Case Study – New vs Expired Domains I will be starting 4 new niche sites. I am excited about initiating a new, mini portfolio of Amazon Associate websites. I will be using the same format and methods as my currently profitable websites.

I have a two niches in mind that seem to meet the minimum standards for me.

  • The niches have very good search volume for the primary keywords. (Over 1,500 Exact Match Searches)
  • The products have a good price point at Amazon and a range of prices. (Cheap products as well as many products over $100)
  • The other aspect is the competitiveness – both of my target niches have a moderately-low  to medium Keyword Competitiveness value per Long Tail Pro Platinum (affiliate link). (KC of mid 20s and low 30s)
  • There are other niche sites that are ranking in the top 30 in the Google Search Results. I always look for this since it is a sign of profitability, plus it proves that Google will rank niche sites.

Typically, I start a website on a brand new, not previously owned domain. Most of the time, I try to get a partial match in the domain name but nowadays a brand-able domain is just fine.

Some people even prefer to have a domain with little or no keywords in the domain name.

Two of the four new sites will be on new domains.

Here is the twist…

Building on Expired Domains

I will be starting the other two websites (one for each niche) on expired domains. The hope is to reduce the time need to get the website to rank in the Google search results.

It is not a new idea. In fact, building on existing domains is a classic e-commerce move to help move search rankings.

The main benefit (in theory) is that there are already backlinks pointing to the domain. Much of the work of getting a website to rank is directly related to link building. If you can get a head start on backlinks, then it should help the site rank.

Right? Well, it makes sense to me…

The scenario is this:

You start a new website with new content. It seems like it would be helpful to have 90 referring domains that already have backlinks pointing to the website.

So, this is what we are looking at here…

Niche Topic #1

  • One website created on a new domain.
  • One website created on an expired domain.

Niche Topic #2

  • One website created on a new domain.
  • One website created on an expired domain.

Potential Issues on the Expired Domain

What if the expired domain is not related to the new niche site?

That is a risk. Definitely.

If the new website has a topic that is related to the old topic, it will be a HUGE benefit. There is no doubt about that.

The main question is whether or not there is an issue with a lack of relevancy. I am betting that it is not as critical as many people might think.

The anchor text of the backlinks for the expired domain is very, very important. Therefore the selection of the expired domain is critical. I have a few in mind already.

The backlink profile for the top choices of domains have a high distribution of naked URL backlinks. They also tend to have brand-able anchor text. Correspondingly, they have a small number of keyword related anchor text from their old content.

Bottom line: This is a low risk. I’m excited to see what happens. I doubt anyone can say with great certainty that this is a real problem.

What if the websites that link to the expired domain find your new website that is no longer relevant?

True. If the webmasters do check the links, then they will see the new, unrelated content.

Let’s say I build that website about baseball caps on an expired domain that was about South American vacations. Well, the webmaster would probably see that the link isn’t helpful for his or her website visitors and change the link.

Absolutely…That could happen.

However, the backlink to the South American vacation website has be a broken link for years. A straight up 404 error. The likelihood that the webmaster is going to proactively find the new baseball cap website is very low.

Bottom line: Very low risk. I will take my chances and I can’t imagine this scenario taking place.

Will the unrelated domain name impact the click through rate on the search results page?

Probably so. I’m not sure what to do to counter this issue.

Of course, I will use a relevant title and a quality meta description so that should really help.

I can create a subdomain that has a relevant few terms, like “” That could be helpful for those people that might not click on the irrelevant domain name in the search results.

Bottom line: This could be a minor issue. Click through rate is very important. I will need to make sure that I address the unrelated domain name somehow. Maybe it won’t really matter.

Next Steps?

I plan on kicking off all four sites in the next week. I spent the last couple weeks working with some content writers on oDesk via trial jobs. I selected the two top candidates – both native English speakers from the US.

I was able to hire each of them to write about 10,000 words for $110. (I used the methods I described here.) In the end, I will have content for two websites for about $220. It is a great deal!

I will most likely use the same writers for the second niche and next two websites. The same general rates as above will apply.

In either case, the writers are using the same outline to create the content. I will edit the content to ensure that the on page keyword density is at an appropriate level.

The New Domains…

I need to buy the two new domains and will select brand-ability over keywords. I am not 100% sure where I will host them. I may create a new Bluehost (affiliate link) account since I am very happy with the service there. It might be nominally cheaper to purchase a $1 hosting package with a smaller company but the quality of service might be lower.

I will order a couple of HOTH Packages, the Platinum version (affiliate link), to get links pointing to the root domain of the new domains. In this case, I will be opting for more URL links and will not worry about any keyword rich anchor text.

When the time is right, I will link with high authority PBN links using exact match anchor text. This will probably be a few weeks out.

The Expired Domains…

backlinks-nichesiteproject.comI have a pool of domains to select and I have it narrowed down to a few top choices. Generally, they will have a Page Authority in the high 30s and a Domain Authority in the mid 20s. There are about 50 to 80 referring domains with under 500 total backlinks.

I won’t really need a HOTH Package for these sites considering all the existing backlinks. I can’t think of a reason to NOT start with exact match anchor text from a PBN right away. If you can think of any reason why not, let me know.


I will use the same theme on all the site to keep things on all the sites as close as possible. I want to keep any theme related impacts out of the equation.

We expect a brand new site to rank in 2 – 3 months. I don’t expect anything different for these new sites. I don’t know what to expect for the expired domains.


I want to find out if we can shorten the runway for a new niche site. Can it be done with an expired domain? I hope I can answer that question with some authority in a couple months!

Do you have any suggestions for my “experiment?” If so, let me know in the comments below.

Let me know if you have any ideas about potential issues too. 🙂 Any input is greatly appreciated!

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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  • Winston

    This would be quite interesting. It would be great to have the two sites (per group) to be very similar in all aspects (except for the domain status), so you get as best a comparison as possible.

    Just wondering, how many pages have you planned for each of the sites?

    • Thanks, Winston.

      I have about 10-12 pages planned for Niche #1 and about 5-6 pages for Niche #2. The amount of content generally corresponds to the exact match search volume.

  • Interesting case study Doug I’m also curious as to how the relevancy (or lack there of) affects the metrics you mention

    • Thanks, Dave. We shall see how this turns out.

      I just need my writers to come through…I am hoping for no delays. 🙂

  • Hey Doug, I think this should be an interesting one indeed! Can’t wait to follow the progress…

    I’m just curious as to why you would want to bother with irrelevant expired domains in the first place? Is it because of the possible unavailability of relevant ones or do you specifically want to test what impact the relevancy has on ranking a niche site on an irrelevant domain?

    • Hey Ruan – Thanks.

      Great question – generally, it’s hard to find a relevant domain with the metrics I cited above. Almost impossible.

      I buy domains myself and don’t search for them. I have a couple domains in my stable already so that is why the irrelevant domains are being used.

      • Ahh ok, got it. Thanks!

        Jon Haver made me a good offer to find some relevant domains, and he’s quite well priced too. Even though he charges just about the same as you would have to dig out for an expired domain on auction, you still need to register it, but Private Registration coupon codes make that only about $4 extra. Not bad at all.

        So, for just around $4 I can have an expired domain (relevant to my niche) sourced for me…I bet you spend more time (=money) finding IRRELEVANT domains? Just a thought 🙂

        • Jon does a great service and I’ve purchased several domains from him. I will definitely purchase more in the future too!

          I bought the domains that I reference above…so yeah, I spent some money. I really don’t like looking for domains. There are a lot of people that are much better than me at that.

        • Agreed. I’d much rather spend my time in finding more profitable keywords too, I guess is all we want to do really. I can’t wait for the stage where it’s viable for me to outsource the content writing. This is taking up most of my time and I bet I could set up a lot more sites in the time I spend writing content for one site. Someone mentioned the other day they pay around $8 per article on HireWriters or something. As soon as I show some income I will definitely check that out 🙂

  • James Blews

    This is some awesome news, as I’ve been wondering about this very thing. I know Glenn (ViperChill) just kicked off another case study, as well as Spencer (NichePursuits). And this one, is a case study onto itself (I don’t think too many niche website bloggers have explored expired domains versus new in this manor). Good luck and I can’t wait to see the updates and results!

    • Hey James – thanks for the comment. I haven’t seen any good data on this either…If you do see something, let me know.

      At the very least, I think at least one, if not more of the new sites should make money. That can’t be a bad thing!


  • Hi Doug,
    Nice experiment…. competition between new versus expired domains, it will be perfect to get all traffic if you rank both no. 1 and no. 2 in Google serps.
    1. As to irrelevant expired domain name it dont think that really matters..
    take for example Google dot com, this the domain did not say anything about search engine.
    2. You can just use sample expired domain www dot dougcunnington dot com but your keyword is Best Cat Teeth puller … so your Title will be

    Best Cat Teeth Puller by Doug Cunnington ..
    www dot dougcunnington dot com

  • John

    Hi Doug,
    Nice experiment…. competition between new versus expired domains, it will be perfect to get all traffic if you rank both no. 1 and no. 2 in Google serps.
    1. As to irrelevant expired domain name it dont think that really matters..
    take for example Google , this the domain did not say anything about search engine.
    2. You can just use sample expired domain w3 dougcunnington dot com but your keyword is Best Cat Teeth puller … so in the serps it will look like

    Best Cat Teeth Puller by Doug Cunnington ..
    w3 dot dougcunnington dot com

    Visitors will still click on your website

    • Hey John – Good points. It would be very cool to have sites at #1 & #2 but that will definitely be challenging. I’ll be happy to just be on the first page.

      • John

        After you won the bid in godaddy auction, do you register the domains in different registrar? or is it okay to register it on Godaddy? or should i register it somewhere else with private registration?
        But the hosting should be different company right? with different c block ip ?

        • You can register it anywhere. godaddy does a lot of domain registering so whatever you want to use is fine.

          You can host it anywhere you want too, even with the registrar. However, you should have separate c-blocks for your PBN.

          If you’re building a site on the expired domain, then the C block doesn’t matter.

          What is the authority of the domain that you won?

        • John

          Yup, I saw some expired domain used as the money site.. but im thinking of creating my own PBN, i have 1 won and 4 on bidding that im the only one bidding for i will have 5 in all.
          1 domain PA = 34 , DA = 21, Pr =3

      • John

        I just won a Godaddy auction for $12.33 .. I cant really say i won cause nobody else is bidding against me…
        It was sold 2014/04/02
        But it says Expired domain ready on: 2014/04/10 , what does this mean? i don’t see it in my domain list? will the previous owner be able to buy it back from me? will godaddy pay the refund including the icann and private registration i purchased ?

        • Hey John – I have no idea…I’ve never bought a domain from an auction. I’m sure you’ve probably figured it out by now…or godaddy can help you. Just give them a call…
          Good luck!

        • Guest

          It just means that the domain will show up in your Godaddy account list shortly. With auctioned domains they don’t become available immediately.

        • John

          hi Guest,
          Thank you very much…

  • Can’t wait to see the results.

  • Looking forward to the results here doug. What tool did you use to find these expired domains?
    I think this is a great idea.

    • Hey Jeff – Thanks for the comment.

      I purchased them directly from a source. Email me. 🙂

  • Charles Marabella

    great idea for a case study. My big question is, does expired domain relevance matter when you are building a pbn?

    Im currently building one out to rank for a specific surgeon professional and wondering if it doesn’t matter and get the best metrics possible or get relevant health/medical expired domains? Iv bought a few unrelated and now looking for related.

    Any help would be huge, thanks

    • Stuart

      Ive tested totally unrelated with no content, just a link to the site… works fine. But obviously related, good content etc is better long term strategy (if you can find related domains)

      • John

        Hi Stuart,
        have you tried Hayden Miyamoto @ nohatseo dot com way of finding high pr (5) deleted domains (no expired on bidding) ? could be a better way to find relevant high pr old domains ..

        • Stuart

          Yeah, and I was an intern of his for one of his programs. Its a long hard process finding old expired domains. Id suggest looking at page authority rather than pr. Ive had some success using godaddy auctions and old drop list but finding relevance is nearly impossible doing it manually.

        • John

          yesterday i tried different types of google searches like blogroll, list, etc.(for domain relevance purpose).. then its really hard, though i check the PR like its 5, but when i run Xenu, i have 30+ no hosts, out of those 1 or 2 available for registration for $10 in namecheap but when i check in majestic or internet archive, most are big disappointment..
          Godaddy auction for deleted domains are much better.. the idea is just the same..
          I personally prefer to have more referring domains, then check each ref domains if they are trustworthy, meaning they are not just blog or personal nonsense website.. trust flow for those ref domain are really important… 21 trusted ref domains are a lot better than 100 ref domains of pure nonsense (anything goes not targeted) blogs…
          what do you think about ref domains?
          Yes i do make it sure PA and DA are high.. atleast 15+ and trust flow ratio to citation must be close to each other like when you divide TF / CF or CF/TF

      • Charles Marabella

        Thanks Stuart, will do. I will aim for related but not absolute!

      • Charles Marabella

        also, is it important as soon as buy the dropped site to add wordpress and 301 redirect all 404’s to homepage to save Pagerank and link juice, or is it ok to leave the domain where it gets pushed to until you get around to 301’ing and redoing the site?

        Just wondering if you would loose any pr and links if you dont make the site right away.

        • Hey Charles – I’m not sure about that. It seems good to get something up soon, hypothetically… I have absolutely no facts to back that up.

          I wouldn’t stress about it. 🙂

    • Yep, I agree with Stuart…
      If you can get relevant, then do it.

      I’m am running a little test that I will be writing about soon dealing with non relevant links.

  • Stuart

    It will work :)…

  • Hey Doug, interested in seeing your results. I have had some very quick ranking success with taking a reasonably relevant domain then 301 redirecting it to a new money site on a domain name I choose. So the benefit of this is you get the natural links of the previous domain but you don’t end up with a money site on a “weird” sounding domain name.

    • John

      Hi Jon,
      I’d like to know, if you are redirecting all the lost pages of the expired relevant domain to your new money site? or am i asking the wrong question? sorry
      or is it the only the root domain of the expired relevant domain you are doing a 301 redirect ? sorry if my question is confusing… i hope not

      • Hi John, no your question isn’t confusing. I am finding using majesticSEO all the pages that have backlinks to them and then redirecting them to either the homepage or a similar sub-page. Then installing a plugin to turn 404 errors to the redirected websites into 301’s to the money sites homepage….this takes a little longer from a 301 redirect standpoint but I have my VA do it.

        • John

          Thanks Jon,
          I believe once you own the website and include it in your G webmaster you can see “all the expired domain pages with backlinks” too, right? just like majestic seo. So all old expired domain 404’s (if there are – or is the installing of a plug-in to old domain is SOP too?), will be directed to the new money site?

    • Hey Jon – Thanks for the comment.

      That is genius…Very smart and I might be snaggin’ that idea. Thank you!

  • brainspins

    I was thinking of doing something similar in a couple of months when I have some more time, but looks like you’ll be doing the good ol’ testing for me. Can’t wait to see how this turns out!

  • John

    Congratulations Doug,
    I believe your expired domain is now on second page of Google … its like rank number 20 or something … unrelated expired domain really works…

  • Levi

    I am a newbie. I found an expired domain name that I like. It is not relevant to my new niche. How did this experiment turn out? Is it safe to build a money site on this domain?

    • Hey Levi, If the domain is clean, then it is okay. It would be much better to have a niche relevant domain though.

      • Levi

        Thank you!

        If I start with a new domain, is a 301 redirect of a relevant expired domain still helpful in 2016?

  • Jeffrey Collins

    I just started a new site about 8 weeks ago. I am now beginning to get some click-throughs from Google. I’ve read after 3 months, you will notice a bump in traffic and again in 6 months; another big jump. After a year, you are up and going.

  • roc

    Hi, would you consider to buy expired domain that 301 redirect to its own domain, redirect to another page of self domain?

    • Hey, I wouldn’t do that myself, but that could have a purpose. Why do you want to do that?

  • Baba

    Hey, I am newbie and i want to know that after publish first post/page in niche site, then how many week/month wait for start link-building work, because I have some confusion, someone said start after very 2nd day, but some other said wait at-lest two months to get SE normally index and start rank itself organically. So, what’s the best way for newbie like me. Thanks

  • Interesting experiment. Any update as regards to the results yet?

    • Yeah, it didn’t work out…but using an established domain is a good idea.

      • Hey Doug! This is a great idea for a case study.

        Can you explain more about this? I am about to spend $$$ on a expired domain that does not have relevant links. Is this a problem in your experience?

        Quick reply would be very appreciated as I am planning to buy in the following week. Thanks for your help, Doug.


        • I can’t give you more details since I haven’t done much more since this case study and that was 4 years ago.

          The big risk (based on talking with others) is that sometimes it doesn’t work, and in fact, can take longer than a fresh domain.

          However, when it does work, it can really make the sandbox shorter. The major issue is the fact that you won’t know until after you get started.

          It’s obviously better to have a domain with relevant links. I imagine that non relevant links aren’t going to help as much…How much? I have no idea.

  • Omoscowonder

    The one problem I always encounter is the best way of picking the expired domains.
    Wonderful guide here, totally appreciated.

  • Hey Doug,

    I bought a dropped domain that has links from big sites like Forbes and Medium. Now I want to build an amazon niche site that is nothing to do with the past of that domain. Should I buy a new domain and redirect to ild domain to gain the benefits of it? Thanks