are the major take aways:

  • It takes 4 – 6 months to rank a site. This is a long game and your perseverance will be rewarded. (Check out Greg’s post at NoHatDigital, Josh’s post at FormYourFuture, Hayden’s guest post at NichePursuits – item #3, and so on…)
  • Building a site on an expired domain seems to be helpful.
  • Using Web 2.0 free blogs for link building works. You can do this by hand for free or use services like the HOTH to save time.
  • Building a 2nd layer of links (called Tier 2 Links) that point to the Web 2.0 blogs is helpful…just like what the HOTH does.
  • Watch out for the anchor text distribution and keep the exact match under 3%. Less is better!
  • Private Blog Networks are mandatory for organic search traffic to your money sites.
If you found this case study update helpful or insightful, please let me know! It takes a while to compile the graphics, analyze the data, and then write about it…like several hours so if you think I can do something to add more value…

Please let me know in the comment section below.

12 comments… add one
  • Avi Lang

    i have a question with all these domains are you making money with them?? and which ones?

    • Hi Avi,

      Not yet with these case study sites. If you look back at the “Issues” section, near the end, I mentioned that I haven’t put any affiliate links on the sites yet.

      Check out the Income Reports if you’re interested in earnings.

  • Thanks for the update. Pretty interesting to see some of the data…Thats lame the new domain dropped off the serps, hopefully it will pop back up.

    • Hey Nathan, thanks for the comment.

      It’s just one of those things. I suppose if I kept adding more content it would be a better way to keep the site up in the SERPs.

  • Scott

    Great report again Doug.

    I’m interested to see you re-cap the stats on the keywords you’re chasing, how competitive are they? How many exact match per month?

    • Hey Scott, the keyword competitiveness ranges from about 21 – 27 as reported by Long Tail Pro Platinum. The total for all the keywords is about 5,000 give or take a couple hundred.

      So they are on the lower competition side.

  • Loved the report Doug, very detailed and easy to follow! Good luck with the sites and personally I would not be too worried about the rankings drop on the new domain.

    Since it is a new domain Google is probably just testing the waters and if I were you I would keep adding content and links to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rankings shot up here in the next couple weeks, good luck my man!

    • Hey Josh, thanks for the comment. I think you’re right about google dancing…

      Thanks for the compliment on the report too.

  • I love how much detail you put into these case study updates Doug. We’re seeing a similar trend of sites launched on expired domains being much more stable in the serps – far less bounding in and out. But jury is still out on if they actually help a site get to page 1 any quicker. Bring on next month’s update!

    • Hey Greg, Thanks for the comment. That’s good to know. I need to read more at NoHatDigital.com to check but do you guys normally redirect to a better branded domain? Or do you just keep the site published on a generally unrelated domain?

  • Thanks for the update doug – I’ve been curious to see how this is going. Im also noting that there is a bit of time increase when you’re trying to rank new sites. I think this will make people better marketers, but there needs to be a few more systems in place so that you can build out sites better and make sure there is always a project for you to work on. I’ve been developing a system to make sure that you’ve always got a site to work on as long as you are building multiple sites.
    I’m working on 4 sites right now that are in the very early stages, and I’m looking to get some content written out for those. In a month or two, I’ll start building out a new site, and let that one rest while I circle back to the sites I’m building out now

    • Hey Jeff – thanks for the comment. You nailed it..there is some down time in the life cycle for the sites. So you have the opportunity to get some site developed in parallel.

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