Please note that affiliate links may be included in some posts.
I first started building niche sites in 2015 and I really had no idea what I was doing.
Even though it’s only about 6 years ago, affiliate SEO was wildly different.
Hell, it’s different than it was 6 months ago! About that time, in December 2020, a Google algorithm update devastated many product review sites.
Nowadays, starting a niche site from scratch involves lots of uncertainty…
You’re going to have to invest a lot of time and money producing content, getting backlinks, praying that your niche site will return the favor with lucrative rankings 6 months or even a year down the line.
What if there was a way to bypass the Google Sandbox and get organic traffic immediately?
I’ve been playing around with expired domains and I’ve had some exciting success with a recent purchase.
I bought an expired domain in the outdoors niche using Spamzilla, launched it on 8/5/2020 and it began getting organic traffic the next day, on 8/6/2020
It’s very exciting and opens up a ton of new opportunities.
I’m going to show you exactly how I’m buying expired domains using Spamzilla so you can achieve similarly exciting results.
What Are Expired Domains & How Do You Profit From Them?
Expired domains are domains that have been registered but they haven’t been renewed. That means that they are available for re-registration.
The benefit is that these websites have a history on the internet. Google usually has them in its index. They often have high-quality backlinks.
They may still be ranking for keywords even after expiration!
What this means is that you can swoop in, register the domain, relaunch the site, and get IMMEDIATE traffic.
No waiting in the Google Sandbox for 6-12 months.
No need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars building links; these sites already have them!
You may be thinking, this sounds too good to be true…
Yes, and no. The other side of the coin- you do need to do some legwork to filter through these domains. And there is a bit of a learning curve evaluating the quality of these sites.
I’m going to walk you through how I use Spamzilla to find lucrative niche site opportunities, from creating powerful, but nuanced, Filters to auditing backlink profiles.
What Is SpamZilla?
Spamzilla aggregates millions of expired and expiring domains, compiling them into a database that includes every imaginable SEO metric known to mankind.
You can sort these auction lists and create highly nuanced Filters to screen out the best opportunities for a new niche website.
Even better, you can get daily emails that include newly added domains that match your Filter criteria:
Once you find something you like, just click through to the domain auction site and start bidding. Most of these auctions are occurring on Godaddy or NameJet. Each of these auction sites has their own eccentricities.
For example, at the time of this writing, GoDaddy charges $4.99 a year just to participate in the auctions. With NameJet, you often have to submit a refundable $69 Backorder to even participate in the auction.
If you fall in love with a domain, make sure you’re verified to bid on the auction instead of waiting until the last 30 minutes of bidding to go for the kill. Because you could get tied up in a verification process and lose the auction!
Watch How I Find And Qualify Spamzilla Domains
- Example backlink analysis (4:47) (7:49) (13:19)
- Failed startup example (6:51)
- Home security blog (9:13)
- Vegetarian food blog (21:09)
- Knife blog (25:23)
- WayBackMachine analysis (26:43)
- Math blog (30:46)
What I Look For
- Failed startups: these sites usually have powerful backlinks from legitimate PR. They often focus on a single product, so they offer a ready-made affiliate angle.
- Hobbyist sites: these types of sites were operated by an enthusiast as a passion project. They usually have clean backlink profiles with a rich content history in Google’s index.
- Failed local businesses: I’m still kicking myself for not purchasing a local kayaking business a couple of weeks ago. A local business that offered a service or product can easily be converted to an affiliate blog. They usually have nice backlink profiles and a reputable history with the search engines.
- Shuttered nonprofits: Nonprofits often have great backlinks- often from big-time entities. They have a clean reputation, usually- no affiliate links or spammy SEO. If you find the right angle, you can convert it to an affiliate site pretty easily.
- Expired e-commerce ventures: eCommerce sites usually have a nice, tight niche focus and oftentimes high-quality, editorial backlinks. They can easily be converted into affiliate sites padded with informational content.
When you first log in to Spamzilla, it is pretty overwhelming. It’s a wall of nearly 5 million expiring domains with over 12 columns of arcane SEO data:
The Stuff I Pay Attention To
- DR: This is Ahref’s Domain Rating score. According to Ahrefs, “Domain Rating (DR) shows the strength of a target website’s backlink profile on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100, with latter being the strongest.”
- Trust Flow/Citation Flow: Trust Flow is the quality of links and Citation Flow is the number of links. Ideally, it’s a 1:1 ratio. High Trust Flow sites have high-quality links; high Citation Flow sites have high numbers of links. The best is a high TF/high CF. The worst is low TF/high CF.
- SZ Score: Spamzilla’s proprietary domain health rating. (Lower is better). It’s pretty good at identifying sites that have been spammed with backlinks or redirected multiple times.
Step #1: Integrate Ahrefs
For example, I don’t pay for Majestic SEO, but I still see their Citation Flow and Trust Flow statistics for each domain.
That said, I wouldn’t buy an expired domain without doing a deep dive on the site’s backlinks. You can’t do that effectively without a subscription to a tool like Ahrefs.
Creating filters allows you to quickly sort low-quality domains from high-quality ones. I’m going to show you some of my favorite Spamzilla filters below.
One of the best things about Spamzilla is that you can have these filtered domains emailed to you on a daily basis.
So whenever a new domain that fits your Filter’s criteria is listed, you’ll get an email alert. This makes it easy to stay on top of these expired domain auctions.
For each filter, there are certain constants I always use:
- I Delesect Country TLDs (you can’t usually register foreign TLDs anyway)
- Only English Site languages (I only want English language websites)
Here’s how it looks:
First Filter: High DR Sites with Low SZ Scores
With this filter, you’re seeing domains with a high Ahrefs Domain Rating that Spamzilla’s proprietary SZ metric identifies as ‘healthy’.
According to Spamzilla, the SpamZilla Score (SZ) “uses a proprietary weighted algorithm created to measure the level of spam for a domain. Range is 1-100. ‘1’ represents a low level of spam.” (Source)
I’d go with a DR above 25 with a SZ score below 10. You can tweak these settings as you see fit- this is just a baseline suggestion.
These are pretty powerful domains that according to Spamzilla are free of spam (bad backlinks, too many ownership changes, bad language on the site, etc.)
Second Filter: Include Domains
If you go to Backlinks > Include Domains, you can input a list of up to 20 domains and Spamzilla will find domains that have backlinks from those sites.
This is an exceptionally powerful way to find hyper-relevant domains with powerful backlinks.
So, for example, if you wanted to build a gaming blog with some powerful technology site backlinks, try inputting this list into Include Domains field:
Or, if you want to see sites with links from powerful news organizations, enter this list:
If a site has a link from cnn.com, it’s likely it has other powerful backlinks from similar entities. This filter is a great way to source super high-quality sites that have the potential to rank fast.
Third Filter: Indexed Keywords
With this filter, under Ahrefs > Positions, I set it to 500, which highlights domains with at least 500 keywords currently ranking.
Once you get the list, you can sort the list by SZ to see clean sites with actual rankings in the Google Index. Some of these sites may still be live and set to expire, whereas others have expired and haven’t been completely expunged from Google search results.
These domains could be great for a niche site because they already have evident SEO traction. If you buy one, you can use Ahrefs and the Wayback Machine to find popular pages, rebuild them, and reinitiate organic traffic to the pages.
Fourth Filter: Affiliate Keywords
If you go to Backlinks > Keywords Search, you have the option to search for keywords in the expired domain’s anchor text.
This means if you’re searching for expired CBD domains, you’re filtering the Spamzilla domain list down to sites that have a backlink that includes the word “CBD”.
I created multiple filters using the various BrandBuilders niches:
Brandbuilders builds and sells affiliate niche sites- so any niche they’re in is going to be lucrative. This is one of my favorite filters for finding expired affiliate sites or enthusiast blogs that can easily be converted to a lucrative affiliate project.
Once I have the list, I like to sort it by Domain Rating or Trust Flow and work through the sites one by one to evaluate their quality.
Step #3: Qualifying Expired Domains
Using these filters, you should have isolated some interesting opportunities. The next step is to qualify these expired domains by performing some evaluations:
- Backlinks analysis
- Audit the history
- Is it indexed?
- Look for relevance
You’ll need Ahrefs or a comparable tool to do this. Generally, what I’ll do is click into the Ahrefs backlink report from Spamzilla by clicking on the DR score:
Then I’ll sort the backlinks so that I’m only seeing DoFollow links, sorted by DR, or by the backlinking pages’ # of Keywords. Sorted by DR, you’re seeing the best backlinking pages by Domain Rating.
When I sort the backlinks by the number of keywords the backlinking page ranks for, you really isolate the best quality links. You’re seeing backlinks that are not just passing ‘link juice’ but actual traffic:
What you’re looking for is in-content, editorial backlinks from quality websites. Are the majority of the highest DR backlinks from scraper sites or things that look like gibberish? Not a good sign. If you sort the backlinks by # of ranking keywords, is it all or mostly sites with zero ranking keywords and traffic? Not good. Is there a lot of foreign language sites in the backlink index? Not good.
On the other hand, if you follow the sorting suggestions above and you see recognizable, non-spammy sites with pages that have some keyword rankings linking with normal-looking anchor text to the expired domain- that’s a good sign. Backlink analysis is definitely tricky if you’re new to it.
I’ve looked at thousands of backlink profiles, so I can spot good and bad link profiles pretty quickly. Check out this Ahrefs video for evaluating backlink quality for a more detailed overview of the process:
Audit The History
To audit the site history, Spamzilla has integrated the Wayback Machine- so all you need to do is click into this internet archive to evaluate site screenshots over time.
When I’m clicking through these images, I want to see a site with a consistent identity like this site:
As you hover over the images in Spamzilla, you can see that this gypsy horse site had one singular identity across time.
Every year, you’re seeing a snapshot of a live site. Even when the look and appearance of the site changed in 2005, you can tell that it was just a redesign, not a new site owner acquiring the site doing something shady with it.
What you don’t want to see a website that has undergone various iterations as different owners bought and rebuilt it over and over.
For example, this site switches owners and languages- not a good look:
Is It Indexed?
One of the best ways to qualify an expired domain is to check if it’s still indexed in Google. If it is, it’s a great indication that you can quickly get traffic to your new niche site.
Spamzilla makes it easy to check the Google Index status- just click the green down arrow by the SZ score and then navigate to the Index tab:
Check For Relevance
This is the trickiest aspect of evaluating domain quality. Some people use Spamzilla to find domains in a particular niche. Virtual reality, for example.
So, when they keyword search Spamzilla for “virtual reality”, they might turn up a website about VR developers, or maybe it’s a tech site that had one post about VR. You need to assess just how relevant the domain’s history is to your new, niche project.
Other people, like me, I’m just looking for quality domains with a good affiliate angle. I’m agnostic about what the site is, as long as there’s an affiliate product I can promote.
I’m casting a much broader net.
The best way to examine relevance is to click through the Wayback Machine’s archive and also examine what the Anchor text looks like for the website.
If you look at this basketball site’s top anchors, you’ll see a bunch of different basketball-related anchor terms:
The anchors demonstrate just how highly relevant this site is to basketball- whether it’s player names, draft combine measurements, NBA owners, etc.
Google understands what a site is about by evaluating the anchors people use to link to the site.
All that being said, it’s very subjective. We don’t know how Google will evaluate the site until we buy it and start publishing content. But you can definitely spot red flags by deep-diving into the site’s history using Spamzilla’s tools and a premium tool like Ahrefs.
Read More Of My Niche Reports
How does Spamzilla compare to Domcop?
Spamzilla is a significantly cheaper option- its primary paid plan is $37 a month and gives you complete access to everything. Domcop’s cheapest plan is $64 a month and if you want all-access, it’ll cost you $198/month.
One HUGE issue with Domcop is that they don’t support Ahrefs anymore (Source). That’s a deal-breaker for me.
One other thing Spamzilla has that Domcop doesn’t is an easy interface for historic screenshots using the Wayback Machine. Domcop doesn’t have that- which is another, major omission. Spamzilla lets you quickly scroll through historic screenshots so you get a sense of whether the expired domain is clean or not.
Is Spamzilla Worth It?
If you’re trying to launch a website using clean domains, that’s ready to rank with live, quality backlinks, it’s the best way I’ve found to scour the millions of domains that are up for auction.
It takes some legwork to sort through list of domains, but I find it kind of addicting. Once you find a niche blog that just expired with an awesome affiliate product opportunity- the sky’s the limit!
Domains That I Bought
I’ve purchased 3 domains through Spamzilla. Two of them are currently live and I should be pushing the 3rd site live in the coming days.
I bought a niche pet site that used to be home to a breeder organization. Within 2 weeks I’m already getting organic traffic to the site. It’s a small, evergreen niche and I hope that the site hits 3k ranking keywords within a year. There are a variety of pet affiliate opportunities here, whether through Amazon, Chewy and even Wayfair.
I recently bought this domain. It’s in the ‘beach’ niche. You’d be surprised how many keyword opportunities there are for beach topics- from beach chairs to ‘things to do in myrtle beach’. There are some solid physical product affiliate opportunities here as well as a chance to tap into travel affiliate programs. I hope to run ConvertBox popups on the travel pages and push users to the Expedia or American Airlines affiliate program.
This one is a very small electronics communication niche site. It has a lot of weird, spotty backlinks, including some adult anchors. I actually didn’t mean to buy it. I placed a bid on NameJet just so I could participate in the auction while it was on Backorder, but I ended up winning the auction by default because nobody else bid! So, I’m making the best of it. I haven’t launched the site yet- I’m still waiting on the writers to produce the content. I’ll update this section after I push the site live. But, it has an exact match domain name for the product and it did function as a legitimate startup for awhile, so it has some legitimate links to it.
Last Updated on November 15, 2023 by Ryan Nelson