Most businesses launch their company domain alongside the rest of their business, so all the SEO, link building, social media and content marketing history is under their control from day one. But what happens when you buy a pre-existing domain or fold a smaller business into your own, redirecting their site to yours (and thus all of their link history). That site’s link history now becomes intricately connected with your own brand and SEO, for better or for worse.
If you think your site has been hit by the Penguin update then you should definitely conduct a full link audit and anchor text analysis. To clarify, Penguin was a Google algorithm update designed to find and penalize sites that were using webspam tactics to try and get an edge over the competition in the SERPS including building links from unrelated sites and blog networks, overuse of exact match anchor text and more. Another time it’s imperative to conduct a link audit is when you purchase a pre-existing domain. Like it or not, you are now responsible for that site’s link history, the good, bad and ugly sides of it.
Think of purchasing a pre-existing domain like buying a pre-owned car. You don’t really know what someone did to it before you owned it. Sure, you can check out the service records and check the exterior for rust, dents and chips, all the obvious flaws, but you won’t really know what you’re getting until you have a mechanic check under the hood. Let’s say your new-to-you car needed a new timing belt within the first two months of buying the car. You can’t take your car to the mechanic and say “But I’ve only been driving this car for a few weeks. It’s not my fault something is broken so I shouldn’t have to pay for it.” It’s your car, your timing belt and your problem. The same is true for your new-to-you domain.
When you purchase a pre-existing domain, it’s absolutely necessary that you conduct a full link audit of the site’s link history so you know what you are getting yourself in to. Visit each individual link and decide if it’s going to help or hinder your SEO. Any glaring red flags need to be dealt with as soon as possible to avoid any search engine penalties. Google doesn’t care if you built those links or not—they are your problem now.
I’ve also spoken with many site owners over the years that didn’t check up on the link building activities of their SEO partners, so they had no idea what kind of links were being built (if any) to their site. That’s one of the reasons I send a monthly link building report to my clients each month. I want to be as transparent as possible so that one day down the road a client doesn’t come back to me wondering what kind of links my team built for them that might have had a negative impact on their SEO in the long run. Your site’s link history, regardless of who put it together, is still your responsibility!