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10 Reasons Websites don’t rank in Google Pt8: Domain name age

Sep 1st 2010

One question which is often asked is how important is the age of a domain name (web address) when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation? A new domain name lacks credibility and history with Google, so is an old domain name the answer?

One question which is often asked is how important is the age of a domain name (web address) when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation?

The points behind this question include:

  • well-established sites have old domain names, so by reverse logics, an old domain should mean that the site is well established;
  • spammers register and drop domains quickly, thus logically spamming sites usually have newly registered domain names.

Generally, webmasters agree that domain age isn’t the most important Search Engine ranking factor but opinions vary:

1. it can be no factor at all;
2. it can play only a single minor factor in the millions of other factors (but it still is);
3. it matters a lot.

Google’s patent “Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data” of 31/03/2005 implies that Google does look into domain registration (1) and renewal (2) dates:

1. … the date that a domain with which a document is registered may be used as an indication of the inception date of the document.

2. Certain signals may be used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains.
… Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain and, thus, the documents associated therewith.

While the patent does sound rather straightforward (by the way its official version is no longer available online, so it might have been deleted), domain age factor is both overestimated and misinterpreted. The point is simple: domain registration date cannot speak for either quality or trustworthiness of a website as:

  • domains can be registered but never used for a long time (parked);
  • new domains can be used for highly established companies (with the old domain redirecting to the new one);
  • domain name can be used for illegitimate purposes for years and then sold to a “good” person/company without any change of the initial registration date.

Thus our verdict to the whole dispute is as follows:

1. Website age (and its backlink profile age) is what really matters;
2. Domain age can play a minor part only as damping factor – i.e. one of the factors signaling the search engine that this might be a spammy / illegitimate site;
3. Old domains may carry more weight due to their past records (i.e. old backlinks pointing to them) – this can be a good point to consider but then again if you are serious about your brand, keep in mind that an established domain already has associations and history before you own it and they might be hard to conquer.

Conclusion: domain registration date won’t of course hurt but it will hardly help. So we would focus on registering a new short niche-related and catchy domain name instead of trying to buy an old (previously owned by someone) one.