We 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