Google's Matt Cutts: Expired Domains With Penalties Last For...

Dec 27, 2013 • 8:21 am | comments (29) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google penaltyWe know manual actions expire but what about algorithmic actions, do they expire?

When you pick up a new domain name, you now need to look to see if it had a bad history. We know expired domains can either benefit you, do nothing for you, or seriously hurt your efforts on your new site.

Google's Matt Cutts chimed in about the difference between a manual action on an expired domain and an algorithmic action and the difference, to me, is a bit scary. This is based on a Google Webmaster Help thread from Christmas.

First a copy and paste of what Matt said and then my interpretation of it:

The short answer is that it depends. If domain hasn't really been on the web since 2001, I would expect any manual webspam actions to have expired a long time ago.

It's possible that the domain did some things in 2001 that would lead to algorithmic ranking issues, but the web typically changes enough in ~12 years that I'd be surprised if you ran into issues. Typically when you buy a site and run into problems, it's because someone was spamming more recently with the domain.

So clearly, if the domain expired years ago, you probably don't need to worry about a manual action. But, to be safe, login to Webmaster Tools and see if it still has a manual action. If so, then submit a reconsideration request. I wouldn't be surprised if it did have a manual action, that some algorithm is also impacting it.

On the algorithmic action side, it is unclear if the penalty will last. Matt implies that it would be rare for a 12 year old expired domain to still have an algorithm that is hurting it but it is possible. In that case, you are probably in trouble and probably should find a new domain before you start doing much more.

But how much time would it take for the expired domain to have the algorithmic actions expire also? I guess it depends on the links pointing to the site still.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for referee

Previous story: Google's Matt Cutts: Don't Copy Wikipedia Content & Expect To Rank Well



12/27/2013 02:32 pm

That's ridiculous. A 12 year old domain is the example here? If you purchase a domain, there should be a way to wipe it clean in webmaster tools.

Chase Anderson

12/27/2013 03:12 pm

Of course, if such an option existed it certainly wouldn't be manipulated.

Kyle Risley

12/27/2013 03:17 pm

If you really want to "wipe it clean," download all the links from WMT, Majestic, and aHRefs and disavow all of them with the "domain:" operator. If it's an algo penalty you'll need to wait for a refresh, but I think that's the closest you can come. A "wipe clean" function would just let spammers reset domains for free once they get torched. The possible financial loss of money invested in a domain is a good deterrent, though of course some small, well-meaning webmasters get caught in the crossfire. It's definitely not a perfect system.

Michael Martinez

12/27/2013 03:40 pm

If the new owner just resurrects an old site or otherwise reproduces the bad behavior, I can see the algorithms having a problem. But I've never resurrected an old site that way and all the ones I have developed for myself or clients have done well.

Donna D. Fontenot

12/27/2013 04:13 pm

It's difficult enough for site owners to determine what algo penalty their own sites have, so imagine how difficult it will be to figure out what algo penalty might have hit an old domain they are considering purchasing.


12/27/2013 05:22 pm

When will ser and others stop taking every single word of Matt Cutts so literally. It getting stupid. You can CLEARLY tell when he's just giving out general wishy wash vague answers, and even guessing, for the sake of keeping face. I'd much rather he just said 'I don't know the answer to that, it's too specific'

Golden Fleas

12/27/2013 05:24 pm

Yo Adrian. Matt Cutts is bigger than God.


12/27/2013 06:31 pm

Anyway, their ideas it so hard to understand. Lot of peoples purchasing old domains even without knowing it. They even don't know what archive org exists (and archive-org already started removing history for some domains).

Patrick Coombe

12/27/2013 07:11 pm

If this is the case then people will game the system hardocre. They will "drop" the domain then buy it back under a new domain then submit a reconsideration quest playing ignorant and asking for it to be removed.


12/27/2013 08:15 pm

Matt Cutts bigger than God, no. His arch enemy, the antichrist, possibly...


12/27/2013 09:00 pm

they just can buy new domain. so it more problem for internet newbies than for spammers.

Emory Rowland

12/27/2013 09:10 pm

I'll take a manual over an algorithmic any day of the week.


12/27/2013 09:18 pm

99% of people that own domains have no idea how to disavow links or even know that they may have to do such a thing. Sure, people should become educated if they're buying domains, but it's just not the case. People are buying domains for their businesses and have no idea that some algorithm or penalty is going to hurt them. They then go in search for an "SEO" service that probably hurts them even more. There will always be something to manipulate. If a webmaster screwed up, let them wipe clean and start over.


12/27/2013 09:35 pm

Matt Quote [.......... in 2001 that would lead to algorithmic ranking issues] --->>> Lies.


12/27/2013 11:16 pm

You obviously haven't built spammy links since 2001. Some of us SEOs have. And some of those links do pass negative ranking signals now.


12/27/2013 11:33 pm

This is bad idea to play Russian roulette when you start new project. Don't use domain, if you have even slight suspicion about its past. Don't listen to anyone, just drop it and select another one.


12/28/2013 06:59 am

i have few WH sites since 2000... and build links in BH way...all works fine with my links... maybe your got negative.


12/28/2013 07:11 am

Quoting M.C. "the web typically changes enough in ~12 years that I'd be surprised if you ran into issues" .. and not long ago on Twitter regarding PR updates before 2014 "I would be surprised if that happened"..I guess, i wont be surprised anymore by anything if M.C. would be surprised :)

Rahul Trivedi

12/28/2013 01:14 pm

So, from the post,we can say that you must have to be aware with the domain history. If domain had bad footprints in past and if it had algo penalty, then you should have to be more careful while creating new links. And if you want to overcome from such algo penalties, you have to create some strong backlinks which have to look like a natural way of creating links.

Chris Boyace

12/28/2013 02:32 pm

you forget to share your skype id so that clients can contact you :P


12/28/2013 03:12 pm

Barry - Similarly, I wrote abut Registrant "penalties" i.e. domain name holders that buy and sell domains get their domains knocked out of Google's index. I also found that by changing the Registrant the site would reappear in the index.

Durant Imboden

12/28/2013 05:32 pm

The solution seems pretty simple to me: Businesses shouldn't use secondhand domains unless they're willing to practice due diligence. (Ignorance is no excuse for stupidity.)

Yo Mamma

12/29/2013 12:22 am

Natural Google results are dead. Dead I tell you

Yo Mamma

12/29/2013 12:22 am

Manuals are for woosies

Rafaqat Ali

12/29/2013 02:52 pm

yes of course the selection of domain name with no penalty matters especially at that time when Google manual penalties are in action.


12/29/2013 04:04 pm

i sometimes think what MC know much less than any webmaster. Like him politician, but not a seo guy.


12/30/2013 09:03 am

no news about amazon spam penalties? or footer links (from homepage) to 50 own sites is ok?


01/06/2014 11:14 am

Or we can just ignore Google's "laws" and buy the domain of our dreams. Google insists that we don't have to think of them when we run a website, right? Then let's just do that. ;)

Spook SEO

02/04/2014 01:22 am

Barry it is good to see this post from your side and I really want to search for the expired domain but after watching this post I do not think to have this without the verifications. I have seen so many posts that say if you want to make a new domain it is better to buy an expired domain.

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