Donovan Nagel Donovan Nagel

How To Get Rich Off Expired Domains

  • Written by Donovan

Expired domains are like curbside cleanups.

Where I’m from, every year the local councils have curbside cleanups, where people can take all their old furniture and unwanted household items, put them on the curb, and the council removes it for free.

It’s a great time to clean out your house with minimal effort and no cost.

But the people who really benefit are the treasure hunters who drive around and sift through people’s garbage.

Some guys go out looking for old appliances, lawn mowers and so on that they can easily fix up and resell for profit.

If you’re skilled at repair, it’s a lucrative opportunity.

Well... expired domains work the same way.

People have no idea the value of the domains/sites they’re letting go

Head over to GoDaddy auctions or ExpiredDomains.net and look at the thousands of expired domains up for sale.

People just let them go.

Many are worthless - domains with no or spammy history - but many are high quality, original sites, blogs, ecommerce stores, etc. that were abandoned or let go by their owners.

It really is the curbside cleanup of the Internet.

You’ll need a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to analyze the sites for backlinks, content history, domain authority/rating and so on. Your first indicator of value is often the amount of bids you see on the domain.

I’ve rescued several old blogs now that were running continually for over a decade with incredibly high quality, original content, that the original owner simply gave up on.

On some of these sites, I’m running ads that bring in daily revenue, or affiliate content that drives thousands of dollars in sales each month.

And all from a few hundred bucks on an abandoned domain.

What to look for (and avoid)

I’ll start with what you should avoid:

  • Check the history of the domain and make sure it hasn’t been rescued previously and used for spammy purposes. For example, if you see a bunch of Chinese pages or gambling/pharmaceutical nonsense, then it’s probably been ruined already.
  • Anything newer than 2 years (unless it had incredible growth in a short period).
  • Anything with a sharp, immediate drop in traffic (likely got penalized and then abandoned).
  • Trademarked brands.

Here’s what you want:

  • Long, uninterrupted history. For example, a single owner who bought the domain in 2005 and ran it non-stop until a few months ago.
  • Loads of content history (site densely packed with quality, unique content).
  • IDEAL: Still ranking. Content is still in the search engine, even ranking highly.
  • Strong backlinks from relevant sites.

Bid high to start with

Don’t mess around with small, incremental bidding.

Just place your highest possible bid and move on. It’ll automatically bid for you up to your highest amount.

Sniping doesn’t work with GoDaddy auctions - the timer just gets reset.

Restore the content and site structure from Wayback

I use a shell script to automatically download the entire Wayback history of a site with its original structure.

But you can just manually copy it over too.

The main thing is that you keep the original structure OR set 301 redirects properly (ideal if the old structure was poorly optimized).

Use Ahrefs to identify which pages were the highest ranking and had the most backlinks and make sure to get those restored ASAP.

Legal ramifications of restoring somebody else’s content

You must rewrite the old content.

You’ll get a DMCA takedown request or even a lawsuit if you just restore a site in its original form and change nothing.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping the old structure or even information, but you must write it in your own words (or pay a writer to do this for you).

It’s definitely the most arduous part of the process but also the most important.

Let the restored site sit there for 3 months and do nothing to it

After restoration and optimization, let it sit.

Don’t change anything. Just let it sit and allow Google time to index everything.

It’s also a good time to check GSC and make sure there are no penalties or other issues.

You’ll start to get a good idea of the trajectory of upward traffic and GSC will show you what’s ranking after a few weeks.

Your three options for profit

I’ve spoken at length about Flippa already (my article is worth a read).

The quickest and easiest way to make profit on this is to list it on Flippa after several months.

There are several sellers on Flippa doing this every week and making bank ( see Oleh for example, a Ukrainian seller).

Bear in mind, you’ll be selling the site based on age and authority rather than verifiable income so don’t expect huge money. You would make more if you let it earn income over a longer period and then listed it with earnings history.

The second option is monetize the site and keep it.

I have about a dozen of these sites running on autopilot making money every day selling affiliate products or running ads. It pays my rent.

Eventually, I’ll list these sites and sell them after I’ve generated a decent amount of verifiable revenue.

The third option is to “change of address” the expired domain to one of your authority sites, move the content over and 301 it all.

You’ll lose the site but you’ll gain traffic and strength on your authority site.

I’m currently doing this with several sites - merging them together to create stronger sites. The value in this approach won’t be immediately clear but over time you’ll see it.

I have one blog for learning French that I merged with another restored site on learning French, and that site now generates thousands each month in revenue (it was previously making nothing before the merge).

Expired domains can be very lucrative

Last pointer: create a template using 11ty or Gatsby.

Replicate that template for every new site you restore and push to a service like Surge or even Netlify.

It costs nothing and takes literally seconds.

There’s no cost to you, no maintenance involved, no time-consuming and tedious Wordpress setup.

You can have dozens of these restored sites setup in no time at all.

I currently have about 35 niche sites running, earning income and costing me nothing to maintain.

niche sites
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Donovan Nagel
Christian, husband, dad, entrepreneur, linguist, theologian and clown world survivalist.
"Put not your trust in princes, in mortal man, who cannot save."
- Psalm 146:3