4 min read

That Time My Aged Domain Build Tanked

When I bought the aged domain of a cycling site in April of last year, I thought I had hit the jackpot and scored a great deal.

The domain, which set me back $1,310, belonged to a blog that once catered to professional cyclists. Rebuilding the informational silos would be a breeze, I told myself, and so would adding in commercial content.

The domain had a good backlink profile and was in a niche I had long contemplated building a website in. I vetted it—thoroughly—and found no red flags. Then I asked a friend, and then a friend of a friend, to vet it. They found no deal breakers, either.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Look up and around, trying to make up my mind what to do.

Click nervously—and pointlessly—on the screen.

Repeat.

Add to cart.

Checkout.

Happy dance.

I then bought a few dozen articles for $2,760 from BuySellText and watched them come back one at a time as I planned out the rest of the site's build while waiting for the transfer to finish.

(Some registrars make you wait a week for a domain transfer, geesh!)

By the end of April, the site was live, with 70 pieces of content and an initial investment of $4,070 to recoup.

Things were looking good… very good. Too good?

And when things look a little too good, do you know what usually happens?

Murphy's law.

The site took off in May, getting 5 to 10 clicks and 200 to 300 impressions per day, then tanked on June 1st—just days after Google rolled out the May 2022 core algorithm update.

Soon after, and clicks and impressions had dropped to zero.

Nada.

You don’t see that in the aged domain case studies, now, do you?

Looking back in time, what could have possibly gone wrong?

Quite a few things, really.

Maybe I hadn’t rebuilt enough of the original articles on the site.

Or maybe I had built the first one or two siloes on the wrong topic, and Google had caught on to this.

Or maybe even I hadn’t given enough attention to the hundreds of categories and tags that had once made this site a nightmare for Google to crawl.

It could have been neither of these.

Just bad luck—always a possibility when building on an aged domain.

Whatever it was, I tried, but couldn’t, put my finger on it. The only thing I knew for sure was this: I had two options to try and salvage this:

  • I could wait it out patiently and see if the site would go back to a growth trajectory after a few months and a couple of Google algo updates.
  • Or I could go the impatient route: brute force the damn thing and redirect it to a brand-new domain.

For reasons not relevant to this story, I wasn’t in the mood for being patient.

Brute force it was.

I opened up Namelix and, after 3½ hours of scrolling through AI-generated brands, found a short and snappy name with a free, never-before-registered .com and a WIPO search without trademarks.

Bingo.

I bought the logo, then the domain name.

I updated the domain name's DNS records, copy/pasted the WordPress installation, migrated the database, 301-redirected the aged domain to the new domain, and replaced all mentions of the original name with the new one.

Finally, just to be sure, I put together a "This Site Is Now That Site" acquisition page and redirected any links that would have otherwise 404-ed to it.

Fast-forward to today: June 27, 2023.

The site is absolutely crushing it.

It has 94 articles, and I haven't added any new content to it since January 13th, 2023 (although I really, really should, considering how well it’s doing). Even so, it's still growing.

Could I have waited longer before redirecting the site to a new domain?

Yes.

Should I have waited longer before redirecting the site to a new domain?

Definitely yes.

Do I regret not waiting longer before redirecting the site to a new domain?

Nope. Not for a single second. It worked out in the end, didn't it?

I'm sharing this story because: (a) there are far too many public success stories for aged domain builds and far too few public failures, (b) I want you to know that even after being in this business for decades, like myself, you can still get shaken up and make impulsive, impatient, irrational decisions, and (c) despite that, it can still work out.

If you think about it, in the grand scheme of things, it's hard for an aged domain build to be a total failure because even if the site thanks, there are other options.

You can redirect the site to another domain, aged or new. You can even take the existing content and publish it on another domain, with or without rewriting it for uniqueness.

Losing traffic and revenue is never encouraging.

It's happened to me too many times, even on white-hat builds much more vanilla than this one, and it always leaves me feeling under the weather.

Even so, how many business models do you know of that let you buy a new "address" for ten bucks, copy/paste everything you've built to date, then tweak it a little and start over?

When shit hits the fan, remember: you always have options.