Why Google Likes Domains That Weren't Born Yesterday

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Scott Baradell

A controversial Google ranking factor that is little-known to most marketers, but hotly debated among SEO geeks, is "domain age" -- the length of time your website's domain has been registered.

Some claim domain age is "EXTREMELY important" to how much Google trusts your site and to how well it ranks. Others cite Google's John Mueller, who has stated that "domain age helps nothing" in search results.

Somewhere in the middle is former Google search-quality guru Matt Cutts, who has said that newly registered domains generally have to establish themselves for a couple months before being on equal footing with older domains. But, he added, the difference in treatment between a six-month-old domain and a year-old domain in minimal.

Cutts' recommendation is that as soon as you buy a domain, it's best to launch a "coming soon" landing page so that by the time you have your website built and ready to publish, your site will be in a better position to rank.

Of course, Google's algorithm is notorious for being a black box -- and Google likes it that way. Google's engineers don't want it to be gamed or reverse-engineered, so it's not unusual to receive less-than-crystal-clear responses to seemingly straightforward questions like, "Does domain age matter?"

Based on my own research and applying the threshold of common-sense marketing decisions, here's my advice as it relates to domain age:

  • Your domain's age is a factor for Google and for your brand equity; the longer it's established the better.
  • If you are a new business it can be useful to buy an "aged domain" for your business rather than registering a new one, but research shows it's really only helpful if relevant links are already pointing to the domain.
  • If you are interested in a rebrand and new domain, simply redirecting your previous brand domain to the new domain should be sufficient to retain any credit Google might give for domain age.

Ultimately, I tend to agree with Chris Galis at Studio, who says:

Absent any other ranking qualities, domain age does not have an impact on your site’s domain SEO health, according to Google. However, in practice, domain age can be used as an indicator of the quality of a site’s SEO, assuming they’ve utilized best practices ... Google is much more likely to rank high quality content for a search term rather than a site that has been around forever, just because. 

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