Shanghai another agent’s website for search bliss

The Friendly Takeover

With the decline in the real estate markets around the USA, there are many many agents who have made the decision to pursue other opportunities. Chances are, a lot of those folks had websites and maybe even blogs. Probably some of those websites are still active. Maybe you know some of those people, and maybe, you are on good terms with them?

Here are the opportunities:

By taking over their website (with their permission of course, please don’t really Shanghai them), you can redirect their website content to your own website and pass some of their pages’ authority on to your own.

Or, maybe it’s such a good website, you’d like to just leave it up and point some strategically placed links at your own site.

The 301 Redirect

In the event that the website you are taking over doesn’t have a ton of aged, high quality, indexed pages, you might choose to simply redirect the said websites’ links to your own pages. You’ll accomplish this with what we call a “301 redirect”.

A 301 redirect is tech speak for the response a webserver returns to a web browser or other inquirer as to the status of the requested web page. If the page exists and is in good order, the server normally returns a 200 response, however, if the page has been permanently moved, the server can return a 301 code to the browser with the new web address and the user is automatically forwarded to the new link.

The advantage to the 301 redirect is the search authority that the indexed page had can be transferred to your page (because the search engine is informed the next time it visits that the page has been permanently moved to your website) and the visitor to the other website is automatically forwarded to your site. Pretty cool right? Arguably, the authority that is transferred is not going to last forever, however, if there are other sites linking to the retired agents’ pages, then that link juice will continue to flow through the redirect to your site. Free links!

Creating a 301 redirect varies depending on the web server your website is hosted on.  If you want to get all technical, you can check out this 301 redirect tutorial for multiple platforms. If you’re using WordPress, you can use a plug-in like Redirection to easily create software driven 301 redirects.

Dropping Some Links

Suppose the site you’ve inherited is just too large to fail. 😉 Well it shouldn’t be hard for you to figure out which pages the search engine already has indexed for that site. Go drop yourself some good links into those pages that point at your site. For example, let’s say the page mentioned “…beautiful real estate along the James River…” and you have a page on your site that features river or water-front property for sale. That’d be a perfect place to drop the link (starting with the word “real” and ending with “River”). Make sense?

New links on old pages may not get as much authority passed through them but as they age that should also change.

Bonus Tip

Don’t know anyone with a spare website they will give you? You can actually buy old websites or new websites and use it for such a purpose. Check out Flippa. Before buying though, you should see if any of the site or domain’s content is currently indexed or has a backlink profile.

If not, skip it and move on to one that does.  Happy redirecting!

The article previously mentioned, and you will find related conversation in the comments on buying expired domain names. This practice is frowned on by some and regularly used by others. Proceed at your own risk after informing yourself.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Trace

    April 29, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Other sites to look out for are sites that are down, meaning the owner let them expire. If you come across one that is showing an error pages, go to domaintools.com and look the site up, it may not be registered any longer.

    If that’s the case, go to opensiteexplorer.org and research the site to see if it has any links that were previously built to it, if so, it may make sense to register it and then 404 redirect the site to your site and take advantage of the link juice flowing to it, it’s not a 1 for 1 pass through and some may argue that link juice isn’t passed through (I would argue that some is), but it can mean increased traffic ….we’ve had success with this.

    We even found a link on a competitor’s partner page where one of the “partners” had gone out of business and let their domain expire. Once we purchased the “partner’s” expired domain, we had a new link to our website coming directly from a competitor!

    • Marty Martin

      April 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      Slick move! Did your competitor ever figure it out? haha

  2. Mary McKnight

    April 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Wow, thanks, Marty for giving out 3 year old advice. Are you freakin’ kidding me? Do you even keep current with SEO? Since real time search and Google’s last 2 updates, this won’t work. Google has been collecting historical data for a couple years now, meaning it knows not only when a domain changes hands but that the backlinks to the site (dude, in order for the site to have a decent PR – they’d have to be built throughout the site and not just to the homepage) no longer correlate to internal pages. Oh, and a 301 won’t work to preserve the backlinks overtime, ASK ANY SEO. Actually, just go over to SEOmoz, get yourself a subscription and read before passing out this idiotic advice to people who presume you know what you are talking about. And next time you cite a reference source- make sure it was written recently not in 2006!

    • Marty Martin

      April 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      Wow, that was quite the vicious diatribe. Are you feeling quite well?

      First let me say that many of the marketing tips that I give are not meant to be “breaking news” as is obviously the case here, but rather, to inform competent folks who are not otherwise search experts on some things they can reasonably do to improve their search ranking and website performance.

      As far as SEOmoz goes, I actually am a PRO subscriber (and have been for a number of years) and have contributed an article or two there as well. I see your user rank is 8598. Mine is 92. I guess I have contributed there a bit more than you…oh well, I digress. (Also, the URI you mention in your bio is spelled wrong.)

      If you have hung around SEOmoz or any of the other search marketing sites long enough, you should well know that most knowledgeable search marketers don’t agree on many things when it comes to methodologies and ranking factors, etc. For example, let me reference this survey at SEOmoz: Search engine ranking factors – 2009 biennial survey. I challenge you to find any question or topic that 100% of those surveyed agreed on.

      ALL of that aside though, I don’t blindly follow anyone’s recommendations when it comes to search marketing. I prefer to test and validate myself. This practice above still provides benefits for me and so I have no problem recommending it. If you don’t agree then fine, I respect that, however, it is a bit unprofessional to jump on here and leave such an inspired, vomitous comment.

      I’d be happy to courteously debate anyone but I’m not going to engage in childish bickering with you.

      All my best and Happy Friday!

  3. Janie Coffey

    April 30, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    wow, this is quite a conversation going on. I hope that no matter what, I do learn something between two big SEO brains, even for me, 3 year old info might be of some use…

    • Marty Martin

      April 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Janie,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m actively considering topics for the coming weeks, and if you have anything in particular you’d like to know more about, I’d be glad to try and craft a blog post around it. Feel free to email me or leave a reply here.

      Cheers!

  4. Kevin Tomlinson

    April 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    mini-diet and popcorn…..

  5. Mary McKnight

    April 30, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    This isn’t childish bickering this is fact – You are handing out really bad and old advice. You should expect to be called out on it. And while nothing is 100% agreed upon in SEO, I guarantee you this strategy won’t work in the long run. The reason I know is not only did I do it regularly when it did work, but I’ve both read and experienced it when it stopped working. This is an old old old gray hat technique. And to recommend it to Realtors now is foolish and wasteful of other people’s money. In fact if you specific examples of how this DOESN’T work anymore, email me – I can show you an actual real estate site (that all the Realtors here know well) that redirected an old domain of mine with a PR4 that briefly saw a boon then lost it (backlinks, PR and SERP) when Google figured it out. Like I said, historical data a lack of correlation to the backlinks to inner pages is not something Google can’t easily figure out. It’s a bad bad strategy and if you want to use, do it, if you want to recommend it – I will call you out on it and prove that it doesn’t work based on real estate cases that everyone here can relate to.

    Here’s a tip – Google doesn’t like gaming it’s system. Matt Cutts repeatedly says that activities like this that are not for the benefit or users or search and only for the benefit of a rank (an undeserved one at that) are efforts to game the algo and considered bad practice. You aren’t creating sustainable value for the site or for search users. You are walking a fine line here and not only doesn’t this work, but it’s really unprofessional to recommend it. This is a shady thing to do and you know it. You can do this for affiliate and time limited pages or things you want to temporarily boost in search but you never recommend this to an industry that has sites that need to stay indexed, not receive penalties and have lifetime longevity sites. These sites survive and thrive on reputation – so if I seem pissed – it’s because you are dolling out advice that could harm their businesses not just their SERP and PR.

    FYI – you are looking at my old SEOmoz account. But glad to know you spent the time to look me up. Nothing stalkerish about that. And I do this and serious online rep mgt for a living for very recognized companies like EMI Music, Capitol Records, Haute Living Magazine, Genetic Denim and artists like Lilly Allen, Black Eyed Peas, etc – I don’t take the reputation of a site lightly when it is important it keep it’s rank, position and authority. There are sites you can play Gray/Black Hat with (concert events, contests, promotions, landing pages, etc) and I’d be happy to entertain a conversation on where it’s appropriate, but in real estate it isn’t – so keep the shady stuff out of this market.

    You want a topic to talk about that works for real estate? Talk about the Bruce Clay data silo model for ecommerce sites as it could apply to IDX listing pages… <–now, that, would be useful to real estate. Trulia has used that very effectively – show Realtors how to use their IDX or RETS feeds to do the same thing and you would have something to talk about.

    • Marty Martin

      April 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      Well again I’m going to call a spade a spade. I respect that you disagree but really your opinion (nor my own) can dictate what should or shouldn’t be acceptable practices in any industry.

      There are many many things I plan to talk about in future posts. This post is just one small item in an arsenal of ideas.

      I’m really not sure why you’re taking this all so personally. Being inspired to leave constructive and helpful comments or engage in a lively debate is great; childish name calling and bickering is just petty.

      There are plenty of reasons, as Benn points out below, where this would be a great tactic for real estate agents. Taking over a retiring agent’s sites is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. And I think if you *really* took the time to read what I wrote, you’d notice I used words like “can” and “may not get as much authority passed”. Heck, one of the things you’ve harped on twice I addressed in my original post when I said “the authority that is transferred is not going to last forever”.

      And finally, if you need to have the last word, then go ahead. I invite it. I’m secure enough in my own position and experience to not feel the need for it. Spew some more hateful stuff, OR, maybe you would like to submit a guest post on something you would feel IS helpful to the industry instead of just sowing seeds of discontent.

      Cheers.

  6. Benn Rosales

    April 30, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    It’s funny to me that a post about buying soon to be abandoned websites/domains from agents leaving the biz has inspired such commentary (although I do understand Mary works at high level tactical- not all of our audience is at that pace).

    When an agent leaves the biz, or switches brokers, agents not only buy their domains, but their signs, lock boxes and any other collateral investments- their web traffic could actually be of value by virtue of just one buying consumer, that domain name is tied to virtually every piece of marketing collateral ever distributed by the agent, not to mention comment links and the like- all of which are alive and active that organically deliver fresh traffic.

    I won’t get into the science of real time search and pagerank because ultimately I’d be writing an article in a comment box, but I do think the point being made here is valid, especially if you have a brand new domain with zero traffic, and zero page rank, and have a blog worth reading and are looking for a head start, and if you’ve purchased a blog rich in content, that’s even better. For example, I have one article here on AG that garners at least 100 pieces of fresh traffic every day and because it’s short sale related, it would make it invaluable to a short sale agent.

  7. Bob Wilson

    May 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    @Trace – Dont expect credit for links from expired domains.

    @Mary – There is truth to what you are saying with regard to buying and 301ing domains, but it really depends on the circumstances and it has quite a bit to do with the overall link profile of the site receiving the 301.

    I didn’t interpret Marty to be saying go out and buy a bunch of domains and redirect them – that is an old tactic, but it can and does still work depending on the link profile. If a large number of links are coming from 301s from several redirected domains, you are playing a bet that is very much like speeding – it gets you there faster unless you get caught.

    There is nothing wrong with buying one domain within the same space and redirecting it. It can pass link juice – meaning anchor text and link authority, but PR (which you shouldn’t care that much about) will degrade over time.

    Marty’s advice taken at face value and with the the context of his example is sound advice. Mary’s point, if looked at within the context of going overboard, is also valid.

    File it under “Everything in Moderation”.

    FWIW, I dont give a hoot about any one’s rankings on SeoMoz. They are meaningless.

  8. Francces Flynn Thorsen

    May 2, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I think Mary makes some excellent points and I share her passion and fury about the advice proffered here. My perspective comes an ethical and risk management perspective. I’ll leave the technical arguments aside.

    REALTORS® have more than Google to think about. In my view the deceptive marketing advice here flies in the face of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics (COE). https://www.realtor.org/mempolweb.nsf/pages/code

    Real estate licensees engaging in technical treachery are likely to find themselves standing before a REALTOR® Professional Standards Committee, facing disciplinary action and large fines. Complaints and hearings are increasing. Blog posts offering this type of advice are ill advised and dangerous.

    Thinking one step ahead from a risk management standpoint, consider that state licensing regulations mirror the REALTOR® COE in many areas. Licensees may face disciplinary actions in the regulatory arena also.

    Consider the following (excerpted from the COE):

    Article 12
    REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations. REALTORS® shall ensure that their status as real estate professionals is readily apparent in their advertising, marketing, and other representations, and that the recipients of all real estate communications are, or have been, notified that those communications are from a real estate professional. (Amended 1/08)

    Standard of Practice 12-8
    The obligation to present a true picture in representations to the public includes information presented, provided, or displayed on REALTORS®’ websites. REALTORS® shall use reasonable efforts to ensure that information on their websites is current. When it becomes apparent that information on a REALTOR®’s website is no longer current or accurate, REALTORS® shall promptly take corrective action. (Adopted 1/07)

    Standard of Practice 12-10
    REALTORS®’ obligation to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public includes the URLs and domain names they use, and prohibits REALTORS® from:

    engaging in deceptive or unauthorized framing of real estate brokerage websites;
    manipulating (e.g., presenting content developed by others) listing content in any way that produces a deceptive or misleading result; or

    deceptively using metatags, keywords or other devices/methods to direct, drive, or divert Internet traffic, or to otherwise mislead consumers. (Adopted 1/07)

    Standard of Practice 12-12
    REALTORS® shall not: use URLs or domain names that present less than a true picture, or register URLs or domain names which, if used, would present less than a true picture. (Adopted 1/08)

    • Benn Rosales

      May 2, 2010 at 11:33 am

      Francces,
      You make a valid point, the practice you site is not the practice being discussed here. Businesses, their trademarks including domain names and content are acquired daily which is what the author is describing.

      If you left the business tomorrow and an interested party wanted to buy your business, that is perfectly legal.

      Mary is correct in that abusing acquisition of potentially expiring domains with the intent of pagerank could be deadly, but again, that isn’t what the author is describing here.

  9. Mary McKnight

    May 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Bob,

    Thank you – I am completely on board with what you say here. My real issue is that I have used this tactic specifically in the context of event/concert and even rep management for Warner Bros and EMI campaigns and it does work but not overtime. You do get caught but for time sensitive offerings it works (not as well as it used to, but a little). For a site that needs to stay above board, ethical and maintain value and authority over time it is playing with fire. I would never recommend this for real estate sites.

    And your point on the expired domains is spot on- it won’t and will never work because of the historical data collected, the links having been broken and because the era of real-time search is here so Google is too smart for that trick to even produce an initial result.

    I find the advice here not necessarily bad, just bad for real estate. It is irresponsible to publish something this gray hat when there are real tools of the trade that could be taught that would have value. Like I mentioned the Bruce Clay model for siloing like content from IDX feeds or even the proper implementation of Open Graph or aggregation/distribution tools. I put the hijacking of other domains like this into my more colorful SEO toolkit, I’d use for crisis or time sensitive sites. And to be honest, this isn’t a strategy I’d choose first for any campaign. The results just aren’t worth the effort.

    • Janie Coffey

      May 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm

      Mary, I’d love to hear more on using Open Graph and how we can implement that early on…

  10. Benn Rosales

    May 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Mary, “I find the advice here not necessarily bad, just bad for real estate”

    It’s funny you say that, because I can always tell when a bunch of agents have been to a bad SEO class because suddenly we’re inundated with links in comments, keyword packed comments, or 50 comments on 5 year old articles, and it’s not just one person, it’s 20 in the same week- this industry has a habit of taking it to the extreme, so I totally get where you’re coming from.

  11. Mary McKnight

    May 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Benn,

    Ain’t that the truth… moderation is key and this industry isn’t that good at that. I think err on the side of caution if you have a longevity site that needs to avoid penalties and rank over time not just immediately. It would make more sense in this case to invest the dollars in PPC initially on a new site while it ranks instead of wasting the money on this tactic.

  12. Bob

    May 3, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Sorry Francis, but the NAR COE doesnt apply to this situation at all because there is nothing deceptive with redirecting one domain to another. I would suggest your fury is mis-directed and your characterization of the advice incorrect.

    Mary, there is nothing wrong with what Marty advised, regardless of the space. Picking up one domain and redirecting it isnt going to trigger any penalty.

  13. Mary McKnight

    June 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I’m revisiting this post because I just found an article by SEO expert and author, Stephan Spencer on SEL that references a part of this practice as one of the WORST SEO practices out there. It also shows you that Google’s algo was updated some time back to combat this kind of scheme with expired domains. So, no, buying an expired domain WILL NOT HELP YOU IN RANKINGS and it CANNOT sustain Pagerank once expired.

    searchengineland.com/seo-checklist-of-best-and-worst-practices-part1-43752

    “Are you buying expired domains with high PageRank scores to use as link targets? Google underwent a major algorithm change a while back to thwart this tactic. Now, when domains expire, their PageRank scores are reset to 0, regardless of how many links point to the site.”

    REALTORS, beware of advice like this – if it sounds too good to be true – it is.

    • Marty Martin

      June 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks Mary for pointing out a good article.

      To quell the controversy and hopefully put this to bed, I have edited the original article to reflect buying expired domains can be a questionable practice for some folks.

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