When you’re buying domain names and come across an awesome one, you sometimes forget to research it and see what the link structures are, what the site used to look like, what copy was on it and everything else that could have caused someone to let it go. When you buy a domain that was previously owned, you need to check out what was on it before and why the person let it go or decided to sell it. If it was a black hat SEO or someone who just ran a spambot and built thousands of crappy links to it, the domain could be in really bad shape. If you still like the url and want to keep it, here are some of the things you need to do from an SEO perspective to help repair it and get it to start ranking again.
1. Create a document with an outline of what you did to repair the domain.
Most of us hate having to create plans,but this is very important for later on in this post. You need to have a table of contents, an outline and also a ton of screen shots. You need to document everything you do that I go over below, and anything else that you can think of or do to repair the url. (I don’t actually list everything I do to repair domain names that I buy that have a history of crappy links here which is why I said anything else you do.) Make sure that you include every thing in detail as well as a summary and when you can, take screen shots and include them as well. Here is what you should put in your document to help repair a damaged domain name or url from black hat or bad SEO practices.
2. Get as many of the designs and as much of the copy as possible from when it was damaged.
The first thing I do is go to the way back machine and previous owners and get as much of the design and copy that was on the site as possible. I take screen shots of it, try to restore it and also document every page from the title tags, ulrs of the pages and meta data to the images, colors and layout. Then I place the site’s architecture into a graph. Once I have finished this, I then create new urls (sometimes I’ll keep the old ones because they were good) and then refresh all of the code, copy and designs. This section will be labeled new and old. In the document I’ll point out everything I changed, why I changed it and then how it not fits within the Search Engine’s guidelines for proper SEO. Everything from HTML updates to CSS and style sheets.
3. Now I begin to Disavow bad links.
This is a more recent thing that I have begun doing since the tool wasn’t always available. If I don’t have time to do it, I have a couple of people I trust that know basic to mid level SEO and I have them go in and remove almost everything that is spammy pointing to the domain. I document all of the root domains that were pointing in and give a brief explanation of why. These links helped to damage the site and I’d prefer to start without them, rather than to have to try and build the new site with them still causing the issues that got the url banned from the search engines.
4. Ask Google for Reconsideration of the domain name.
Because you created a document with all of the changes and because you aren’t the person or company that destroyed it, there is a chance that Google will erase the history of the domain name and begin to reconsider it. Although they are unlikely to do it if the url was really hit hard with bad links and crappy content, they will sometimes so it is worth it. What I send them is the url, the reason why I think it should be reconsidered including everything I did with a business plan for the future and all of the documentation that I created while fixing and repairing the site. By showing you have made a solid effort, what the plan is for the site and why they should reconsider the url, you may have a better shot at getting it cleaned in the algorithm and getting to rank easier.
5. Begin white hat SEO for the domain name.
Even if it is still banned or barely ranking, you can always repair the url. It just might take a ton of work. Because you can remove bad links with the Disavow tool, your job as an SEO is much easier; but you still need a strong content plan, an internal linking structure and an amazing and clean backlink strategy. Here is a post I did the other week about outdated link building strategies you want to avoid. By building the url from scratch after disavowing the links that caused a lot of damage, you can begin repairing the url and get it ranking again.
Although there are no guarantees that a url that has been damaged from black hat or bad SEO will recover, I haven’t actually found one yet that I couldn’t get going. If you absolutely have to have the url or really love it, then buy it, but also know that it is going to take a lot of extra work to rank since it has already been damaged and black listed from the search engines. You’ll need to put a lot more work, time and effort into it, but if the URL is good enough then it is probably worth the extra work.