Matt Cutts addresses the problem of buying domains which may previously have been banned by Google in a Webmaster Tool video, the upshot of which is: do your research first. This can be carried out in a number of ways, although if it is too late it is still possible to clean up the domain and for it to be reconsidered by Google via a reconsideration request. Too often people buy domains without realising there is bad history with it and Google and then have to suffer the consequences by jumping through hoops just to get the domain back on a level playing field.
In his video he discusses the ways to undertake research about a particular domain before committing to buying it, when it’s too late to go back. These include a site colon search, searching just for its name, an internet archive search and simply requesting information if purchasing from the current owner. In it he says:
“First off do a search for the domain, and do this in a couple of ways. Do a site colon search (to begin with). So, site:domain.com or whatever it is you want to buy. If there’s no results at all from that domain, even if there is content on that domain, that’s a pretty bad sign. If the domain is parked, well we try to take parked domains out of our results anyway so that might not indicate anything but…if you do site colon and you see zero results that’s often a bad sign.
“Also just search for the domain name, or the name of the domain minus the .com or whatever the extension is at the end. Because you can often find out a little bit about the reputation of the domain. So check people…spamming that domain name…were they talking about it in a bad way, like ‘this guy was sending me unsolicited emails, or leaving spam comments on my blog?’ That’s a really good way to…figure out what’s going on with that site or what it was like in the past.”
The next approach he discusses is running an internet archive search which can shed light on the previous incarnations of that particular domain name:
“Another good rule of thumb is…internet archive. Go to archive.org, put in the domain name (and the) archive will show you what the previous versions of that site looked like. And if the site looked like it was spamming then that’s definitely a reason to be a lot more cautious (about buying) that domain. It probably means the previous owner might have dug the domain name in to a hole and you (would) have to do a lot of work just to get to level ground.”
The alternative, which is possible if the domain you are buying still belongs to the original owner, is that you can glean useful information from them. If there’s any issue in them parting with background information on the site then this may be a reason to steer clear in itself:
“You might, if you’re talking about buying the domain from someone who currently owns it, you might ask, ‘okay, can you show me either…the analytics or the webmaster tools console to check for any messages or…screenshots, or let me see the traffic over time’ because if the traffic was okay and then dropped suddenly or has gone really far down then that must be a reason why you may want to avoid the domain as well.”
All is not entirely lost if a domain with a chequered history has been bought, however steps will need to be taken to rectify the problem. Cutts recommends disavowing all links and sending a reconsideration request to Google.