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Peter van der Graaf

Peter van der Graaf

Link Building Secrets Revealed by Peter van der Graaf and 10 of Today’s Best Link Builders.

Link Building Secrets 2012 - Peter van der Graaf

Penalty Domains

I haven’t used this tactic for quite some time, but before I wrote the article I checked if it still works. Surprisingly it did, so here’s how to do it.

In February 2008, I wrote an article on John Bukkake as my contribution to [the previous edition of] Link Building Secrets Revealed. Based on the same principles – where you redirect an entire domain name to pass its link value – you can also apply this to domains that seem to have received a penalty from Google. You probably think, “What purpose will that serve?” But, there is something funny about penalties.

Google Penalties

Link Building Secrets by Peter van der GraafWhen you use obscure techniques to gain ranking, you risk getting a penalty on a domain. Old-fashioned -50 drops and total bans from Google’s index still exist. People with a banned domain will try to regain their original positions for some time, but eventually give up. This is where the interesting part comes in: They don’t believe the domain has any remaining value for anyone and could sell it cheaply.

It doesn’t really matter if the domain has gotten a real penalty or not. People often mistake bad SEO for a penalty. If they once were very dependent on a strategy that’s no longer effective, they could see the same kind of drop in ranking. For our purpose, real penalties work just as well.

Check the incoming links of the domain and, based on what would remain after take-over (links from his own sites and partnerships can be discontinued), name your price. I often end up swapping an alternative domain (which has no previous links to it) without any money involved.

Redirecting a Domain

When you redirect a domain for its link value, everything needs to look like a natural activity. Natural migrations like mergers, name changes or take-overs are condoned by Google. In most cases, all link value is transferred (something that can’t be done by intensively linking between domains). To look natural, make certain you don’t trigger any resets.

  • Don’t change ownership, hosting and content all at the same time, and don’t take over domains that have switched hands a couple of times after links were attracted.
  • Don’t take over domains that have (had) placeholders or error messages on them instead of the original content.
  • Don’t take over domains that have been redirected a couple of times before.

In most cases you change ownership first but keep DNS and hosting the same. Then copy the original content on the original page URLs to your server (may be a static representation) and after a month change DNS, too. After another month or so, you put up the redirect to wherever the link value is needed.

Redirecting a Penalty

So what about redirecting the penalty? Won’t your site be infected? If penalties could be redirected, it would become an even more powerful tactic! Then, I would redirect them at my competitors! Regrettably, I found no proof of a negative effect of a redirected penalty domain.

There can be two outcomes:

  • The unnatural behavior reduces the link value in a way that little value is left, or
  • The penalty is lifted and the remaining value can be used to rank better.

In most cases both apply to some extent. A redirect lifts penalties, but penalties shouldn’t be mistaken for dampening effects on quality indicators.

Not Taking Any Risks?

So you’re doing this for the first time and you don’t want to trust a black hat SEO. I can’t blame you.

A safer way is using the link value to boost the ranking of an external website. You can use it to boost positive news about you and other search engine reputation management purposes. If it doesn’t work that well, no harm done.


This is by all means a black hat SEO tactic. There is nothing ethical about it and, if enough proof points in your direction, Google can still hurt your site for doing so. If too many people start abusing such loopholes, they stop working entirely. I wouldn’t advice anyone to use this trick.

Learn what you can, but don’t copy it blindly!

Peter van der Graaf is normally the most decent corporate SEO available, but the people at Pole Position Marketing always draw out the worst in him. He’s gotten used to being called John Bukkake, but please don’t ruin his reputation with this entertaining strategy.

Peter van der Graaf