The Wayback Machine is a fantastic investigative tool if you are in the business of buying websites. Using this tool, you can take a trip back in time and discover what a particular site, or URL, used to look like at some point in the past.
This information is like gold when you are performing your due diligence on a website you are thinking of buying. Let’s look at a couple of examples that demonstrate The Power Of The Wayback Machine! In the following website buying scenarios, the WBM, highlights some potential problems.
The seller of the website claims that the site is 10 years old. You can check the domain’s registration tool by looking at the WHOIS data to confirm this, but the domain registration date is not necessarily the date that the site was “born”. It’s possible that although the domain was registered 10 years ago, a site was only developed on the domain 2 years ago. That’s not the same thing. The Wayback Machine will show us when the first occurrences of web pages on the site were found.
The website being sold is a business directory getting massive amounts of traffic. Wow, huge profits ahoy! But hold on: when we check the Wayback Machine, it shows that there used to be a granny porn site on this domain! That means it’s possible that the traffic arriving at this site may be expecting some fairly shocking pictures or movies. That would certainly be the case if the original inbound links are still present. Even if the traffic is aligned with the site’s current business purpose, you may not want to acquire a website with a seedy past like this.
OK, now that I’ve convinced you of the benefits of using the WBM, let’s look at how we can use it.
Easy: go to The Wayback Machine and type in the URL you want to investigate. Usually, this will be the home page of a site, but it can be an internal page too (in fact any URL). It seems that for the average site, records logged in the WBM go back around 2 years. For very popular/busy sites, however, much more recent records will exist. Looking at Google’s history, for example, we can see records that are only a couple of months old.
You will see a clickable, dated entry for each record that exists for the URL you are investigating. Clicking on an entry will show you how that page looked on that particular date. The good thing is, you can start navigating around this old version of the site by clicking on further links. Provided that the WBM has a record of the linked page, you can navigate to it.
Note that webmasters can exclude the Wayback Machine from crawling their site by adding an entry to their robots.txt file. So, a site may be missing from the archive due to some crawling error or a deliberate action on the webmaster’s part to exclude the WBM. It’s your call