Before you buy a domain and invest in building a website on it, it is crucial to make sure that it has a clean history and that there are no bad associations with it or related names.
From the top of my head, I can think of a few issues which you should check for, such as if another big player dominates the google results for the domain name, maybe the domain has been used for illegal or adult related content in the past, or maybe there are a network of blackhat backlinks pointing to the domain. All of these can potentially be a deal-breaker for investing in building on this domain.
In this article, I will share some ways you can do your research with free domain tools and techniques, and then move on to paid tools where you can dive deeper into domain names history.
Start with a Search Engine background check
Usually, when I investigate domain names I start with Google. Results that you get from the search engine can be a good starting point for your further research.
Google search name "yourdomain" and "your domain"
The first and simplest trick you can do when researching domain names is to search google for the specific domain name with quotes around it.
This allows you to specific mentions of the domain name on other sites. It also allows you to see if other domains dominate the results. With a fresh domain, usually, you won't see many results, which is a good thing.
On the other hand, if you see a bunch of results from a competing company or a company in an unrelated industry, but with overlapping words in the domain, it might be a good thing to note for yourself. Changes are that you will be competing for the search results for your brand name on more than one platform e.g. YouTube, Facebook, etc.
The Google search can also indicate to you how Google understands the words you type based on what kinds of results they output. For example, if you search for plumber Google will show businesses, if you search for apple they might show the fruit or the company Apple. You can open another tab and test that out for yourself now. If Google is too convinced about what a certain word combination means, it can be hard to be included in the results if your website does not fit the types of results that are there today.
Google search domain names with site:example.com
When you search site:yourdomain.com in google you find only results that google has indexed from this specific domain. This will show you if Google is currently indexing anything, and what those pages are.
You can search your domain name on Google maps to see if there are any strong associations with the name already. In some cases, you may experience that google maps redirect you to a specific company even if that company name is different from your specific search.
In that case, Google might not see your name as a normal word term with a generic meaning but instead has a strong belief you refer to a specific company.
This might not be a big deal if you aren't looking to dominate Google maps, but it could mean that it could take a while for google to let go of that old word association and open up the understanding of your name.
Check SEO database
Use an SEO tool to check the domain authority in a database. This will give you some indication of whether there have been any black hat activities associated with the domain, such as spammy backlinks. If you see a lot of spammy backlinks, it is likely that the domain has been used for black hat SEO in the past, and it might be best to avoid it.
In no particular order, here are some good SEO tools:
Check the internet archive Wayback Machine
The Wayback Machine is a website that archives the internet, and it can be a goldmine for researching domain names. It can show you what kind of content has been published on the domain in the past, and whether there have been any major changes to the site over time.
Here you can also take note of what languages the domain has had on it in the past. If you stick to the same language it should be easier for Google to follow along.
Check using spamzilla.io
In simple terms, buying expired domain names can be risky as you don't know what was the behavior of the previous domain owner.
Spamzilla can help evaluate domains before buying them. If you sign up for their services you can run a spam check on your specific domain.
Check social media
Check to see if the domain you are considering is mentioned anywhere on social media. This can give you some indication of whether there are any bad associations with the domain.
- Check for links on Reddit
Simply put your domain at the end of this URL instead of yourdomain.com:
- Check for links on Twitter
Go to Twitter and type this in the search field:
Check if social usernames are taken
To check if your domain has been used on popular social media platforms you can use a tool such as namecheckr.
Go to namecheckr and type in your desired domain, for example your domain without the domain extension (.com), and hit search. Then namecheckr will check availability on major social media platforms for you in the background.
If the username you had in mind is already taken you can always consider adding a suffix or prefix to the username to get around that e.g. heyyourdomain, yourdomainhq, hiyourdomain etc.
Domain IP history
Domain IP history can give some indication of whether the domain has been used for malicious purposes in the past. You can check this using a tool such as viewDNS.
It can also show you what nameservers the domain has used in the past, which can be helpful if you are trying to track down the domain owner.
WHOIS is a protocol that allows you to look up information about a domain, such as an owner, contact information, and when the domain was registered.
In simple words, complete domain ownership history is just a click away. There are a few WHOIS history tools online that you can use. For example, you can use the one from Domain.com.
Check Spyfu for competing ads
You can use Spyfu to check keyword rankings and ads history to see if anyone is dominating your keywords with ads now or has been dominating them in the past.
This can give you an indication if you will have a chance to use Google ads for your business and you might also get some good inspiration for "exclude keywords". These are keywords you do not want to appear for when people search on Google. These can be keywords with a specific intent that is not related to your strategy or they can be keywords that hint at a different product.
If we use our example from before with Apple. If you are selling fruits you might want to exclude "computers" from your ad targeting.
In conclusion, this article has shown some methods and domain tools to research if your dream domain has been used before for something that could hurt the domain in the future and if there's anyone on google who dominates (eg. By paid ads) the keyword.
Did you already check the domain history and you're now looking for information on how to buy it? Read our guide on How to Buy Your Brand Domain Name.
If you need any help with evaluating domain history or you have any questions feel free to contact us, we would love to hear from you.