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Buying A Registered Domain? Check Its History

October 8, 2018

You've found the perfect domain name - someone else has registered it, but will part with it for a reasonable (or perhaps even unreasonable) price. Before you hand over your cash, here's what you should do.

Like people, established domain names can come with some unseen baggage, and not all of that may contain pleasant things. Also, a name you're considering purchasing from another party may not have a web site associated with it now, but could have previously.

Before buying a domain name* that is already registered, which will likely cost a whole lot more than grabbing an unregistered name, part of your due diligence should be to carry out some background checks on its history. 

The easiest and free way to do so is using The Wayback Machine, which is a really valuable tool. The Wayback Machine is part of Internet Archive, a project that's been going for many years. It contains snapshots of more than 338 billion web pages and how they've changed over the years. Not all web sites are in the archive, but chances are if a domain has been in use for some time there should be at least a couple of entries.

It's also wise to poke around Google for a bit and see what searching on the name uncovers (encapsulate the full name in quotes - ""), just bear in mind that mentions of sites - good and bad - do tend to wind up on spammy and unsavoury sites.

Also Check Unregistered Names

Just because a domain name is available now, it doesn't mean it doesn't have a history. Some names may have been previously registered, then expired. Sometimes this can happen multiple times, so it's wise to check back as far as possible.

Why Be Concerned?

A domain name with a particularly dark history may have some troubles ranking on search engines, especially if its shady past wasn't all that long ago. If it was a reasonably well known name, you may also find yourself dealing with some of the fallout from that site's activities.

One of the many positive things about registering a .au domain is given the eligibility criteria and rules, the chances of a name having been used for something nasty is somewhat lessened - but that's no absolute guarantee.

*The term "buy a domain name" isn't strictly correct. Nobody can buy a name per se, just the rights to the lease it that must be continually renewed. Learn more about the "buy domain name" myth.

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