Abused domains: How to recognize Google penalties
Where there are unfair SEO violations, Google often imposes sanctions. Read now how to recognize burned domains and what a “reconsideration request” is.
Abused domains: Take care when buying a domain
To date, the most expensive domain sold cost 30 million USD, when voice.com changed hands for this huge amount in 2019. These days investors will often pay six-figure amounts even for country-specific top-level domains. The average price for a .com domain was $3,559 in 2018.
With clever domain marketing, a substantial investment can pay off in the long run, but what happens if you, as the proud new domain owner, have been deceived into purchasing a burned or stolen domain?
What is a "burned" domain?
Domains “acquire” a certain reputation with search engines over time. Put simply, established domains with a long history and consistently high-quality content, to which other websites link to an above-average number of times, have a good reputation with popular search engines such as Google. This has a positive effect on the placement in search results in conjunction with current SEO measures.
But if the domain in question has a bad reputation, meaning it is sometimes not even listed in the search results - the domain would be considered “burned”. Possible reasons behind this include unfair attempts to improve search engine placement through spamming, link buying, or other violations of the guidelines of the particular search engine.
If you decide to buy an internet address, you should carefully examine whether this could have occurred in advance.
How do I figure out if it’s a “burned” domain? Five steps to enlightenment:
- First, check whether your desired domain is already registered. To do this, start a so-called whois query using, for example, whois.domaintools.com. Incidentally, you will also learn who the current owner of the domain is and ensure you do not purchase a possibly stolen domain.
- If there have been previous owners, your next step should be a “site” query by entering: www.yourdomain.com in a Google search. If no results appear, the domain is no longer indexed by the search engine. This can be for different reasons. Firstly, the domain is already too old and has been unused for too long, or secondly, Google no longer indexes the internet address because the search engine has detected SEO violations.
- If the domain is still active and you can contact the seller, ask for the visitor statistics for the website. Another indicator of de-indexing, and thus a burnt domain, is sharply declining visitor numbers. If you are not able to access these statistics, you can obtain the information using SEO tools such as the SISTRIX Toolbox. Parked or expiring domains make it even easier for you. For example, on the SEDO sales pages, you will find traffic statistics for parked domains. Use the new SEDO sedo.com to see the key metrics with complete transparency.
- If a web site at the internet address for sale has attracted negative attention in the past, there may be user reports about it. Use the Google search function to find the domain name (without the domain extension) to find out more, or scan reputable forums such as namepros.com or acorndomains.co.uk.
- Last but not least, utilize the extensive website archive, org. Search for old versions of the website to see whether the domain has misused content at some point.
Can I save a “burned” domain?
If you have purchased a “burned” domain, do not panic! Keep calm as they say. There is a last-ditch method to rehabilitate the domain with Google through a reconsideration request.
A “reconsideration request” is a request to manually review a site that is no longer indexed by Google because of a policy violation. However, such a resumption request will only result in a further review if the penalty has been manually applied by a Google representative. Algorithmic penalties are excluded.
Important: Before submitting the application, you should of course remove the alleged Google policy violation from the site. Re-examining the domain takes a maximum of one week, after which you will receive positive or negative feedback, including a final assessment of the case, from a Google representative
Underestimated danger: stolen domains
There is a further potential problem when buying a domain: stolen domains. Here the legal situation can be complicated, as a domain is often not regarded as property in the conventional sense.
So, the question is: Can a third party simply take over a domain with unfair means and resell it? No, because there is a so-called enrichment claim if someone has obtained a financial benefit without legal reason. This might be, for example, if a domain has been taken over without a concluded contract.
By the way: Domain theft is quite common. Read our blog article to find out which big brands have lost their domains.