Tips for Buying Old Sites

Today’s post is a question from Max Capener, who wants to know what’s the best way to handle old sites that you buy?

Ok so that’s a question that has a lot of different aspects, and I’ll try to go over a few of them. First, let’s talk about why you bought the website. Was it the competition? Were you looking to re-purpose/redirect some link equity? Or is it just a good domain name? If it’s the competition, you have few options you can leave it in place and try and secure two spots in the SERP’s. If that’s your plan I’d try and keep as much the same as possible: hosting, design, architecture, whois, etc. I’d only change each piece one at a time and very slowly. Changing a lot of things at once is never a good SEO strategy, even if you aren’t buying a new website. Another option is to target a different segment of the market (higher end or lower end). Again, change as little as possible at a time–and do it slowly.

Let’s say you want to re-purpose/redirect the link equity. In that case, you want to do a one to one 301 redirect for each of the URL’s. Try to redirect to individual pages. Don’t send everything to the home page or a single page; it’s important to keep the users’ goals in mind. I wouldn’t let anything 404 if possible, because it just flushes link equity right down the toilet.

If it’s a good domain name (better than the one you currently have) you could move all of your content to the newly purchased domain and redirect your old domain. This is a bit tricky: you have to do it all at once and it violates the advice I gave above for changing as little as possible and doing it slowly over time. But you don’t want the search engines to see the same content in two spots any longer than necessary. Sometimes the right answer depends on the situation.

I will warn you not to buy domains to re-purpose the link equity if they aren’t related to your website. Buying car websites and then pointing them to your dance websites is a practice Google frowns upon. The further you go, and the more it looks like you are trying to trick Google, the worse the penalty may be. If you buy lots of charity domains and repoint them at your commercial domains, you may find yourself the proud owner of a page rank zero website.

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