Can I buy a domain that used to have spam on it and still rank?

Hello. We have a question from Johan
Tavard, from Thailand. Johan wants to know, can I buy a
domain name on the secondary market that has a lot of spam
on it and still rank? How can I reset the SEO
of that domain? Thousands of root domains
coming from spam. OK, so good question. And in fact in the follow on
comments Johan said that the domain he’s thinking about
buying would be $5,000. This is a really tricky
question. Because on one hand, there’s
algorithmic spam and there’s manual spam. And all manual spam does have
an eventual time out. So if you were to completely
clean up all the content on the domain– do a
reconsideration request– in theory, that domain
can recover. However, on the algorithmic
side, if there are a ton of spammy links that the previous
owner built up, that can be a little bit hard to go through
and try to clean up, and get all those links taken
down, make a list of all those links. The way to think about it is
there are a lot of spammers out there that do basically
what’s known as a churn and burn tactic, where they just use
as many techniques to try to make domain rank
as they can. And then as soon as that domain
is awful, or bad, or Google has caught it, then
they sort of move on. And they go on to some other
exploit, and they try to tackle it with another domain. Now what you don’t want to do is
be the guy who gets caught left holding the bag. Who buys what looks like a
good sounding domain, but actually a spammer has kind
of driven into the ground. It’s almost like instead of
starting from the ground floor, some spammer has
come along before you and dug a hole. And now when you start out
you’re already in that hole. It is possible. You would really need to
document the steps that you took very well. So, for example a spammer
could easily– here’s an exploit that you can
just imagine on the fly– churn and burn. Drive their domain into
the ground, burn everything to the ground. And then try to pretend like
they sold it to somebody else, when they haven’t really sold
it, and try to rejuvenate it. And renovate it, and make it
sound like it switched owners. And so we’re automatically going
to take those sorts of reconsideration requests
with a grain of salt. So I would be extremely careful,
especially if you’re talking about $5,000. At that level it’s probably
worth the trouble to ask if you can see the sort of messages
that show up in Google’s Webmaster Tools. And I would do an honest
assessment. From what you’ve said in you’re
follow on comments it sounds like– or in the original question,
you’ve got thousands of domains with spammy
links to the site. If I were looking at the
situation, I would probably pass on that temptation. And I would almost rather start
with a clean, fresh domain that really hasn’t
already gotten a really bad reputation. Not just with Google, there
might be other search engines. It’s the sort of thing where
there might be complaints on Better Business Bureau or
various consumer complaint sites, and there might be a
bad association with that domain name in various
consumers’ minds. So definitely investigate
carefully. We have seen a lot of black
hats who will spam as much as they can. And then when they get caught,
they try to sell their domain, and flip it on various domain
selling boards. And try to get a last
little bit of money. And you just don’t want to be
the sucker who’s the very last person in line and doesn’t
realize that that domain is in really bad shape, and then have
to try to renovate it. When it might be easier
just to start fresh.

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