Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answers a question about buying domains in his latest Webmaster Help video where a user writes in to ask:
How can we check to see if a domain (bought from a registrar) was previously in trouble with Google? I recently bought, and unbeknownst to me the domain isn’t being indexed and I’ve had to do a reconsideration request. How could I have prevented?
Matt offers a few rules of thumb to check to make sure you’re not buying a domain that spammers have burnt to the ground. Number one is to do a search for the domain by typing the command “site:domain.com” into the Google search bar. If there are no results at all for that domain, you should take that as a pretty bad sign.
The next thing you should do is just search for the domain name. By doing this you can learn more about the reputation of the domain. For example, you may find people talking negatively about that domain and learn that it has a history of black hat practices.
Another suggestion Matt offers is to go to Archive.org and search for the domain. The archive will show you what previous versions of the site looked like. By seeing what the site used to look like you can get a pretty good idea if the domain has a history of spamming. If that ends up being the case, Matt suggests not buying that domain name because you will end up having to dig yourself out of a hole created by the previous owner.
If you’re thinking about buying a domain directly from the previous owner, ask if you can see the analytics reports to get an idea of what the traffic patterns were like. If you see a sharp drop in traffic, Matt suggests avoiding that domain. That kind of traffic pattern may be an indication the site was hit with a penalty.
If you buy the domain only to find out it was involved in some shady activity after the fact, Matt says you can do a reconsideration request in which case you would want to disavow all links pointing to that domain before submitting the request.
To hear Matt’s full response in his own words, please see the video below: