Does domain age affect SEO? Does the age of a website or how long the website has been live determines the authority and is considered by Google as a ranking signal? Will a website with an older domain rank ahead of another website with a newer domain, if the content quality is comparable? What about domain name extensions – do they affect search rankings in any way?
These are some of the questions which you may think from time to time, especially when you are struggling to rank on the first page of Google search for your desired keywords. It’s extremely hard to get to the first page of Google and sometimes, you may wonder if at all it is possible to get to the first page of Google with a new domain when you are competing with a website which has been around for 10 years or so.
There are different viewpoints on how domain age affects SEO and whether domain age is a ranking factor. It’s quite debatable, some people think it is a very important ranking factor while others believe it’s only a minor factor. Then there is this small group of people (and Googlers) who believe that domain age has no effect at all on Search rankings.
In my previous article, I have clearly stated that Shared hosting does not affect the SEO of a website in any way if the user experience is good and the website is not hosted in a bad neighborhood. In that article, Matt Cutts clearly says that Shared hosting has no effect on SEO whatsoever (watch the YouTube video here)
But when it comes to domain age and how it impacts search rankings, the answer is not clear and as straightforward. In the following video, Matt says that domain age is only a minor factor and he would not obsess about it that much when it comes to search rankings
The first thing you need to know is that WHOIS data is not generally available, even if you are a registrar. And Who is Data can vary from one TLD to another. It’s much easier for Google to consider – when did we first see this website? When did we first crawled this website? We did actually filed a patent in 2005. There are a lot of ways you can consider the age of a domain e.g when did you first see a link to a domain as opposed to when did you first crawl it. A good way to think about it is, we have coverage for when we crawled the domain compared to when we first saw the link to a domain. This is a lot useful than Whois data or the age of a domain.
Now, how important is it for website authority? My answer is not to worry about it that much. The difference between a domain that is six months old to a domain that is 1 year old is really not that significant at all. As long as your website has been around for a couple of months, you should be able to ensure your website shows up in search results. You may also want to take into account when was the website last updated, frequency of content, freshness – all that sort of stuff. In general, I wouldn’t obsess about trying to get an old domain just because I think domain age affects search rankings. It’s mostly the quality of your content and the sort of links you get as a result of that quality – these are much more important factors which determine how are you going to rank in search results.
Let me show you an example that Domain Age is Not So Important
There are various debates all over the web on domain age and its impact on search rankings but let me just show you a real example.
When I search for “What is low-quality content”, one of my blog posts shows up in the featured snippet
My domain is 3 years old but my blog post ranks ahead of Search Engine Journal, which is an older website (16 years old), more authoritative, has tons and tons of backlinks and great content around SEO and digital marketing. (At the time of writing this article, I have checked this on various devices using VPN’s and have observed similar results)
So how is it that my blog post ranks ahead of Search Engine Journal and other sites ranking on the first page of Google? My Site is younger than all of them and also has a lesser number of links, content and other things.
The simplest answer is –
Nobody knows how Google search works. If Google considers this page has better content than other pages and deserves to rank higher, it will rank the younger page higher in search results. It will evaluate all possible signals like domain age, backlinks, content quality, and other things. It is what Google thinks. It is how the algorithm decides the positions in search results. Yes, content Quality, backlinks, user experience are all important signals but at the end of the day – nobody knows how Google search works.
There are some interesting comments in the SEO community around domain age. You can read some of them on this page, for example.
What Google Employees have to Say About Whether Domain Age is a Ranking Signal
And here is what Google employees have to say about whether domain age is a ranking factor.
Most of the industry experts are of the opinion that
“Age is almost certainly not used by Google, but there are other factors that correlate with age can have an additional impact. If a site has been around for 10 years, it is more likely to have more backlinks and content than a 6-month-old site, thereby giving the former one a slight edge in the ranking. It’s only an edge, it does not guarantee higher rankings. If you write better content and provide more value than the other guy, for sure, you have all the chances of ranking higher than a 30-year-old website or domain name.”
Here is what John MU had to say about this discussion
There is more tweets from John Mu where he confirms Domain age has no effect at all, be it an old site or a new site.
And here is another tweet from Bill Slawski
Domain Age has No (Or Very Very Little Effect on Search Rankings )
So far my understanding, knowledge, and experience goes, I will summarise it below
- Domain age is a minor factor among many factors and there is no reason to obsess over it. Just don’t even think about it and focus your attention on other important things.
- Just because you have a domain which is 10 years older than another one, does not mean it has a slightly or much higher chance of ranking over younger domains. SEO’s or professionals who claim it that way are simply telling this by assumption or biases. I have seen hundreds of examples wherein a new domain is ranked much higher than an “authority website” because it’s content is much better and to the point
- An older site is more likely to have more backlinks, more content and other signals which may give it a ranking boost. However, a new site can develop links and outrank an older site pretty easily, if their content and user experience are better than the competition.
- Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and experiences. If you ask SEO’s, you will hear different perspectives, logics, and discussions. There is no need to obsess over it and take anyone’s side, you are better off focussing your efforts and energies on what actually matters – Content, user experience, and value generation.
- The registration length of a domain does not matter at all. Just because someone has registered it for 5 years, does not mean they have more “trust” signals associated with them.
- Don’t buy old domain names thinking it’s going to fix things for your business. It most likely won’t. Worse, it may sometimes hurt your rankings, so be very careful.
- Some SEO’s, online tools and subscription services may tell you that domain age is a very important signal (here is one example).Take it with a grain of salt and check – Are they trying to sell something? An SEO tool or a service or something similar? Chances are, they have something to sell and to sell it, they are trying to influence you or scare you that – domain age is a VERY STRONG signal. Don’t believe every so-called “SEO GURU” telling you random things around “search rankings”. Remember – Noone knows how Google search works. Noone.
- Don’t jump to assumptions or conclusions pretty soon, first see what Google has to say about it. Research on your own before buying a domain name from someone who has convinced you that they have a very “hot” old domain name which will skyrocket your rankings.
Here is another video from Matt Cutts where he clearly says that the number of years a domain is registered for has no effect whatsoever on search rankings.