Buying Domains in the Aftermarket? Read this First

The role that domain names play in the success of your Web enterprise is significant.

While the SEO industry debates the role that a domain name has on search engine ranking, it's pretty easy to see and understand how a high-quality domain (one that is appealing to a user who is considering visiting your website) has on other success metrics - whether that is conversion or something more challenging to measure such as engagement.

For this reason it's important to take the considerations you make about domain names very seriously from the day you commit to success on the Web.

Those that know me personally know of my affinity for domain names - I've amassed quite a few over the years. The domain names in my personal portfolio I don't really consider long-term investments, but rather as opportunities to build out with some content and sell to relevant, interested parties: domain flipping.

But I've learned over the years, - through trial and error, of course - that some of the domain names I purchased or are interested in purchasing are simply better than others for this practice.

So what makes an investment-worthy domain name? Prior usage, traffic volume and potential.

Explore Prior Use

There are instances when the domain names you buy in the aftermarket have been, well, mis-used. Fortunately, it's not too terribly difficult to find out how the domain names you are interested in acquiring have been used since initial registration and during their digital lifespan.

The first step I usually take when considering the acquisition of a domain name is to visit that old standby - the Wayback Machine - the Internet Archive. The platform provides random website snapshots from various time periods which gives an indication of both the industry the site was working within and the type of content (good or bad) that was published.

My second step is often towards the major search engines to conduct some brand-related queries to identify any issues prior users have had and any complaints that may have existed that could damage future traffic.

My third and final step in the effort to understand prior use is an attempt to understand how often the domain name has changed hands. One of my favorite destinations is, which offers a snapshot into where the domain name is currently being listed as well as the last time it was sold.

Identify Traffic Volume

The next phase is a lot trickier, but in many instances more important.

Traffic volume, the amount of Web users that are visiting a domain should play a role in valuing a domain name but it's not always easy to know for sure if the traffic is real or if it is automated. That being said, there are a sufficient number of Web-based resources that can provide some detailed information.

I have four destinations that I visit routinely to make an educated guess on traffic levels -,, and Since each of these vendors provide different data samples, developing a representative picture of traffic volume is relatively straightforward.

Understand True Potential

The final phase I engage in when considering the acquisition of a domain name is an attempt to understand its potential.

It is a very routine practice for those selling domain names to try to position the domain name in a way that is appealing to prospective buyers. The way many choose to do this is to share the volume of search queries conducted for terms related to the website. While that makes a lot of sense for exact-match keyword-based domains, it should not be the sole determining factor in whether a domain name has true potential.

The best way, in my opinion, to understand whether a site has potential is to understand prior use and traffic volume, but then move further into the single, most telling metric of potential success as it relates to domain names - the number of existing inbound links.

Purchasing a domain name with recent, active links to it is a surefire way to know that a domain name has potential - particularly if you're not just buying the domain name but also the website and the content residing on it. While you'll need to be careful that those links are there for the long haul, and not part of the existing owner's network of sites, even a few links can show potential.

There are, of course, many other variables that I look at when considering whether to purchase a domain name. The presence of keywords, the extension (is it a .com or a .info) are two important ones, but also make sure to know when the domain name expires. This is particularly true for domain names that you're picking up in the aftermarket that are sold at a very low rate.