Before you buy an existing domain, it’s important to check the history of that domain.
If you buy a domain name that was previously used for questionable purposes, such as adult entertainment or selling counterfeit goods, you might run into difficulties when you use the domain. Or it could be on internet and spam blacklists that will keep your website out of search results or stop your emails from reaching your customers.
There’s no foolproof way to make sure a domain has a completely clean history, but here are five ways you can check the health of your next domain.
The nonprofit organization Archive.org sponsors the Wayback Machine, a website that displays versions of a website for many dates in the past. It even lets you click on internal links to see some of the deeper pages of the website.
Checking the back history lets you investigate any unsavory uses that might tarnish the domain name.
You can supplement this search with Screenshots.com, which shows a screenshot of the home page of the domain at various points in time.
See if a domain name might be banned in Google by searching for site:yourdomain.com. This search function shows the pages of a domain name that Google has indexed.
If Google doesn’t show any results, it might be because the search engine banned the domain due to blackhat SEO techniques. However, this is far from foolproof. A domain name might also not show up because it doesn’t currently have content or the owner might have set it up to block Googlebot.
If there are results for the domain in Google, make sure you don’t see a bunch of spammy words in the search result listings. This might be a sign of blackhat SEO or that the website has been hacked and infected with malware.
If the domain name is used for an existing website, ask the owner to show images from their Google Search Console to verify that Google hasn’t applied a manual penalty to the domain name.
You could have email problems if a domain name has been used previously to send spam. Check if it’s currently on spam lists using this tool.
Domain names can roll off of spam lists over time. But email deliverability is important. If a domain name shows up on block lists you should take a deeper look into how the domain was previously used.
Browsers and internet security tools often block websites that serve up malware. These tools are usually good about removing sites from their block lists shortly after malware is removed, but they are worth checking.
At a minimum, check the domain on Norton Safe Web and Securi’s Malware checker. Also, try to visit the domain from Google Chrome. It will warn you if the site is known to have malware.
Keep in mind that malware is often installed on hacked sites. It might not be the domain owner’s fault that there is malware on the site. But you definitely want to get this cleaned up and have the blocks removed before you use the domain.
Historical Ownership Records
If you’re spending a lot of money on a domain, it might be worth paying to verify the ownership history of the domain name as well. DomainTools offers a comprehensive report of ownership records and combines it into a report that also includes screenshots from Screenshots.com.
Be Careful, but Get Moving
While it’s important to do your due diligence, it’s also important to move on with your business. You don’t need to run all of these tests on a domain name. Consider the tradeoff of time spent researching the domain name versus getting your business going. Meanwhile, if there are any red flags for your top pick, you might consider an available domain with a clean history.
Whenever you need a new domain name, always keep Namecheap in mind.
Andrew Allemann is editor of Domain Name Wire, the longest-running blog covering the business of domain names. Domain Name Wire has covered the business of domain name investing for over ten years.