In this guide, we give you a breakdown of how to analyze a domain.
This guide is only for expired or auction domains and mainly suited for SEOs or people that want to know about the baseline metrics of a domain.
You can use this guide to analyze any domain during any of the expiration stages.
In detail, you want to look at:
- Domain Indexation
- Domain History + Relevance
- Domain Trademarks
- Link Profile
- Anchor Profile
The first step is to check if the domain is still indexed in Google.
To check for indexation, we simply go to Google.com and type in “site:domain.com”.
Here’s an example of how that will look like:
An indexed domain that hasn’t dropped from the search results, is always a great sign.
However, and this is important, any expired domains can drop from the search results if it remains unused. So, if you find a domain that is not indexed anymore, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s a bad domain or unusable. It’s just something to keep in mind while doing the next steps.
Next, we want to check the domain history.
We want to make sure that the domain has not been used for any spammy, illegal or otherwise illicit means. In addition we want to make sure that the domain is at least somewhat related to the niche we are planning to target.
Say, we are planning to launch an e-Commerce store in the pets niche.
We are looking to purchase an aged domain to build our site on.
In this case we are want to look for domains that previously catered for:
- Pet products
- Pet care
- Pet tips
- Pet blogs
- Home & Family topics
- Pet Businesses
But how do we know if a domain is relevant? After all, there are some generic domain names out there, that could be about anything? How would we know?
Fortunately, there is a great little tool called Archive.org
Here we simply have to enter the domain name and Archive.org will show us iterations of how the domain looked like throughout it’s whole existence. It will also give us a good idea on how old the domain is and it’s relevance.
Let’s do this based on a real life example.
So we found a domain name that on first glance looked fitting to our pets niche.
We enter the domain name into archive.org and see that it has 87 records over 16 years.
Here we can now check1 to 2 of the snapshots for each year to see what the domain looked like during that point in time.
We simply have to click on the year in the graph above and then on one or two of the little dated circles.
This will give us a great idea of how the domain looked like in the past and how it was used.
If everything looks good (use common sense) – we are good to proceed to the next step: The trademark check.
Next, we want to make sure that there are no active trademarks for the domain name.
It would suck to have a company send us a C&D, only because we skipped this step. So we don’t.
It literally takes two minutes.
We simply check for active trademarks on these sites:
- For the US: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database
- For the UK: https://trademarks.ipo.gov.uk/ipo-tmtext
- For the EU (and specifically Germany): https://register.dpma.de/DPMAregister/marke/einsteiger
If there are no trademarks for the domain name, we are golden.
Domain Link & Anchor Profile
Now we finally get to the most important part of domain analysis: The link and anchor profile.
This is where we determine if the domain has a strong and authoritative baseline that we can leverage for better SEO results for our e-Commerce pets store.
Back in the early days of Google, the power or authority of a link was determined by something called Page Rank.
It was Google own metric and a crucial internal ranking factors that helped them determine the authority of any domain out there.
However, PageRank has been discontinued in 2016 and SEOs had to find new ways to determine the power of a domain and backlink.
These days most people use the following metrics to determine the value of a domain:
- Domain Rating (DR) – Ahrefs domain metric
- Domain Authority (DA) – MOZ’s domain metric
- Trust Flow (TF) – Majestic’s domain metric
- Referring Domain (RD) – these are the links pointed at the domain
The higher these metrics, the more authoritative a domain or backlink (generally speaking).
However, we recommend to use these metrics only as a baseline filter.
We typically like to use:
- DR minimum of 5
- DA minimum of 5
- RD minimum of 20
What we are really interested in are the backlinks to the domain, because this is where all the link equity comes from.
If a domain has a strong and clean link profile, the relevant metrics (DR/DA) are usually on par.
Let’s take a look on how to check the link profile of a domain.
Domain Link Profile
Our tool of trade for link profile analysis is Ahrefs.
For the sake of this guide, we will stick to Ahrefs.
So we enter the domain name from above into Ahref’s site explorer to get an initial idea of the domain.
What we see here is a general overview of the domain, including the most important metrics such as DR (Domain Rating), RD (Referring Domains), backlinks, dofollow ratios and traffic.
This overview serves as a starting point.
As we can see the domain from our example above has:
- Domain Rating (DR): 22
- Referring Domains: 177
- Backlinks: 4440
- Dofollow ratio: 97%
First, we want to see what sites link to the domain.
To do that, we click on “Referring Domains” in the left-side menu and then sort by “DR” (ascending) to see if the domain has some strong links from authority websites.
As we can see, the domain in th example has some superb links from authority site such as The Guardian, The Independent, Apartment Therapy, etc.
These are some high-end links that typically cost $1000+ a pop.
Next we want to check the type of backlinks the site has, as we are mostly interested in contextual links, which are currently the most powerful link source you can get.
To do that, we simply click on “Backlinks” in the left-side menu and then sort the subsequent table by “DR” (ascending).
In addition, we want to use the following filters:
“link type: in content” and “one unique link per domain”.
This will show us all contextual link that are pointed to the domain.
As we can see the domain has 100+ contextual link sources from high DR (aka high authority) domains.
This is a great link profile with a ton of link equity.
What’s further, we can now see how those links are placed and what anchor have been used, giving us a more concise overview on relevance of the links.
Next, we want to see where those links are pointed at.
Why is that important?
Because if most of the links are pointed to an inner page of the domain, we need to either rebuild that page or 301 it to pass the link equity.
To do that, we click on “best by links” in the left-side menu and sort by “referring domains“.
In this overview we can see how the links are distributed.
In the example above we see that the bulk of the incoming links are pointed to the homepage of the domain. Which is great, as we don’t have to rebuild or 301 many other pages.
However, we also see that there are some inner pages that have links pointed at them.
To not lose out on that link equity, we want to rebuild them in the exact same URL structure or 301 them to the homepage or an inner page when we build out the e-Commerce store.
If you find a domain that has inner pages with a lot of links we recommend to always rebuild it with fresh content and within that content you internally link to pages you want to rank. We go into more detail on how to rebuild these pages in step3 of our 301 guide.
Domain Anchor Profile
Lastly, we want to check out the anchor profile of the domain is clean and diverse.
What does that mean?
We ideally want an anchor profile that looks like this:
- Branded & Raw URL anchors (70-80%) – example anchors “domain name”, “domain.com”
- Generic anchors (10-15%) – example anchors: “site”, “resource”, “click here”
- Phrase Match anchors (5-10%) – example anchors – “what are the best dog treats”
- Longtail anchors (<5%) – “easy to chew dog treats”
- Exact match anchors (<5%) – example anchors – “dog treats”
We want to keep this anchor ratio in mind, when analyzing a domain name.
To check the anchors of the domain, we simply have to click on “anchors” in the left-side menu and then sort by “referring domains“.
Here we see all the anchors that were used for the links that are pointed to the domain and their ratios.
The domain in our example has 64% branded anchors and 15%+ raw url / naked anchors.
The rest was a mixed of phrase, generic and exact anchors that amounted to <6% each.
That’s it. We have learned the most basic steps to analyze the baseline of a domain, including:
- How to check for domain history, relevance and trademarks.
- How to check and analyze the domain’s link profile
- How to check and analyze the domain anchor profile