Picking up pre-drop domains is a great way to start new sites with both traffic and search legacies. One of the issues that many buyers discover is that the old site is no longer cached — Google et. al. have picked up the parking page — and the site isn’t indexed in Archive.org.
Whenever buying a previously-used domain you want to check the background and history of past sites that domain hosted. Picking up the wrong domains can lead to painful loses, and while serious spam is usually easy to spot (check for massive link footprints from spam sites), sometimes light search engine infringements are difficult to spot with third party tools. This is compounded when the domain now points to a parking lot.
Something Most People Overlook
For various reasons webmasters rarely buy domains and hosting at the same time. Modern hosting allows users to host multiple sites, so you just buy another domain and add it to your current hosting. Many webmasters also own multiple domains/sites, so hosting is usually maintained for those other sites.
So when a webmaster fails to renew a domain they rarely delete the hosting account for that domain. The registrar will normally override the owner’s DNS settings to point requests to a parking page once the domain reaches redemption.
Here’s the trick If you can find the host server IP you can quickly access the old site to review the content.
You can use a paid service like DomainTools to view historic DNS settings, or you can go the cheapskate route and simply search Google:
If you drop in your target domain (instead of “%domain.tld%”) and the term “DNS” you’ll likely get a SERP full of pages from various domain info sites. Assuming your target domain was active within the previous weeks/months you should be able to find the IP address of the host machine. You can also use Google’s caches of these domain info pages to see older info (Google wont crawl many of these sites as regularly).
Once you’ve got the IP the rest is simple. If you’re on a Windows machine you simply need to find and edit the “hosts” file (usually found in C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\). Once you find this file you need to add a new line:
# Copyright (c) 1993-2009 Microsoft Corp.
# This is a sample HOSTS file used by Microsoft TCP/IP for Windows.
# This file contains the mappings of IP addresses to host names. Each
# entry should be kept on an individual line. The IP address should
# be placed in the first column followed by the corresponding host name.
# The IP address and the host name should be separated by at least one
# Additionally, comments (such as these) may be inserted on individual
# lines or following the machine name denoted by a '#' symbol.
# For example:
# 188.8.131.52 rhino.acme.com # source server
# 184.108.40.206 x.acme.com # x client host
# localhost name resolution is handled within DNS itself.
# 127.0.0.1 localhost
# ::1 localhost
127.0.0.1 localhost127.0.0.1 localhost
- “xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx” for host server IP address, followed by a single tab
- “www.domain.tld” for the target domain
Save the file, and the next time you access “www.domain.tld” from that machine the hosts file will override the DNS lookup. If you have the right server IP up should pop your target site. You’ll be bale to navigate around the site as if it were still live, and take a mirror for your records.
Maintaining Order – Making The Most Of Legacy Content
The reason you should mirror the old site is two-fold. If the domain receives traffic from links you will want to maintain or redirect the original architecture to retain the juice from those legacy deeplinks. You also want to ensure that visitors landing on your new pages receive relevant content, so knowing what was there historically is very useful.
It certainly beats the heck out of Archive.org!