How to Check a Domain’s History Before Buying it (Steps + Tips)

how to check a domain's history

Do you have your eyes set on the perfect domain name? Do you want to know its history before you spend your money on it?

Domain names that have been used for malicious or banned activity in the past can be bad for business. They can spoil your brand reputation, SEO, and revenue. By checking the domain’s history, you can be sure you’re getting a domain name that will work in your favor.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best ways to check if your domain is brand new or has been used before. We’ll also show you how to check its complete history to find out whether it has a good reputation or a dark past.

Why You Should Always Check Domain History?

When you buy a domain name that’s been used before, unfortunately, you also take on its past. Domain names aren’t wiped clean before they are sold again, so it’s important to check what it was used for before.

In some cases, domain owners may have simply given up on the website, but there are others who deliberately abandon or were forced to shut down their site due to bans or penalties imposed by search engines or governments

Ideally, you want to check if the domain was used to promote adult content, casino and gambling activities, fraud, or any illegal activity that you do not want your business associated with.

You also need to see if the domain was penalized by search engines for using black hat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing, invisible text, page swapping, and so on.

If you use a domain name that has a dark past, here’s where things can go wrong:

  • Wrong inbound traffic: Third-party websites might still be linking to this domain for its old activities. This means you’ll attract the wrong crowd to your site.
  • Blacklists: The name might still be on blocklists of search engines, email providers, and web hosts.
  • Flagged as spam: Generic email addresses associated with the domain name might be flagged as spam such as [email protected] or [email protected]
  • SEO red flags: Pages you create (like about, contact us, services) may already be flagged as manipulative, low quality, or spam on search engines like Google.
  • Branded name: People may already associate the name to the previous brand/business and may think you’re an imposter.

Checking a domain’s history takes just a few minutes and it’s worth spending that time. It’s better to be safe and thorough so that you don’t run into problems in the future, especially if you’re investing in a premium domain name.

That said, let’s show you the best ways to check your domain name’s history.

How to Properly Inspect a Domain’s History?

To do a complete and thorough check, we recommend running the domain name through 4 online tools:

  1. Domain IQ
  2. Wayback Machine – Highly Recommended
  3. Google cache
  4. Semrush backlink analyzer tool

All of these tools are free to use. And by using all 4, you’ll get a true picture of what the domain was used for in the past and whether it has a good reputation or not.

1. DomainIQ

domainiq

DomainIQ is a powerful online tool to look up everything there is to know about a domain name. You can find information on its current status and history.

To begin with this domain intelligence tool can show you details of:

  • Registration date
  • Current ownership and ownership history
  • Server its hosted on
  • List of similar domains
  • Alexa rank
  • Past search results volume
  • Domain snapshots
  • WHOIS database records

…and more.

You can use DomainIQ for free, however, there’s a daily search limit and you’ll need to enter your email address to get the full report. It’s paid plans start at $24.95 per month.

To use the tool, all you have to do is type in your desired domain name in the search bar. It will take a few seconds to fetch its records and display a report like this:

domainiq no flags high traffic

From the example above, we can see that there are no red flags on the domain name. However, there are millions of search results which indicate this domain name was extremely popular at one point of time.

To check what the domain was actually used for, you’ll need to use another tool called the Wayback Machine.

2. Wayback Machine

wayback machine homepage

Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive is a really cool online tool that lets you see what a website looked like in the past. This helps you understand what the name is associated with and what kind of audience you might get.

The tool works by taking snapshots of every website periodically. Over the years, it has created over 500 billion pages in its database.

All you have to do is enter your domain name and it will generate a calendar with highlighted dates of when a snapshot was taken.

You can select the date and view historical screenshots of the website that was created with the domain name.

This will clearly show you whether the domain name was ever in use and what it was used for. You’ll be able to spot whether there was any controversial content on the site.

Now we ran the same domain name to see historical screenshots. When we look back at 2003 records, the domain seems to have been used to sell legit products.

wayback example history

But when we skip ahead to 2016, we can see that it was an escort service. This is probably where the millions of search results came from.

wayback example

If you find content like this on a domain name, you’ll want to stay away from the domain as you don’t want your brand associated with this kind of content.

Up next, we have two more ways to dig deeper into your domain name.

3. Google Backup and Cache

Google is the most popular search engine in the world and if you want your website to succeed, you’ll want to rank high on SERPs (search engine results pages) of Google.

Google indexes billions of pages on the internet to display relevant results to its users. It also stores HTML backups of pages taken at a certain point in time. This backup is stored on a server and can be retrieved for various purposes.

If you want to see what pages Google stored for your domain name, simply search for site:exampledomain.com. (Replace ‘exampledomain’ with your actual domain name.)

If your domain name was indexed before, you’ll see a list of pages and posts populate in the results page.

cached google search

You can click on the three dots next to the result and access the cached content.

Next, you can also search for your domain name in quotes like “exampledomain.com”. This will show you references to your domain name such as news stories and third-party posts.

Keep in mind, if you’re already using your domain name, you’ll see your current content instead of the domain’s cached history.

4. Semrush

Semrush is a suite of marketing and SEO tools. You can use it to research keywords, competitors, and build a backlink profile.

Semrush has a dedicated backlink audit tool and it’s available for free. You can type in a domain name and it will show you all the websites that are pointing to it.

backlink audit in semrush

It even gives you a toxicity scale:

  • Red indicates a high level of toxic domains
  • Orange means it’s potentially toxic
  • Green is non-toxic domains

Now normally, even good sites tend to have some toxic backlinks. So you don’t have to avoid buying a domain name if there are a few negative results. Just be sure you aren’t picking a domain that has tons of spammy inbound links.

Choosing an Old Domain vs. New Domain

Should you buy an old domain or just stick to a brand new one? If you choose a new domain name, you can start your business from scratch without any future problems.

But domain names are tricky. It’s hard to find good domain names with a top-level domain extension (TLD) available.

So filtering them down to old vs. new may narrow your search even further.

Instead, we recommend doing a domain history search and making sure the domain will help you build a strong brand and a successful website.

Aged domain names with a solid history can actually work in your favor. It might be easier to rank on search engines and build a good brand reputation.

Just make sure the domain has a moderate to excellent trust (the level of trust of search engines) and quality resources linking to the site.

That’s all we have for you! We hope this post helped you research your domain name to make sure it’s the right choice.

If you’re having a tough time find a good domain name, give our domain name generator a try. You simply have to type in a few keywords and the tool will come up with domain name suggestions.

Once you’ve selected your domain name, you can purchase it on Domain.com with a 25% discount, or select a hosting plan with Bluehost and get your domain name for free!

Next, we’ve handpicked these resources to help get you started with your website:

These posts have all the info you need to set up your website and start growing it right away.

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