By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
One of the biggest “myths” in the SEO community is that the age of your domain impacts how well you rank in the SERPs. In this article, I will dispell that myth and show that domain age is not an SEO ranking factor.
While dispelling the myth, I will answer the following questions:
- What is domain age in SEO?
- How important is domain age for SEO? Is it an SEO factor?
- Does an old domain correlate with better rankings?
- Does Google give sites with a new domain a boost?
- Should you buy an expired or old domain for SEO?
What is Domain Age in SEO?
Your first instinct may be to think of domain age as the time since the domain was first registered, but this is not how Google calculates it.
Matt Cutts, former head of the Webspam team at Google, said in a video that WHOis data is not generally available and can vary between country TLDs.
As such, Google will look at when they first discovered the domain. Here’s what Matt Cutts had to say:
Domain age is not necessarily determined by date of first registration, but instead may be based on their historical search data, i.e., the date they first saw the domain.
Even though domain age is not a ranking factor, Google may use your domain history or age to help fight webspam, and I have covered this further later in the article.
How important is Domain Age for SEO? Is it an SEO factor?
Firstly, thanks to Google’s John Mueller, I can categorically confirm that it is not an SEO ranking factor.
A Twitter user asked whether “domain age still matters in today’s SEO” and had a reply from another Twitter user saying that it only helps to “gain trust value”.
Mueller responded to the thread, confirming that “domain age helps nothing”.
Mueller previously confirmed this was the case back in April 2017, in response to a similar question on Twitter.
Does Domain Age matter in SEO?
If you create quality content, then over time, you should (hopefully) build authority as your site gains backlinks from other websites. Older sites most likely have more content attracting those links.
Backlinks pass PageRank, which Google’s Gary Illyes recently confirmed was a Google ranking factor:
So indirectly, older domains do have better rankings than newer domains.
Does Google give sites with a new domain a boost?
There was a general feeling among SEOs a long time ago (5+ years ago) that brand new domains were given a temporary boost in the SERPs to help them get discovered.
This theory has now been disproven, with Google’s John Mueller responding to a statement on Twitter confirming that they do not receive such a boost.
It looks like the opposite may be true.
Matt Cutts said in October 2019 that it might take a few months after domain registration to rank in the search engine. And even then, Cutts confirms the difference is minor:
The difference between a domain that’s six months old vs. one-year-old is really not that big at all. As long as you’ve been around for at least a couple of months, you should be able to make sure that you can show up in search results.
You can view the whole video below:
A patent granted in March 2008, and titled “Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data appears to provide a reason that webspam and blackhat tactics were behind the suppression of new domains:
Individuals who attempt to deceive (spam) search engines often use throwaway or “doorway” domains and attempt to obtain as much traffic as possible before being caught.
Information regarding the legitimacy of the domains may be used by the search engine when scoring the documents associated with these domains.
Suppressing new domains for a short period prevents spammers from using a churn and burn strategy.
I cannot be sure that suppression of new domains still occurs, as the patent goes back over ten years now. At the time, webspam was very prevalent with black hat SEOs churning out hundreds, if not thousands of automated links every day.
This practice slowly died out with Google’s Penguin Algorithm that penalized sites that mass-produced backlinks. In September 2016, Penguin 4 that devalued link spam in real-time rather than penalizing websites.
I wonder whether, in light of all the changes in SEO practices, whether suppression of new domains is still required. I wouldn’t be surprised if this part of the algorithm has changed or been removed.
Should you buy an expired or old domain for SEO?
As I discussed above, older domains will naturally have more PageRank due to having more backlinks.
This is not something that went unnoticed by black hat SEOs who started to buy them in bulk to use in Blog Networks, to redirect to their other sites, or to use as throwaway sites.
Because of this, Google’s webspam team added various algorithms so that backlinks to those old domains are no longer counted if the content on those sites were not similar to the old site.
In essence, Google knows when a domain is sold and can identify if it is being used to manipulate PageRank.
An interesting example of this came to light on Twitter when a user was having problems with a new site transfer.
It appears that someone bought an aged domain and redirected it to a new domain to take advantage of the old domain’s PageRank, and it wasn’t exactly going to plan.
Google will count existing links for site-moves when using 301 directs, but John Mueller said that Google knows when it is a genuine site move because it knows when the content itself is moved. In this example, no content was moved.
You can view the entire Twitter conversation below.