Gabriel Goldenberg recommends a new use of Archive.org. Personally, I think it’s a rather novel use of an old concept.
Archive.org, of course, is the website that captures screenshots of websites published and has been doing this for 12 years now. If you want to see what a website looked like in 1999, for instance, just check out Archive.org, the Internet Archive. But you can also use the free website for another, even more practical, use.
If you are thinking of buying a website then you might want to check out Archive.org to see what kind of content was being published through that site’s history. Rather than just look at the previous designs, find out if the website has had any content issues that had it banned or de-listed from the search engines. If you find a site that has had such issues then that site will be devalued drastically. There’s a good chance that it could never redeem itself completely due to its history.
I issue this warning because sites that have experienced search engine issues due to spam violations or other unethical or questionable business practices tend to get a black mark and the search engines do not forget. Keep that in mind if you are in the market to buy. Even if you are considering registering a domain name, you might want to see if it’s ever been registered before and whether or not it had such issues.