Buying Domain Names Based on Search Rankings

I haven’t done this before, but I am thinking about it and would like some advice. Have you ever gone out to buy a domain name based on the current natural search position rather than the domain name? For example, if you have a great oil painting-related domain name that doesn’t rank well in Google, it might be in your best interest to try to acquire the highest ranking website (currently and do a 301 redirect to your domain name.
Although content is king and Google would probably notice that you don’t offer the same website content as what was on the #1 site, you would be able to retain the inbound links that the other website has. Since one of (if not) the biggest ways Google ranks domain names/websites is based on the inbound links, your great domain name with poor links would all of a sudden have a ton of inbound links.
Personally, I have never tried to buy a shitty domain name simply because it ranks well in Google, but since I have begun developing some of my better domain names, it might be worth doing. If anyone has done this before, I would really like to hear how this would help the domain name/website to which you 301 the higher ranking name. At the next update, would Google recognize your new name as the higher ranking website?

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Elliot,
    If you buy a domain that ranks and then 301 it to a new domain (presumably with content not found on the ranking domain), google will take that to mean that the ranking domain is now a new site and you will lose the rank.
    A better plan is to 301 the ranking site to a new domain, and use the same content on the new domain as what is on the ranking site. Then build more content on the new site, around the old content from the ranking site. Then contact the backlinks and ask them to change their link to the new domain name.
    If you can give a specific example, I could give you a more ideas on what might happen.
    – Richard
    So what you’re saying is that if you buy a domain name based on the rank, you should buy the website too in order to maintain the ranking, right?

  2. You write:
    “So what you’re saying is that if you buy a domain name based on the rank, you should buy the website too in order to maintain the ranking, right?”
    YES Elliot and such buyers also ask you to get the site and even the hosting (to ensure to have the same IP and avoid to perturbate the good serps).
    I sold 2 years ago a very long name with 2 hyphens for 120K simply because it was #1 or #2 (I do not remember now) in Yahoo serps for the main business keyword of the buyer (a popular keyword).

  3. Elliot,
    Yes, if the content on a domain changes dramatically, then google will delist the domain in the rankings, and then return in a few months to evaluate it for ranking again.
    Backlinks or not, if you change the content on a site to completely new content, you will get a penalty from google while the new site content is evaluated for ranking.

  4. To finish, buying well ranked sites to place a parking page is not a good idea. At best the site will continue well ranked 6 or 9 months and I don’t think sites owners will sell you their “baby” (site) for less than one year potential parking revenue. And paying over is a high investment risk (crazy) for you.

  5. When ever I buy a new website I usually improve the services that the site already provides and add better ad placement to increase the sites earnings, I would not do a 301 redirect because people who have bookmarked the site and visit a site that “they like” will end up in another site and you might lose those visitors, also Google will lower your rank if you do a 301 redirect because the content will change.

  6. Elliot, you have been asking all the right questions lately and I think you should really consider going to Pubcon in November. With your domaining skills and some new SEO skills ….

  7. at Domain Roundtable Matt Cutts from GOOG stated that if a domain changes hands Google will heavily discount the value of the existing links. There are probably variants on this theme, but it’s worth considering if you are assuming everything will stay the same after you buy a site.

  8. @Jamie
    3 months ago I bought a first position ranking domain (and site) wich furthermore was exact match to the keyword. Less than a month after, the mere changing of hands and whois info (at least so it seems) it lost it’s sitelinks and 2 more weeks later drop 2 spots.
    A bit of work on content, a few quality links, etc and now the site is back to first spot with sitelinks.
    My guess is changing hands do effect the ranking but maybe not as drastically as Cutts seemed to say. I will continu buying top spots websites. That’s a great strategy.

  9. I would like to add my 2 cents on this question, basically Elliot you’re asking if you buy a domain, do you also buy the link equity that comes with it?
    For example should you want to buy a domain that can benefit from…
    1: If you buy a domain that hosted tropical birds related content and got backlinks from tropical birds websites — Yes.
    2: If you a buy a domain that hosted credit card information content and obviously holds backlinks from pages topically relevant to financial matters — No.
    You don’t have to buy the website, meaning the content, etc as posted above.
    All you need is the domain.
    Because you need the incoming links, and you don’t need the sites content for this.
    Scan through the site and find out which pages holds the most backlinks, because those pages have a good amount of link juice coming in, find relevant pages on your own site, i.e. a page on your site about mocking birds could greatly benefit from a 301 redirect of the mocking bird page on your newly bought domain.
    Especially if it has a ton of backlinks.
    Try to do this with other pages as well, the ones you can’t find a suitable substitute for just redirect that to your home page.
    Try to find domains that have a good amount of backlinks to specific pages, pages that have the same type of topicality/subject as one of your pages, then 301 page URL’s, not the whole domain.
    That would be a way for you to analyze your acquisitions.
    An important aspect to make this strategy work. 🙂

  10. Ive been doing a similar strategy to this for a while. I had the idea using a drop service to filter reg fee domains to find domains with *some* backlinks that also contains your keyword (sometimes this is not possible on a given day, but often it is – check back often lol).
    Buy it, create a mini-site – if possible use the wayback machine to find what pages used to exist before the drop and replicate the URLs with your own new pages.
    Upon these pages add some relevent content on your wider keyword set, add correctly anchored links to your target site and hey presto, a bunch of g-juice flowing relevent backlinks that cost you an hours work and $7, good for a year!
    (note – one site I did this with had an unexpected backfire which may or may not have cost me money – the newly purchased domain leap-frogged the target domain in google, an annoying but not altogether bad result – since that site now enjoys a good chunk of the top 10 results)

  11. Additional- obviously the above needs to be done with the usual due diligence one should apply when buying a domain, and having it hosted on the same shared hosting as your target site/hundreds of other ‘shill’ domains – thats just dumb :p

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