Whenever you start a new online project one of the first things you’ll need to handle is the domain name. You have basically two options here: to buy an available domain or to buy an existing domain from its current owner. The second option might be better for serious projects, as you’ll be able to find better domains if you consider existing ones.
The problem, however, is that an existing domain might have been penalized by Google in the past, and this could be disastrous for your project. How do you avoid this situation?
Matt Cutts publish a video some time ago covering the steps you can go through to prevent the problem. They are:
1. Search on Google for ‘site:domain.com’
This search query will basically ask Google to list all the indexed pages from a certain domain name. If no results are returned, be worried, because it means the domain is not indexed by Google. Usually this is a result of a ban or a heavy penalty in the past. Sometimes parked domains will not be indexed, so those could be an exception.
2. Search on Google for ‘domain.com’
With this second query you’ll basically be looking for people talking about your domain, specifically in a bad way. For instance, you want to make sure that in the past people didn’t complain about receiving spam from the domain or about being scammed by something that was being sold there.
3. Check what Internet.org says about it
The Internet Archives allow you to see the history of any website. You’ll be able to see what content was hosted on the domain over the past years, and this should tell you is there ever was anything questionable there.
4. Check Google Webmaster Tools
You can ask the buy to give you access to the Webmaster Tools account of the domain. This will allow you to see if there are any warnings or penalties.