Where do old websites go when they die?
Spammers have been recycling them. This became commonplace in the early 2000’s when every SEO guru / moron / spammer on the planet knew that links were a major ranking factor. And one easy way to get links is to just buy a domain which already has links. The sweet part of this deal is for any spammer is the domain itself which is $8. Age of a domain is also a factor, as is age of links. So, if you can grab a 10yr old website which just expired that has some nice links, you can add a new website to your portfolio.
Most spammers add these sites to their PBN. A PBN is a “private blog network”, or a collection of websites someone operates for the purpose of getting links to their target sites, or “money sites” (sites which make them money).
An expired website
I bump into these sites all the time in my adventures around the Internet. Today’s was a fluke; I was researching hiking in the Linville Gorge. The Linville Gorge Wilderness is a beautiful place in the mountains of North Carolina. While NC’s mountains are beautiful, there is no cell reception and people don’t use the Internet (much). In fact, many businesses in the mountains of NC don’t even have a website. Anyways, while snooping around online I was directed to the Village of Linville Fall’s website, LinvilleFallsVillage.com. I arrived at the site to see a plain old WordPress website running the twenty-twelve theme with 1 article on it about playing the piano. Spam alert!
This is what the site looks like:
Whenever I find a spam domain such as this the first thing I do is check out what it used to look like. While I am 100% confident it is a spam domain, I am genuinely curious to see what it used to look like.
Here is what the site looked like in 2012 before it expired, thanks to the Wayback Machine (Internet archive):
How do spammers find these sites?
In case you were wondering, there are many ways spammers locate expired domains. They could just stumble upon them just as I did, but most use a service to catch domains as they expire or monitor expiring domains. Using sites like pool.com you can find thousands of domains expiring each and every day.
Don’t Search Engines catch this?
Google and Bing are way behind on this one. This method of spam and manipulation of search engine rankings has been going on a solid 10 – 15 years. All I can say is what I’ve always said: Search engines are in their infancy. The thing here is, someone could have a very legitimate purpose for buying an expired domain, so you can’t simply penalize a domain just because it expired once. Then again, due to the amount of work involved, lots of spammers simply never take advantage of expired domains.
LinvileFallsVillage.com’s current usage
The site now exists with an article on it which points to PianoPlayingAdvice.com, and the site exists solely to boost the rankings of PianoPlayingAdvice.com.
Now, if you do a search for “Piano playing advice” you’ll see this target site, PianoPlayingAdvice.com, right near the top of page 1 of Google.
I should also note that if you look up the whois data for LinvileFallsVillage.com, it is privately registered. There is nothing wrong with private registration, however it is also something that all spammers use to reduce their digital footprint.
What is PianoPlayingAdvice.com?
This domain is mostly monetized with ads and pushes PianoForAll, a $39 piano training kit.
As a note, PianoForAll likely has nothing o do with any of this.
Stalking the owner of LinvileFallsVillage.com
The best way to do this is to plug in PianoPlayingAdvice.com to Semrush and check out the backlinks. As a general rule of thumb I assume I am seeing around 20% of the backlinks. PianoPlayingAdvice.com in particular is showing up with 167 backlinks from 22 referring domains. If I go to the referring domains I see 22 other places this person has backlinks from. Here’s one example: marsudiyanto.info/piano-key-cleaning-tips; that “piano key cleaning tips” article links over to the target site again (PianoPlayingAdvice.com).
Spam is fun
This was the most basic example of this I could find for this article. It looks tricky although I see this all the time on a much larger scale. Huge law firms, movie stars, and everyone in between is gaming the system and has been for quite some time. I never “out” and of these people- the example above is just so cheesy I didn’t feel bad about it.
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this little bit of forensic SEO.