Matt Cutts Explains How To Avoid Buying A Domain That Has Been Penalized By Google

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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 “” 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 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:

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Matt Southern is the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in... Read Full Bio
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  • That’s the Google Penalties’ limit. Domain names should be considered as rentals. Would you live in a world where your future boss will look who was the former inhabitant of your lovely home ?

  • That was a good question posed and Matt answered the question well. This problem occurs sometimes. Personally, I’ve never bought a domain that had been penalized by Google. I consider it my good luck! I understand the problems that one has to undergo in the case of purchasing a punished domain name.

    As Matt said, the first thing one can do is to do the site:domain name check using Google. This is easy to perform task and can be done by all. Next comes the phase of searching only the domain name on Google. Again an easy task. is also a good tool to view the old look and version of a site. This will help us know how the site used to look in the past and the functions it had.

    An informative post. I found the link to this post on Kingged.


    • Finally, something from Matt Cutts we can trust. I am glad to see him offering advice on this as I have seen several people get burned buying old domains.

  • Sunday

    Hmm! Quite explanatory! Webmasters seeking to check whether a domain has penalty issues in the past have options to follow. Thankfully, Matt Cutts has highlighted simple options we can apply. This is so very helpful!

  • I have always have been aware on this issue of penalized domain since I started purchasing old domains! It’s great to see Matt has actually offered great advice on keeping yourself safe!

  • This issue (buying domain name) is partially addressed by Mr. Cutts for sure.

    What about the domain that has expired, deleted from registrar? and re-registered by new owner?

    The explanation is about domain which is “active” i.e. the site has some content, theme etc.

  • Wayback or Archive will give you some indication but there are lots of legitimate sites that look bad and spammy.

    When I buy expired domains, the first thing I look at is the backlink profile using Ahrefs, Majestic or Moz or sometimes all three. You can tell within seconds if it’s a site thats been spammed just by clicking on the inbound links and looking at the quality of them. The obvious warning signs are forum profile links, link embedded into spun content, low quality directories etc. Another telltale sign is the velocity of the links being created and being dropped.

    There should be a certain amount of consistency with a particular focus on dropped links. Sites will always lose links for a variety of reasons but when you see dozens of them disappearing, alarm bells should ring.

  • Took about four days for Google to approve my newly bought domain, with spam history, after sending a Reconsideration Request.