A couple of weeks ago we decided to launch a little experiment with Hyper Local blogging for a dear family friend who is a real estate agent in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Like any website launch, the first thing we did was going looking for a domain. It turns out that AdamsMorganRealEstate.com was parked and for sale for a reasonable figure (after some negotiation). Since the goal of this site was to talk about Adams Morgan in general and very specifically about real estate in Adams Morgan, the domain was a no brainer.
After about a week of content development, design reviews and agreement, content updates and further refinements, the site was ready to go live. We launched with little fanfare and barely more link development: A quick post from this blog and a few others from some friendly sources with very little effort to actually get the blog to rank, we just wanted to get crawled and let the serious link building efforts commence.
The site is built in WordPress using Chris Pearson’s awesome WordPress Theme Thesis, so we didn’t worry too much about the mechanics. During the initial build out, we had taken time to setup Google Analytics, create a new gmail account for the site owner and configure all the right plugins (Akismet and Socialable). The one thing we didn’t get around to doing was to register with Google Webmaster Tools. After about a week, the site still hadn’t been crawled, so I spent a few seconds to register it with Webmaster Central.
The lesson here is pretty simple. If you buy a domain on the aftermarket, be sure to create a site and register it with Google Webmaster Tools BEFORE you start any serious development of the site. You can then get a heads up to make sure the domain is clean and/or start the scrubbing process immediately. More importantly, if you are buying an expensive domain or one for which part of the value is the existing backlink profile, you might want to stipulate that the domain is clean and has not been penalized and you might even consider demanding a “test” to find out if there are any problems.
Imagine my surprise to see a message that said my brand new site appeared to violate Google TOS.
In retrospect, the warning sign on this domain were pretty clear; although the domain had about a dozen pages of “content”, none of the pages showed up for the site: query.