Expired Domains: The Drop Catching Opportunity
9 votes, 4.56 avg. tacos (88% full)

Update: Although PBNs still work, they now have a history of being targeted by Google and therefore may not be the safest option. This is why we now focus on creating online businesses that are independent of SEO traffic.

Whether you are starting your private blog network (PBN) or adding to, it is always a challenge to find quality expired domains. Today, most people purchase from auctions as it has become very difficult to find expired domains using the Scrapebox/Xenu method which Hayden popularized a couple of years ago. So, if you don’t want to buy on auction or marketplace like DomainJawa, the alternatives today are to build your own crawler or to try drop catching.

Over the last few years, I have done both and each has its pros and cons. But let’s talk about drop catching today.

First, a definition: Drop catching is the process of registering domains as soon as they are dropped by registrars. This means the person who previously owned the domain, did not renew the registration so the domain is dropped so anyone can register it. The domain is typically dropped 75 days after it expires as it goes through a series of stages before it becomes available for someone else to register.

The Competition in Catching Expired Domains

While this all sounds great in principal, drop catching can very competitive as there are big players involved such as NameJet and Snapnames. You can backorder a domain through them and they will try to catch it for you. Most people, however, will only use services like this for premium domains since there is a fee if they catch the domain. Premium domains are the ones which people are back ordering because they are short names, brandables, have very high page rank, thousands of backlinks or DA above 35.

Yes You Really Can Drop Catch and Be Successful!

That means there are still plenty of DA 20 to 34 domains which can be caught by you and me. In fact, a couple of years ago I used ExpiredDomains.net to perform my drop catching. Here is how it worked.

I would monitor the pending delete domains during two drop periods. The .org which started at 8:30 a.m. Central and the .com and .net which goes from 1-2 p.m. Central. Essentially all I did was hit the refresh button during these time periods and checked the domains which came through, indicating they had not been registered. Once I saw the domain was available, I did a quick spam check and then purchased the domain if it looked good. While a couple of years ago I picked up some excellent domains using this manual method, I doubt it would work today.

This is because people are a lot more sophisticated about drop lists and drop times. A few websites even publish the drop order and drop time like Dnmeter or Dropping. While the drop times vary in their accuracy, the drop order is usually accurate since the registries set the order before the drop and supply this information to registrars. Still, the drop times can be useful to give you an idea of when you should try to drop catch your domain of interest.

Drop Catching Today

So the next question is, how do you drop catch in today’s competitive expired domain market?

  • Find clean domains which are DA 20+ and dropping today. I’ll let you read a previous post on spam checking since Hayden wrote an excellent guide.  To know what is dropping today, you can go to ExpiredDomains.net
  • Sign up for a Dynadot account so you can register domains. I don’t use Godaddy for drop catching because their system  is too cumbersome and doesn’t work well when you are trying to register a domain very quickly. Dynadot essentially has a one-click registration system for buying a domain as long as you have funded your account. So make sure you do this before attempting to drop catch a domain.
  • Subscribe to Dropping.com or Dnmeter.com to get the drop times.
  • About 15 minutes before your domain is about to drop, sign into your Dynadot account. I’ve seen domains drop as much as 15 minutes before their listed drop time so this is why I suggest you get ready early, especially if the domain is in the latter half of the drop.
  • Once you are signed in, attempt to register the domain. Continue to do this until you catch the domain or find someone else has registered it. You can check periodically by performing a whois search to see if the expiration date has changed from the present year to a year later.  This means the domain has been caught by someone else.
  • If you sign up for Dropping.com, you can see the actual drop. What I mean by this is you can see the drop in real time. It’s pretty cool. You can even set alerts to be notified when your domain is about to drop.

One question you may have is can you really catch domains using this method? Absolutely, I tested this in the last couple of weeks and it is still a viable method. I’m not sure how long this will be true as there are lots of do-it-yourselfers out there who are building their own drop catchers.

And this brings up another question. What about people selling drop catchers? Should I buy one? Honestly, I purchased a couple over the years and they worked like crap! So, I don’t recommend it. I’ve built my own this year and my programmer said it was harder than building Expired Domain Miner, my crawler that supplies the domains to DomainJawa.

But does it work? Absolutely! And so does the manual method so I would recommend that for now.


Expired Domains: The Drop Catching Opportunity
9 votes, 4.56 avg. tacos (88% full)
  1. Do you find that either DNmeter or Dropping work better than the other? One is $29 a month and the other starts at $49.95.

    Excellent info! I will definitely be looking in to building my own PBN after I complete my September internship.

    • Recently, I’ve only used Dropping.com and it really helps to see the drop to capture domains so if you can afford it, I would choose Dropping. I haven’t used DNMeter in years.

  2. Could you elaborate on why the Scrapebox/Xenu method is less effective these days?

    Any chance you could explain, in principle/pseudo code, how your web crawler for expired domains works for those of us interested in trying to create a tool like that?

    Are you still teaching a course on how to find expired domains to the interns/PTCs?


    • The Scrapebox Xenu method is less effective because so many people are/have used it. This means there are fewer expired domains to find so you have to crawl a lot longer to find something decent to register.

      The concept for creating a crawler is pretty simple. Xenu is a good example of this. The problem is in creating a crawler that is both very fast and not cpu or memory intensive. This is where Xenu has its issues because it uses a lot of memory and cpu power so it isn’t stable and crashes a lot. So this isn’t something I can give you pseudo code for as it is very complex to create. I have spent over 10 years working with programmers to create web scrapers before building a crawler which could find expired domains. It’s a tough task that requires a significant amount of knowledge and thousands of dollars to do the programming right. I don’t recommend building your own unless you are a very experienced programmer.

      Yes, I’m still teaching the course on how to find expired domains for those who have completed an internship or PTC. The course includes 7 training videos plus 7 days use of the crawler. If you’ve found domains using Scrapebox/Xenu, you’ll really enjoy the course and crawler!

      • Thanks. So I gather the main difference between Xenu and your crawler is that yours is much more efficient. So, discounting the efficiency/time to crawl differences, is it possible to find the same expired domains using the Xenu method?

        • The other advantage of my crawler is not only the crawling efficiency but the fact that it automatically checks to see if the domain is available and grabs the moz statistics. So if you use Xenu, you still have to check whois and then go to moz and get the metrics.

          I haven’t used Xenu in years but I hear people are running multiple instances and finding domains to register.

    • Hi Claire,

      My experience has been a little bit different. If you run Scrapebox and Zenu on your laptop or normal home computer, then it is slow and it will take ages to find anything. To combat this, I rent on a month to month basis a core 5 ssd server and it is superfast. Give you an idea, Xenu crawled 4.5 million domains for me and I literally have 6 domains with an average PA of 25 and a average DA of 17 with no spam. for Xenu to crawl 4.5 million domains, it took roughly 24 hours. The server is located in the US running 24 hours a day and I am in Oz. That has been my experience so far that has been very positive. From the 6 domains that I have found, I use to pay anywhere between $80 to $120 per domain and so my investment so far into scrape box and the monthly rent for server has already paid for itself and more because when you buy from the brokers, you don’t always get the best domains.

      PS: I learnt this all online from Hayden himself from nohatdigital.

      All the best with your domain searching.


  3. Hi guys, a few weeks ago I found a sweet domain with a good profile including Techcrunch backlinks and spam free! It was a domain from a startup that when bust a few years ago so i thought, sweet deal!

    Now today I received an email from the guy that used to own it asking for it to be returned to him…
    When I didn’t reply to his message he send an other one threatening to lodge a dispute with ICANN and get his lawyers involved blaah blaah blaah

    He’s in Canada, I’m in Aus. what can he actually do? I’m not cybersquatting and have turned the site into a “blog”.

    Have you had many of these situations before and what did you do?

    • Does the domain name contain a trademark? If so, there may be an issue.

      If not, you have every right to register the domain and hold onto it (although you could sell it back to him for a tidy profit).

      • Hi Lynn, thanks for the reply! I just did a search in the Canadian TM directory and found a trademark but it says as status: abandoned since 09/09/14 so I guess that puts me in the clear? Or not quiet?

        • That’s a good question for a Canadian lawyer (which unfortunately I am not). If the guy had the original trademark, I expect he will try to get it back and then he may have a case or you could apply for the trademark.

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