Dangers of using a second hand domain namePurchasing a second hand domain name can be very risky business unless you know what you’re doing.

Here is a list of associated risks and dangers of owning a second hand domain name with the intent of using it for your business:

The previous owner of the domain name you want might not have run a very reputable business.

By buying a second hand domain name, you may also potentially be buying the negative reputation that comes with it. This might come in the form of negative online reviews.

For Example: “ has very poor customer service, avoid!” —this means this review might appear when somebody searches for the website in question.

The previous owners of the domain name may not have properly secured their website.

There are malicious individuals who would love nothing more than to secretly plant hidden code on your website in order to sell Viagra or other adult drugs. This comes under the category of malware/adware and is incredibly damaging to a sites’ online reputation.

It may not even be known to the current/previous owners, however when Google crawls the website they will see everything and if they believe your website has been compromised or injected with inappropriate adult or irrelevant content they may actively decide to kick your website off Google search causing you to lose a lot of potential business.

What does Google currently think the domain is about?

If you’re seeking to buy a generic domain name that doesn’t already have strong suggestive connotations in the name, such as an acronym or abbreviation, Google and other major search engines will turn to evaluating the anchor text and context of  links coming from other websites to determine what it thinks your site is about.

The danger lies in that if the concept of what Google thinks your site is about, clashes with what you know your site to be about; you may struggle to bring in traffic to your site based upon search keywords and phrases that are actually applicable to what you do.

Remember, if you make a mistake at this stage you are unlikely to be able to appeal your case to a human being, your website is largely at the mercy of the Google algorithm and this can be a both a lengthy and costly mistake to rectify once set in motion!

A number of organisations operate reputation and trustworthiness lists typically referred to as ‘black lists’ such as McAfee’s Trusted Source and the Web of Trust. They operate in order to protect and police the web by monitoring for particular criteria by maintaining lists of websites that don’t meet their criteria for being a safe website.These lists are typically referred to as ‘black lists’—once your website make its’ way onto one of these lists you may find your site disappearing from search results, and your email messages automatically being filtered into SPAM or Junk mail folders. Particularly bad news if you operate a newsletter or email marketing campaign.

Are there any tools I can use to check the credibility of a domain before I purchase?

Every existing domain has a history, you can use the Internet Way Back Machine to find out what the domain was used to host in the past.

The MX Toolbox will allow you to check if a domain is currently listed on a number of black lists. Some tools check based on your domain name i.e. “” and some check based upon IP Address. i.e. “” you can use this tool to convert between the two formats respectively.
Additional reading

Get a good domain name on the web

3 responses to “Dangers of a Second Hand Domain Name”

  1. Susan says:

    Great overview, David.

    There may be dangers associated with a second hand domain name, but there are benefits as well, the primary one being that it could well be the only way to get your branded identity. The difficulty can be in agreeing a price to sell the domain name, but the market will ultimately set the value.

    A second hand domain name also can bring with it a legacy of credibility: inbound links, indexed content, brand awareness. Buying a second hand domain can be a very canny business decision.

    And over the years many people have bought up domain names on a speculative basis, and now want to off load the name and get the best return they can on their investment.

  2. Nathan Lee says:

    That’s what I came to the post for. We’re looking to acquire a door handles related domain with oomph to redirect its juice into our website. Just checking around to see if there are any unexpected surprises.

    When it comes to using a domain like that, what are your views on the relative power of redirecting enerything to your main site that would have ended up on the recently acquired domain; or setting up a content site on it that links to the main site.

  3. Betty Baker says:

    So, are there any ‘good’ reasons to obtain a ‘second-hand’ domain?

    I think that even if you obtain a ‘questionable’ domain, and don’t use it, it may keep a competitor from getting it.

    I do T-Shirt quilts. My URL is I also own I don’t use the TEXAS domain, but it redirects to the TX domain.

    There are several combinations and permutations of those words in a competitive market whether in Texas or not. My domain is a variation (I added the TX and Texas) to T-Shirt Quilts option. Should I go for MORE domains? Does that only benefit GoDaddy, or does it help (or hurt) me?

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