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Sean Markey’s Strategies for Buying, Flipping, and Building Sites With Expired Domains

By Spencer Haws |

I put the word out on Facebook and Twitter for somebody I could talk to about flipping domains and building new sites on expired domains. Sean Markey was the most recommended guy, so it’s great to have him join me on the podcast this week.

He trained to be a teacher, but after he lost his job in 2013, he got hooked on marketing and SEO. He has been on quite the journey since then, including selling a CBD affiliate site in the high 6-figures, to get to where he is today as the premier expired-domain guru!

After leaving teaching, Sean:

Alongside this, Sean was developing his skills on how to best work with expired domains. He was always working on his own sites and testing out different things, especially relating to expired domains.

Watch the Entire Interview!

In the podcast, we discuss how in 2019 he started a CBD affiliate site and later sold that site in the high 6-figure range. We also talk about how he bought an expired domain in early 2020, build out a site on it, and sold it 7 months later for $130,000! He built another site on a brand new domain at the same time, and this one took a solid year to go anywhere.

Since having these successful niche site exits, Sean Markey has:

We talk about buying expiring domains at auction on Godaddy.com, which has the largest inventory. The advice for those just starting out is to begin with $12 domains, rather than those going for $150+.

We cover how to sell expired domains:

How to find expired domains:

Strategies for building sites on expired domains:

And we have an extended discussion on whether or not to redirect a second expired domain to a primary site built on an expired domain. Sean always does this and is full of tips, tricks, and best practices for successful execution.

Most of the domains that Sean buys are just expiring and still indexed by Google. He states that you want to get a domain ’on the drop’, not once it’s fully expired. It’s important, to consider what kinds of links it has. He says that it can be better to have really relevant links, rather than extremely high DR links from the New York Times, for example.

Other topics we cover in the interview:

And finally, we talk about some new ventures that Sean has going on – all related to flipping domains and expired domains, of course!

Juicemarket.com is a place to sell domains, especially for SEOs and other online marketers who have a bunch of unused domains sitting around unused.

Sean’s weekly newsletter comes out each Wednesday. He shares some of the best domains going to auction, discusses the history, links, and opportunities. He also shares case studies taking a look at domains he’s shared in the past and what was done with them. Find out more at DNGeek.com.

Sean’s parting advice for working with expired domains is to just jump in and try it. Practice, give it a go, see what happens!

You can follow Sean Markey on Twitter here.

READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT

Spencer Haws: Hey, Sean, welcome to the niche pursuits podcast. Yeah, thanks for having me. Yeah, it is good to connect. Good to have you on the show here. you know, I put out some feelers on Twitter and on my Facebook group for people that are really into domain flipping, I was thinking, Hey. it would be a cool little case study, a cool little project, or just to make a little extra money if I could buy some domains and then sell them, you know, a short time later, I was just, I put the word out.

Hey, is anybody doing this? Your name came up, Sean Mark. He’s the guy you got to talk to about domain flipping. So, so let’s, let’s jump into that for people that maybe don’t know who you are. Why don’t you just give us a short, you know, one minute background of sort of your, your business and SEO experience.

Sean Markey: Yeah, sure. I, I went to college to be a teacher and that lasted just a couple of years before I got hooked on marketing. SEO kind of went the four hour workweek route that everyone, almost everyone did. yeah, that was about 2011. and then I proceeded to kind of fail my way. Forward for the next decade or so.

just, just doing a bunch of, site build outs, you know, trying to learn SEO through doing, I tried to start my own agency, which failed, not a good agency owner, I guess. I ended up working for Travis Jamison. at smashed it is called smash digital now, before kind of going my own way in 2019, I had a lot of success building out a CBD affiliate site, that that really took off.

kind of just before the market peaked. So it was really good timing. and I ended up selling that site and ever since then, I’ve been doing, you know, building out sites, especially on expired domains. That’s kind of my. Area of expertise, I guess. I write a weekly newsletter on finding expired domains and talking about what you can do with them.

And, just launched a, an SEO domain marketplace where people can list. You can go and also buy domains that have authority. 

Spencer Haws: Yeah. And we’re going to jump into that a little bit, but how did you really get started, buying expired domains? Like what sort of led you down that route? 

Sean Markey: Yeah. So, when I got fired from teaching my teaching job back in 2013, I, ended up getting a, like a junior SEO marketing job at a local salt Lake city, marketing design agency.

And all they had me doing all day long was he would buy these. domains with juice from wherever he was getting them, probably some, some shady marketplace. And, he would hand them to me. I would install WordPress. I would spin up a couple articles using a terrible content spinner and add a couple images, some alt tags linked to the client’s site and just off to the next one.

And that’s all I did all day, 

Spencer Haws: building up PBNs for . This agency to link to their client’s sites. Yep. 

Sean Markey: That’s where it got started. And, and, you know, I, when I left the agency, I, I kind of took that with me and tried to offer it as a service back in like 2014 when it was, it was kind of in fashion, but there was, there weren’t as many.

you know, services where you can just spin up several, several PBNs quite easily. so it was kind of a novel service at the time. I did a couple of those and that’s, I mean, just looking for domains that were expiring that have authority to have juice is how I got into it. and eventually stopped trying to.

Build these really terrible PBNs on them, you know, with like four articles that just super obvious, terrible AB insights and started trying to, you know, build something more valuable, maybe something more toward the authority side. 

Spencer Haws: Right. let’s, let’s go into, jump into that for a second. what kind of success have you had then?

As you’ve, built more legitimate sites, right on these expired domains you started, you know, building real sites and trying to make money. What sort of success have you seen doing that yourself? Yeah. it, 

Sean Markey: it took a little while for, for, you know, I guess, to, to develop all the skills needed to do that.

but in 2019 I sold a, an affiliate site for well into the six figures. I can’t really say some solid numbers, but it was a very good exit. Congrats. Thank you. Yeah, it was, you know, definitely life-changing at the time. Awesome. And. After that I just, I just kept going, like, you know, it’s like, okay, I’ve got all this money.

Like, what do I do now? I was like, I’ll just keep doing this. So I continued to build out these authority sites, kind of affiliate sites, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe we can talk about the line between the two, but they were definitely collecting affiliate money. and I had some success with that. through 2020, the December algorithm update in 2020, really kind of murdered a couple of my sites because they’re very affiliate heavy.

Yeah. Lesson learned, I guess. but I, I still managed to sell, I sold one of the sites I was working on for low, lower, mid five figures. And I sold one for six figures. About 130, I guess. And then 3000. Yeah. And, and that, that particular one is interesting because it was built entirely on an expired domain that I picked up the domain in may and I built a site on it and I sold it in December for six figures.

Spencer Haws: Wow. So a period of seven months, six months, something like that. 

Sean Markey: Yeah. So, fun ride. 

Spencer Haws: Yeah. and that’s, what’s interesting, right? I mean, I guess that’s the whole reason that you might want to pick up an SEO sort of aged domain is that you skip that sandbox. You skip that process, right. Is that normal? Do you see that kind of time and time again is that you buy a domain.

If you produce content, you can start ranking just a lot quicker. 

Sean Markey: I mean, yes, kind of if you know what you’re doing, I guess that’s the caveat. I, I picked up, for comparison. I picked up a brand new, like hand registered domain name at the beginning of 2020, and I built it out all through the years.

Just like, kind of like a side project. it was very, very super niche down. Like a geo targeted affiliate keyword, I guess. And I mean, I built some great links to that. It had good content and it took a solid year to really do anything. And that’s just, that’s just the journey, like a new domain takes in the, in the index getting index and getting ranked.

So yeah, like, like picking up, you know, a name that is dropping through the expired auctions or that you pick up from someone else it’s kind of just, has it, has it sitting around, yeah, you just, you just skip that and if you build good content and you build some good links, kind of take care of the site, it can definitely start ranking fairly, fairly quickly by comparison.

Spencer Haws: Right. And so I want to jump into some of those strategies here in a second. but first, kind of the original reason I, I. Asked you to come on the interview here is because I was kind of interested in seeing if anybody out there was actually just flipping domains. Right. and sort of trying to understand the feasibility of, can you actually buy a domain, right.

Maybe even hand register an expired domain and then turn around and sell it within 30 days. Right? Like say you buy it for 10 bucks. And even if you’re selling it for a hundred or $200, like, is that. Feasible and is that repeatable? And so let’s jump into that. Like, what are your thoughts on sort of short term domain flipping.

Sean Markey: I definitely think it’s possible to do that. I’ve, I’ve seen people like that. I follow on Twitter, talk about, you know, hen registering a name and selling it six months later for like $4,000. And it’s just like, you know, it’s an incredible story. Like that’s a huge, you know, there’s a huge amount of profit.

it, it really depends on, I think. It’s not a very passive venture, you know, like, like these people are reaching out to companies and saying, Hey, I’ve got this name. are you interested in purchasing it? Like, here’s, here’s the landing page for like, you know, you have to do a lot of outbound, outreach, I think in order to do that, unless you get lucky here and there, that’s definitely possible.

but I mean, you have to, if to think about it from. The people you’re outreaching to, like, if they already have a business, like an, and they wanted this domain, like wouldn’t, they have already registered it, you know? And that’s not always the case, you know, they might not have thought about this Avenue, or, you know, having a domain that’s defensible for some reason, like, like the helps, the helps defend their brand, you know, and you have to be careful also of like, Registering something that can be kind of trademarked or that, that infringes on someone’s trademark.

because like, like that’s true domain squatting, you know? And also if you, you know, if you register something with Nike in it and you try to approach Nike about buying this domain from you, that they’re just going to file a UDA RP and take it from you. Right. Not gonna end well. Right. So, so it’s definitely possible.

I think. I mean, I, I think it’s possible, but it’ll take some work. Like you’ll have to really kind of go out there and, and try and get these names in front of the people that could find them valuable. 

Spencer Haws: Okay. So you don’t think it’s possible or, or really very repeatable to, to buy a domain, and then just be able to go list it on GoDaddy auctions or somewhere else.

you’re going to have to do a lot of the salesmanship. You’re going to have to go sell it. 

Sean Markey: Yeah, I think so. I mean, you can, you know, if you know what you’re doing, you can register a bunch of domains and just kind of forward. Like if somebody visits that domain, you know, forward it to like a landing page, like, Hey, this is the main for sale, you know, make an offer or whatever.

you know, it’s, I mean, I think it becomes a numbers game. Like, how many do you have? How many, you know, what percentage of people are looking for a name that might visit yours? you know, th I think, a good way to think about it is like the barrier to entry to doing that is like almost zero. Like you have to, you know, have a thousand bucks to buy a hundred domains or something.

Right. So, I mean, it could be a good, could be a good learning opportunity, you know, get on the phone and try and sell some names. But I don’t think it’s a. A good passive way to make money in the short term. You know, you leave up the pages for awhile, but, but really like a lot of the good domains that would make a good brand, like have been thought of have been registered, are expiring.

And so if you’re going that route, it’s very competitive. Like in the good idea, like if you find a decent brand, like you might be able to get away with winning it for $12, Every now and then, but usually there’s a bunch of other people trying to do that too. 

Spencer Haws: Cause you guys the opportunity as well, right?

Sean Markey: It is a low barrier to entry. You know, you buy it for $12, you turn around and try and sell it for a thousand or whatever. Like if it’s a good name, that’s no that’s attractive. Right. 

Spencer Haws: So maybe what is feasible then in terms of just domain flipping, you know, without building out sites, you know, what’s.

You know, even if you are having to spend some money, in auctions, is there opportunity right in domain flipping and, and what would be that route? If somebody, you know, if you’re gonna tell a listener, Hey, here’s the opportunity for domain flipping here’s the path what’s that path? 

Sean Markey: for, for me personally, my advice would be to kind of niche down.

Into a specific vertical, like for instance, my, one of my passions in life is the cannabis industry. And so I own about 200 domains within that space. you know, they’re, they’re not, they’re not all great, amazing, you know, a hundred thousand dollars brands or something that they’re mostly, they’re mostly brand names that I picked up for, you know, between 12 and 150 bucks.

And when you say 

Spencer Haws: brand names, like, what do you mean? 

Sean Markey: So. Something that could represent your, company name, like, for instance, just a crappy example. Like if you had jobs in cannabis.com or something, like, that’s not, that’s not really a brand, but if you had like THC staffing or something like that, it’s more of a brand name.

Like, you know, you could wear it on your polo shirt. 

Spencer Haws: Gotcha. So you’re trying to predict like, Hey, this sounds really brandable. Nobody has it now, but I think somebody would love this. 

Sean Markey: Right? Right. So, so name like, I think one I have is speedy, cannot.com. Like that’s a great brand for like a delivery company, for instance, but like cannabis delivery.net.

Not a great brand. You know what I mean? Like, like no one’s calling their company that, so that’s what I mean when I say brands. Yep. Okay. So, so when, when you really get involved in the specific space, you start learning, like, these are the, like, this is what people like to use when they think of this industry.

Like, you know, sticking with the cannabis industry. Cause it’s, that’s the one I know, like, not that many people. That are starting businesses, use the word pot or weed. So if you’re out, you know, registering name, like leafy weed.com or something like no one, no one wants that name because no one calls themselves that.

So, yeah. So, so finding, you know, kind of getting into a specific vertical can be a really. A really helpful way to do that because you know, th then you’re really, you’re really registering something people will actually use 

Spencer Haws: and R and R and registering these Lake. Are you just sort of thinking like, Hey, this looks good, or you doing 

Sean Markey: something else?

So when I first started getting into this maybe 2016, 2017, I was able to hand register some of them. But like, as that industry has grown, like, so did everyone else. And so now it’s just a matter of like finding them, going to auction and trying to win them, you know, have having the biggest budget or wanting it.

The, you know, the hardest out of everyone who’s bidding. so, so I, I would say there, there could be opportunities in emerging industries, you know, things that haven’t hit kind of national scale or have national attention, like maybe NFTs about four or five months ago would have been a really good time to start registering what kind of brands.

So now if you try and look for those at auction, they’re all way over priced. Yup. Yup. Because everyone’s trying to. Okay. 

Spencer Haws: So I like that. So niching down, understanding a niche and then maybe trying to predict, or, or getting involved in emerging markets right before everybody else, you know, before it explodes.

Yeah. possibly, is a good idea. And so, what’s what sort of prices are you paying? Like if you’re going to auction and looking at domains, like. How much money do you end up spending sometimes. 

Sean Markey: So, I’m going to answer this question as if I’m in like 2018, 2017 and been not now. Cause I, you know, I’ve earned a lot of money from selling sites.

Like I’m only going after the domains that are like on the more expensive side currently. Okay. so I don’t think that’s helpful, but maybe like if you can pick up a name, I mean, Th the prevailing advice is you make money on the buy. You know, if you buy a name for 15 bucks and you can sell it for a thousand, that’s great.

If you bought it for 600 bucks and sell for a thousand, I mean, that’s still cool, but like, Yep. How long did you have that 600 locked up for? So I think it’s reasonable to try and buy some names for between like, you know, 12 bucks is what the cheapest price on GoDaddy auctions expired auctions, which is, which has the best inventory of anywhere.

And then, you know, all the way up to like a hundred, 150, like, you know, if you can do that, And, and you have kind of, I mean, I wouldn’t start at 150, if you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s when we start on the lower side. but yeah, that, that seems like, a really solid range to try and be picking these up for the purpose of flipping.

Yeah. 

Spencer Haws: And so. How do you go about selling these then? Right. So let’s say you do spend 150 bucks. It sounds like a good let’s call it a brandable, NFT, something or another domain, right? Like how do you sell it and how long do you have to wait? Usually? 

Sean Markey: Yeah, the, the waiting can take. Several years for sure. okay.

I mean, I, I personally haven’t sold a ton of names, but, being in the industry and seeing what the people doing, like, I can tell you if it’s, it’s a good brand, you can go to a site like brand bucket.com or squad help.com. And these are like brand marketplaces. So let’s say someone’s trying to start like a.

I dunno, websites selling fishing accessories, for instance, they might go to grand bucket and say, Hey, I want to start an e-commerce store that sells, you know, lures and whatever. I need a name and then people have registered names and they’ve listed them on brand bucket. And then in the contest, you can have people submit names related to fish.

So like, you know, something like Fisher rhea.com, which is one I saw the other day going to auction, like they’ll, they’ll submit a bunch of names and then they’ll choose one. And the buy it. you can also just plain list it at brand buckets. So like when you squat help does this exact same thing, you type in fish, it just returns a bunch of names that have to do like that are tagged with fishing or the sea or whatever.

Right. So like they’ve spent a lot of money. Developing a marketplace and developing kind of an audience of people that are going to look for those names. They, they do take a nice percentage of your, of your name for doing that. But you know, like you, you don’t have to build the audience they already did.

That’s kind of the value prop trade-off. you could also go to a site like dan.com. I really like that. it’s just a place to list domain names and they also act as like the escrow middleman. so it’s, it’s really easy to sell a name there. And then there’s after nick.com, which is owned by GoDaddy.

And if you list a name there at, after Nick, like GoDaddy puts it into their system and it goes, okay, It goes out to a bunch of other registrars. So like if you put a name for sale for 500, let’s just say fishery. Cause I just talked about that you listed for 500 bucks at afternoon. Cause someone goes to, I don’t know, like Namecheap or pork bun.com or whoever their partners are, there’s hundreds and they type in, you know, Fisher maria.com.

Cause they thought like, Oh, that’d be a great name. And then it pops up. You can register this for 500 bucks. It just puts it right in front of the person. So it’s kind of a, you know, It’s a no brainer to list your domain and have afternoon because it goes in so many places, right. 

Spencer Haws: Yup. so let’s talk about, let’s go back to doing what you’re doing, which is, spending more time, you know, finding these, expired SEO domains.

And then you’re building out sites. Let’s talk about those strategies, for actually kind of building out the sites and how you’re using the domain. And then I want to jump into, in price than the rest of the interview, talking about. Okay. How do we find these, you know, domains with links and et cetera, et cetera.

Right. So, so what sort of the strategies that you use, let’s say you’ve got the domain, you know, you feel like it’s got a lot of sort of SEO juice, like what’s what do you do from there? 

Sean Markey: So my best piece of advice is to really treat this like. You know, a brand that you love a business that you’re pouring a lot into, like don’t write a bunch of really crappy content don’t wreck, don’t put up any spun content.

Like you really want to treat this like, you know, a well loved site. So. When, when I’m building a site, like the first thing I do is put up maybe like 10, 10, 15 posts right away. Just really well-written really well optimized. I personally use clear scope, but a lot of people use surfer or 

Spencer Haws: market muse or phrase or, yeah.

Sean Markey: So, so just really optimized piece of content, targeting a keyword, It’s always a good idea to try and match the content that you’re posting with the content that used to be on a site, if you’re really taking it back and, and shove that authority. you don’t want to put. Content for an SEO blog on a site that used to be about fishing.

Like there’s not a lot of, you know, overlap of the topical relevancy. Right. So yeah, you want to just put up some content related to the content that used to be there. I personally would say don’t do an archive rebuild. I mean, you can get into trouble for doing that or not trouble, but like, you know, your site could be.

I dunno tag or whatever, whatever the process is for that. yeah, just, just write, really, really optimized content related to the site. the stuff that used to be there. And then what, what I always do is go to H refs put in the name, find the pages, like, like sort by it’s like best by links is what I do.

And then look at the pages that have. A significant number of links. I mean, it depends on how many, you know, you don’t want to do this for like a hundred pages, but like, if there’s a lot, maybe at the top 10 or 15 and see, can you, can you write a blog post or a page that is the exact same topic that used to be.

and if you can just make that the same URL or make it a more optimized URL, if they were terrible at SEO and then three Oh one that using, like, I use the rank math plugin or the redirection plugin, whatever. Yeah. and so you’re, you’re taking advantage of the, the URLs that really have a lot of juice.

Right. what you don’t want to do is, you know, what some people do with PBNs and they like redirect every four Oh four to the homepage. I mean, don’t, don’t make it obvious. You know, like, like if, if whoever was registering this to build a business on and they weren’t an SEO, like, would they do that?

Probably not. You want to, you want to look natural. So redirect the pages, if you can’t build on the exact same URL, if the page is not something you can reproduce or maybe they had like a. I like, like at our company page or something in addition to the about page, or they had an investors page, like just three Oh one that back to the blog page or to the about us page.

So you, you want to, you want to kind of spread out the redirections, you know, you don’t want them all go into the homepage. Yup. That’s what I do. And then just, you know, do, do some interlinking generously. The link whisper. awesome. Go, go through the pages. build a bunch of internal links and, you know, like really put in some, some time and some effort and money and make it look like a nice site.

Like that’s my best advice. It’s not rocket science. Just build 

Spencer Haws: a great site. Yeah, build a good site, but then take the pages that have already got these powerful links. Right. And kind of do some links sculpting, right? Either, like you said, either try to build the exact type of content that was already on that page.

If you can, if it makes sense, if it’s feasible, otherwise redirect it, where it makes sense or, you know, Anyways, sort of use those internal links to sort of sculpt where the SEO sort of juices is flowing or where it should flow. Right. To get to new content that you’re writing or something like that.

Right. Yep. 

Sean Markey: And, and then, you know, like take. I mean, I would say cast a wide net when you, when you write that content, like, w within your niche, like try and try and just go after a bunch of different subtopics. And, you know, if you did a good job, some of them will start ranking some, some of them start ranking, like really well, it’s surprising.

And then just double down on that, like, Oh, she’s going to build out this whole silo or whatever of all these related topics, or now I’m going to take this thousand word posts and make it a 3,500 word posts, like, you know, double down on the stuff that’s working. Yeah. And then use that to lift the other pages.

Yep. 

Spencer Haws: And then beyond that, you know, at that point you’ve kind of got, you know, a standard niche site, authority site, you know, all the other sort of tips and strategies apply right after that. Right. Just building good content, maybe building new links, et cetera. Yep. so do you ever, you know, you got your expired domain and you’re building out a site, do you ever then buy another expired domain in three Oh one that.

To, to the site itself. So you’ve kind of got two powerful expired domains. 

Sean Markey: Yes. almost every time like that, especially, I mean, you know, that gets expensive. So it’s, it’s, it’s for a site, you know, you really are trying to build something big. you know, and, and like you’ve got the, you’ve got the affiliate relationships, all worked out or something, you know, you don’t want to, you don’t want to invest.

Blindly and not be able to monetize, which I’ve done. So don’t do that unless I’m there, right? Yeah. So yeah, the, the, the best way to do that and, and that’s, you know, the other really good use of expired domains is. Build out the site first. That’s what a lot of people get wrong. When I see, you know, people that have bought a expired domain, I’ve covered in my newsletter.

I go back in three weeks and it’s just redirected to something else. The best thing to do is do the exact same thing. I just said. Build it out, put up some really good pieces of content, you know, do internal, linking, add images at a good logo. the way I think of it is put the content on that site that you want to live on your main site.

Like that’s how good the content should be. Right. You know, if you’ve got a blog or whatever, you’ve been building for 10 years, you know, you’re not pulling, putting garbage up and you’re going to throw one, the site to it, put content of that caliber on it. So that when you. When you acquire that site acquire, in quotes, you, you just are taking over that content and it’s living on your site.

So that’s the kind of standard you should be creating it. I say, leave the site up for like three to six months, like get it ranking, build links to it. Once that content starts ranking on the first couple pages, it’s a good time to, you know, acquire it to your site. But I w I’d say don’t do it before that.

Yeah, because otherwise you’re wasting the opportunity or it’s not, it’s just not ready. Like, like the algorithm doesn’t love that site yet. And if you threw a one it’s not going to do anything for you. Right. 

Spencer Haws: So yeah, wait a good six months. Something like that. Maybe a and then potentially, yeah, three Oh one, another expired domain to it.

very interesting. and, and how do you do those? Three Oh one, you know, another, another one, right? Are you doing the same thing in terms of building out some of the pages that are on the we’re kind of on that. New domain that you just bought as well, or are you kind of just redirecting it all to the homepage?

Sean Markey: So. I do one-to-one redirects. So if you’re, if it’s domain.com/post one on the S you know, the second site, the site that you’re going to three Oh one, then, you know, domain.com/post one on the site, you’re referring it to, and you build, you build three Oh ones, one by one, you know, like the plugin rank math, or I’m not sure if Yoast.

Does that don’t use Yoast, rank math or I think they do, but yeah. Okay. Not a fan. I do love rank math. The redirection plugin works super well, or if you know what you’re doing, or if you have a host, a hosting account somewhere where they’re like, they’re nice to you and they do things for you, you can just have them.

If you don’t know how upload, the redirects in HT access. Okay. Any of those methods work, but it’s all about doing one-to-one and not just doing the URL to the homepage. the other tips I have for this, that I’ve definitely learned the hard way don’t redirect. let me see. So like when, when you’re.

Doing the redirect for domain two.com two domain, one.com. Don’t redirect it to the homepage because you’re, you’re mixing a lot of anchor texts. You’re kind of diluting the brand, you know, and that, that can be confusing to an algorithm for instance. So my suggestion is do a post. Like, Hey, we’ve required such and such site.

That’s kind of the, it’s kind of the obvious way. Like I would say, be careful about doing that a bunch, because it’s going to become a signal at some point, even though that’s the natural way. Like, you know, if Nike acquired some other shoe brand, you know, they would announce it on their blog. Like that’s what you’re kind of trying to mimic that.

Like I said, I think, I think that’s going to become easy to spot. So the other thing to do is throw on the homepage to a page like slash blog or slash about, or like just kind of a big general page. If you send it to the blog, you know, it kind of distributes that authority, I think, over several different sites.

Yup. and then any pages that don’t match up or that you’re not using. Just send them to the blog or something is what I usually do or to a post that’s close enough. So you’ll end up with like, you know, 50 redirects or something like this. That’s how I do it. 

Spencer Haws: Okay. No, that’s great tips. very good. So let’s jump into how to actually find these expired domains that have backlinks that have SEO juice.

I know this is like a huge topic. We’re not going to learn it all here in the next 15 minutes or whatever, but let’s get people started down that path. Where, where should they go? what do you, what do you do? how do you start a search? If you’re looking for a great expired domain? Yep. 

Sean Markey: So there’s a couple of tools that can help you.

there are thousands and thousands of names that expire every day and that’s way too many to sort through. So you can use a tool like Dom cop.com, D O M cop.com or spam zilla.io. And what they do is they take all, th they have a list of all the names that are expiring and they run them through a bunch of API.

You know, they run them through similar web Alexa. MAs stuff like that. So you can start, you can start filtering out like, Oh, anything that’s below a 10 da. I don’t want to see or anything, you know, that has less than 50 referring domains. you can also, once you kind of know what you’re doing, I’m not sure if you can do this on spam Zillow, on dumb cop, you can filter by, majestic, topical relevancy.

You can say only, only things in the like food kitchen. topical relevancy, so it can become really powerful. and then, I mean, that, that’s, that’s, that’s the way I find them. And then you can go and do a little extra research, like make sure, like it’s not a trademark name, you know, you don’t want to deal with that.

Make sure it hasn’t been spammed to death in the past by putting it in a tool and [email protected] and just flipping through a couple, I do a site search. So site colon, the domain name in Google, you can kind of see what’s indexed. If nothing’s index, it’s not going to be super helpful domain, basically the more that’s index, the better.

Chance of it being a powerful, helpful domain art know, and the better chances that it wasn’t penalized in a past life, because that’s also not helpful. same with throwing it into HRS and looking at the keywords it’s ranking for, Even if the keywords are terrible and it’s like, somebody’s name that doesn’t matter at all.

Like just the fact that it’s ranking for that is a good sign. You know, you can say, okay, this probably hasn’t been penalized because this is ranking for the brand name or for the domain name or whatever, stupid keyword, like, right. That’s a good sign. Yeah. So, so just finding, finding the ones that relate to your criteria and then doing a little extra research on them and then going and trying to win it at the auction.

Spencer Haws: So to clarify, you’re not buying domains that have expired say a year ago, right. That, you know yeah. Maybe they’ve got great links from the New York times and other places, but they’ve been expired for a year. You know, they’re now available to hand register, for example, right. You’re, you’re looking for things that are.

Hopefully, it’s still indexed in Google. Haven’t officially like, you know, left the, you know, the, the internet right there. They’re at auction the first time, you know, they’re becoming available. 

Sean Markey: Think of it this way. Like. If, if that donate, if that domain name was valuable and you could build a site on it and extract a lot of value, like somebody would have registered it.

Yeah. There’s people like looking for these names every day. They’re probably not missing a ton. So yeah. You know, I wouldn’t recommend hand registering that that means it expired. It went all the way through the exploration process and it’s not just dropped and then picked up, which of these are, which.

Do tend to fare a little better, with getting back in the index and, and getting content, you know, ranking. There, there is kind of a debate when people are like, Oh, expired domains, don’t work. well they do, like, I guess it, it, you, you, you definitely want to get it on the drop and not fully expired where it’s been, let go, and you can hand register it.

Right. And so, so yeah, like, like the biggest things are how, how many of the old pages are index and what kind of keywords is it ranking for? 

Spencer Haws: Yeah. and is there like a minimum Dr. That you look for in particular hires better? 

Sean Markey: I mean, usually hires better and higher is going to cost you. but for me, the most important thing, if you really know your niche, Is what kind of links does it have from the ex the authorities in your niche?

The domain that I was talking about, I, I bought in may and sold in December was like a Dr. 15 or 20. Like, it was not hugely powerful, but almost every backlink was from an authority in the niche. It was incredibly relevant to that niche. And that’s, that’s what won. 

Spencer Haws: Yup. 

Sean Markey: Yup. The relevance. Yeah. That’s way more important than the pure power, you know, I mean, if it has a bunch of links from vice and the New York times and stuff, like, that’s awesome that that would definitely help.

But you know, if you’re in the fishing space and you have a bunch of links from these, whatever, big R 70 fishing sites or D R 50, even like, that’s great. Go with that one. 

Spencer Haws: Yeah. So, How do you actually acquire the domain? I mean, I know it goes to auction, but what’s some strategies there. is there any strategies for winning auctions?

Sean Markey: Yes. but I mean, there, you know, so a lot of people don’t know on GoDaddy, which is the place I buy from the most. Like I said, it has the biggest inventory. If you bid within the last five minutes, It kicks it back up five minutes. So a lot of people who don’t have any experience to try to like snipe these domains, they don’t like that happen.

You bid with one minute left, it kicks it back up to five minutes in something. So don’t do that. really like my best advice is not super helpful. Like you have to really want the domain. And whatever, whatever your ceiling of a prices, it’s going to probably be higher than that. If it’s a really good name, like it, it’s going to hurt, you know, that’s, that’s my experience.

Like, like I was saying that, that name that I bought last year in may, it went for almost $7,000 and I was like, okay, like w during the auction, like 2000. That’s it, that’s all I got to give to this. And then, you know, a half hour later it’s like, okay, for real 4,000 is as high as I’m going. And I just, I just really wanted it because I really believed in that name.

And I, I, I mean, you know, I said it kicks it five minutes up. If you bid at the end, like that auction went on like an extra hour, me and two other people would just kept bidding and just kept bidding. And so sometimes you got to just dig in your heels and, and you just, ah, I’m winning this name. All right.

You know, I’ll figure out the credit card bill next month. Like. This is that, that’s what it takes. That’s not, you know, you can’t do that every time, but if you find one that’s perfect, like it’s going to go for more than you think it is probably. and so if, if all you’re doing is setting, you know, putting it a bit at your max and walking away, you’ll lose someone to get it for $5 more than your max.

And that sucks. Like, like, could you have found another 50 bucks? Could you have found another 300 bucks for this name? Like, you know, that that’s getting to a dangerous place, that’s kind of the, you know, the, the auctions really play on your emotions. They do really, really hook into that FOMO. That’s 

Spencer Haws: why auctions work really well, right?

Yep. It is. 

Sean Markey: He makes a lot of money from that. 

Spencer Haws: Yeah. Yeah. so what, how much should people expect? I mean, obviously you’re not paying $7,000 for every domain. Right. But, to get a good expired or dropping, you know, domain with links, like what’s sort of a good range that people should expect. Should they expect probably a minimum, a thousand dollars.

Sean Markey: Yeah. I mean from, you know, I look at, I look at auctions every day. I study the auctions that have closed from the previous week, the week after in my newsletter. and it sucks. Like they’re expensive. You, you can, you can get them for sure for under a thousand, but they’re not going to be that great. The ones that really.

Are well indexed that have a lot of really strong topical links that are ranking for a lot of keywords are not going cheap. Like people understand the value now. And so, yeah, it’s not that, that part’s not great. Yeah. It’s expensive. Yeah. 

Spencer Haws: and so anything else did we, I mean, I know there’s a whole lot, I mean, you mentioned a couple of tools that you’re using to sort of analyze a lot of these domains that are expiring, but, just any other sort of.

Strategies or tips, you know, somebody that wants to dive in and really kind of find some of these domains on their own, like anything else they should be, looking at either sites or tools or just anything else. 

Sean Markey: one, one way to acquire names that might be cheap, especially if you’re, you know, really niching down and you’re not, you know, you’re not going after CBD or some awful keyword like that, where everyone’s.

Spending a ton of money, like look for sites that are kind of abandoned, but that have been live for a while. Like age is one thing you really can’t fake in, in the index in Google’s index. Like find, find a site that’s been around for five years and they’re just not updating it and make it like, try to buy it for 500 bucks, you know?

Spencer Haws: So just reach out to them. Yeah. I mean, essentially, 

Sean Markey: right. You know, it’s kind of a shot in the dark, but like, if you can, if you can get until Maine, before it goes to auction, you’ll get it for way cheaper. I, I haven’t been super successful with that, to be honest, like, like that’s just a, you know, if you have more time than money kind of thing, like go for that, go, go on that route.

if you’re just getting into it, I would say try and find something fairly cheap and, you know, build it out yourself and learn. The hard way, you know, like learn by doing, don’t go out and buy a $5,000 domain and then do a terrible job. Like, you know, like, like, yes, you can make a lot of money. You could be very successful, but like, know what you’re doing first before you really go all in is my advice.

Yeah. 

Spencer Haws: Great advice. I agree. okay. I wanted to ask if there’s any other sort of, you’ve already mentioned a few along the way, but are there any other sort of like bad practice or do not do this? If you are trying to build a site on an expired domain, like what’s, what’s a mistake maybe that you see other people making, right?

You mentioned a few about some of the way things are three Oh one redirected and try to make the content relevant. But anything else that you see that people are just kind of messing things up? 

Sean Markey: I see, like, I mean, I think I mentioned this, but one of the big ones is when people buy a name that is in one nation to try and make it relevant to another niche like that.

Just but like, like that’s defeating the purpose, you know, the point of doing it, I would say definitely don’t do that. I can’t really think of anything. Else, like one thing I’ve learned by doing a lot of these buildouts and making a lot of mistakes is that, you know, core algorithm updates excluded Google’s Google’s index can be very forgiving.

Like I, I have. like, acquired, like I had a site, it was doing really well, like just under a hundred thousand visits per month. And I was like, this site’s great. It was super aged, but I was like, I hate the brand. I don’t like, I don’t love it. I want to make it this other name that I picked up at auction.

It’s a much better brand. And so I did a whole three Oh one redirect acquisition, rebranding and traffic went from about 3000 a day to maybe like a hundred. It was a really bad ouch. And, and I kept, I kept it up for two weeks cause I was working with other people like, wha what is going on here? Why does it happen?

Like the domain wasn’t, it wasn’t toxic. Like it was, it was fine, you know, like it passed all my checks, but I don’t even know what happened. It just did not take. And two or three weeks later, I reversed the redirection and it popped right back up. Right where it was before, and then continued to do even better because now it had the name that I had redirected that to redirected back to it.

So it was giving us some extra juice. So that ended up being like an interesting technique. But, yeah, like. You know, make some, hopefully less, on a less valuable domain than I did, like make some mistakes and, and try it out. Like the index is pretty forgiving. Like, yeah, you can, you can roll something back after a couple of weeks or even a couple of months I’ve done.

And, and it. It sticks. 

Spencer Haws: Yeah. So we talked, that’s a little bit about juice market. Why did you create a choose market.com? 

Sean Markey: So, you know, I’ve been watching these, these auctions, co up and up and up in price. And I was like, okay, there’s a huge demand for these names talking to other SEOs. Like everyone wants to find a good name to build on.

not everyone loves auctions, like anyone was auctions. right. So we thought like, Hey, like, You know, Travis Jamison is who I kind of partnered up with to create this. he’s a really good SEO. He’s got a bunch of abandoned projects, you know, you’re optimistic. You’re like, I’m buying this site, I’m definitely going to start something.

And then like seven months later, you’re like, yeah, I’m doing like 15 other things. I never got around to that. Yeah. So, so th there’s not a, there wasn’t a good marketplace to sell that name to people who understood the value. You know, you can try and go in like a Facebook group and, you know, try and get a couple thousand board or something.

But like there wasn’t an established marketplace for that. And also auctions are terrible. That was kind of our core beliefs since starting this. And I mean, it’s definitely a scratch your own edge product. so we created a marketplace where people that had these. Valuable names, you know, that have authority and are aged.

In some cases, it comes with the website and, it’s a place where you can list that for, you know, close to what it’s worth. That’s up to you. And then also a place where, kind of, you know, doing some outreach to, and some marketing at SEO’s like, Hey, you want to expire? You know, you know, you want a domain with juice come to juice market.

So, you know, it’s not easy to create like a two-sided marketplace, but there’s definitely a need to sell some of these domains. For people like me who have got way too many, too optimistic and people who are trying to buy these and don’t want to, you know, suffer through an auction or 15 auctions and lose each one.

Like that really sucks. Right. 

Spencer Haws: So, I really liked the marketplace aspect of it. Right? So that if I, I mean, that’s, this could be potentially somebody’s way to flip domains in a way, right. If, if they’re finding great domains at auction, they just want to turn around and sell it. They’d go to juice market and potentially get a little bit of a markup because maybe SEOs are they’re looking and, you know, see the value of it and we’ll buy it.

So I love that. and then I assume you’re also because you’re looking at domains all the time and, you know, Between you and Travis, are you buying several, domains? And then just go ahead and list those as well on juice market to kind of keep inventory up on the site itself. 

Sean Markey: W we definitely seeded it with about.

Five or so domains each, but like that’s expensive. It’s expensive to do that. so yeah, we, we only have a couple names each really, and people, people got the, the idea of it really quick. You know, you, you talk to any SEO who’s been operating for five years. Like they have several names they bought and intended to build on, or, you know, half-assed to build something out.

so people had the names ready to list. 

Spencer Haws: So, so you getting quite a few, listings then I know it’s only been around what a a month? 

Sean Markey: yeah, maybe, maybe a month. yeah, we’ve, we’ve had a ton of listings, I think almost 400 people signed up so far. Like it’s, it’s really, you know, it’s in the very, very beginning stages of getting traction, but yeah, people, people seem to get it.

Spencer Haws: Yeah, no, it makes a lot of sense. So people can check that out juice, market.com. and then I know you have a newsletter as well. Why don’t you let people know what you’re doing with the newsletter and where they can go to follow that? 

Sean Markey: Yep. so I started in 2019 before everyone else who publishes a similar newsletter these days.

basically I look at the, the domains go into auction. For this week. And I, you know, it comes out every Wednesday. So it’s from like Wednesday through Tuesday of next week. And it says like, these are the seven best domains going to auction. They have a lot of, you know, authority. They have a big history.

I talk about what the site used to be. What kind of links. It has what I would do, like how I would build this site out or how I would use it to three Oh one to another site. and then I cover a couple of like really good brands go into auction as well. Cause sometimes, you know, you acquire a terrible domain, like.

dot org with three dashes. Like it’s just an, it’s not a great brand. You want to brand that into something else, you know, cover a couple of really good brands. You might pick up for a future thrill one. as well as just trying to share stuff, that’s worked for me, case studies. I look at like, you know, maybe a name that I covered.

Six months ago and saying like, Oh, like this, the theme expired in the newsletter was bought for this much. Like here’s what they did with it. And here’s how it’s going. Like it’s not going well because they just three or one that right away or whatever. just, just try to be like a, a way to share my knowledge, because I’ve done so much with expired domains.

We’ve made so many mistakes, like just trying to be like, these are the names that are the best this week, and this is what I would do with them. And that is, it’s a sub stack, newsletter it’s at SCM, which is actually my initials, but, you know, search engine marketing kind of works well. Yep.  dot com is where people can go.

I got a free version and I got a paid version. Okay. 

Spencer Haws: Yeah, that’s good. I like that. you know, for people that maybe don’t have as much time or aren’t as involved in looking at domains, as you are, right. They can get like here’s the top seven or eight or whatever domains that are available. If they want to go.

Just read your newsletter and pick up a domain and they can do that. Yep. plus get all your insights, which, I’m looking forward to. I got your first one, of course, this past week and good stuff for sure. I love reading about this kind of stuff. So. Don’t we all though, right in the SEO world. So it’s, very good.

So, Sean, thanks for coming on the niche pursuits podcast, sharing your experiences and your strategies for finding expired domains and just everything really appreciate it. is there any other place you’d like to send people or just any sort of parting words that maybe you have? 

Sean Markey: my parting advice is like, just jump in and do it.

You know, don’t, don’t, don’t max out all your credit cards or anything, but like, like that’s the journey I took. Like you learn by doing, you learn by failing. So like grab a GABA name for 50 bucks. It’s not the best name ever. And just start building on it and see, see what happens. That’s what I would say as for sharing anything else.

I’m pretty active on Twitter. Yeah, it’s just my name at Sean Markey. So I would say, you know, go, go find me there and, and listen to all the dumb things I have to say about SEO or all the customer service points I have. That’s where that’s where they all end up. yeah. 

Spencer Haws: Awesome. Yes. Thanks again for sharing your wisdom here.

People can follow along at those places and I agree. Yeah. People should just get started. That’s where you’re gonna learn the most is just taking some action and, and learn the ropes yourself. So I appreciate all device. 

Sean Markey: Yeah. Thanks man. Thanks for having me.




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By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of NichePursuits.com. After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding LinkWhisper.com, and co-founding MotionInvest.com. You can learn more about Spencer here.

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