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Domain Age Vs. SEO

Domain Age Vs. SEO

Domain Age and SEO: The Ongoing Debate
Creating and managing a successful website comes with many decisions, and as I contemplated whether or not I was ready to make these decisions, my co-worker gave me advice that I think will always ring true: Every concern you have should be considered through an SEO lens. In other words, you should always ask yourself whether or not something you’re doing will have a negative, positive, or no effect at all on your SEO efforts. One of the biggest decisions a person makes before they even begin to think about SEO is whether or not they should buy an existing domain or start from scratch. Ironically enough, even this decision can impact your SEO.
It has been a constant back and forth over whether or not the age of your domain matters when ranking for a Google search engine page; unfortunately, the debate still lingers.
Consider the argument and then determine whether or not you are going to make domain age a concern:
The Defense: Age Does Matter
The reason so many people feel that the age of your domain matters is through anecdotal evidence. In other words, there are many testimonials that claim older sites did much better ranking on Google than newer sites, yet no one could explain it. It makes sense that the age of your domain would matter for a few reasons:
• Spam – Sites that are filled with spam or are hoping to scam a few people out of money usually don’t last very long. They don’t want to get caught by officials, so in most cases they will play it safe and ditch the website early. Even if they don’t, it’s usually not long before they’re caught.
• History and Value – To state the obvious: older domains have more history. This generally offers more value to a reader because the site has lots of built up SEO links and other SEO elements.
• Index – Older sites are already indexed in Google; therefore giving Google a history to use as a sort of background check as opposed to little information. This makes it easier for Google to make a decision about a website.
A brand new website could have great content, but it takes a while to develop trust with Google. However, if you are going to buy an existing website chances are they haven’t done the greatest job when it comes to SEO (otherwise why would they sell?). Even so, having any little bit of information to work with is worth it.
Recently, SEO Moz posted a video where SEO expert Rand Fishkin discusses why the age of your domain does not matter. Reporter Ted Ives uses some of the points discussed above as well as a video by Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer at Google, to prove that Rand was, in fact, incorrect. You can read this rebuttle and watch the video by visiting Coconut Headphones.
The Prosecution: Age Does Not Matter
Many experts are saying that age no longer matters. No one is denying that age never matter, they are simply saying that it does not matter anymore. According to Sever Side Design, “Cutts implied that usually within a 3 month period, Google will be able to index your site and from that point on, you are on a level playing field on how a website ranks in Google.” It makes sense that domain age wouldn’t matter for a few reasons:
• Correlation vs. Causation – Some say (including Rand) that people need to focus on the time frame in which accomplishments occurred. It was much easier to rank highly ten years ago than it is today. Rand gives the example of Twitter vs. Ebay. Ebay has had millions more users, but Twitter has grown at an exponential rate. You just can’t compare the two, and Google doesn’t plan to.
• Quality – Links are not getting attention just because they are older, but rather because they have been on a site for a longer period of time. Google sees this as a valuable site. If people continue to link to the site, those links have value, not matter how old.
You can learn more about the reasons why domain age probably doesn’t matter by visiting SEO Moz. Ultimately, the discussion is all about the interpretation of the recent interview with Cutts, and as usual, no one really knows what to make of Google and their algorithms.
The Verdict
Having a brand new site won’t ruin your chances of success. The most important thing to remember when it comes to SEO is quality content. You want to make sure all of your content is unique, and put a focus on linking. You will want to accumulate links back to your website and utilize both internal and external links.
Once again, when making that decision about whether or not to buy an existing website or start from scratch, SEO doesn’t have to play a role. It might matter slightly, but quality content is overall the most important thing. However, if you know how complicated SEO is to understand and you know how difficult it can be to get a website ranked with Google, you know that you take any piece of advice you get. My advice: Domain age might matter slightly, so keep it in the back of your mind and make your decisions accordingly.
Does Domain Age and Registration Length Matter in SEO?
Straight From the Horses Mouth.
I have read some difference of opinions online in regards to domain age and domain registration length effecting search rankings. Many SEO’s feel that both domain age and length of registration effect search engine rankings. I am one of them. This debate has been going on for years as Google, in a round about way, says it doesn’t effect rankings.
This matter has come up recently with some of my clients so I wanted to put to rest this debate. Surely there can never be a true victor but with the information below I think you will agree that domain age and registration length matter. Although I do believe it is a minor signal in the grand scheme of things. Here it is straight from the horses mouth.
Domain Registration Length of Time.
Matt McGee has a nice blog post back in 2009 talking about domain registration length. The below video is of Matt Cutts stating domain registration time frame doesn’t matter…kinda.
One thing I have noticed with Matt Cutts is whenever he is asked about a potential ranking factor and his response is ” I wouldn’t worry about that” then you can almost bet that you have nailed a ranking factor.

Danny Sullivan asked if the length of time a domain is registered for matters in search rankings to Matt Cutts directly and this is his response:
To the best of my knowledge, no search engine has ever confirmed that they use length-of-registration as a factor in scoring. If a company is asserting that as a fact, that would be troubling.
Sounds like a political statement to me. Often times we have to read between the lines to decipher what is being said. I find that you can tell as much if not more by what is not being said then by what is. All Matt Cutts is saying is that they have never confirmed this to the best of his knowledge. Here is a excerpt from their patent involving the use of historical data in regards to this claim.
[0097] According to an implementation consistent with the principles of the invention, information relating to a domain associated with a document may be used to generate (or alter) a score associated with the document. For example, search engine 125 may monitor information relating to how a document is hosted within a computer network (e.g., the Internet, an intranet or other network or database of documents) and use this information to score the document.
[0098] 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 search engine 125 when scoring the documents associated with these domains.
[0099] Certain signals may be used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains. For example, domains can be renewed up to a period of 10 years. 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.

This clearly states that Google COULD use domain data if they wanted to. I recommend all my clients to have at least a multi-year registration on their domain. I don’t think you need to register for 10 years but if you can it wouldn’t hurt.
One thing that is apparent about Google is they will use all data points about your website (or as they say in their patent – “document”) to build a profile for your site. They will use Chrome browser data, Google Toolbar data, Analytics data, Adsense data, Adwords data and any other data points they can find about how people interact with your website. How do I know this? I will answer a question with a question: Why wouldn’t they? You will find that Google will use your Favorites data and bookmarking data to add to a websites profile. Don’t believe me? Read below.
[0114] According to an implementation consistent with the principles of the invention, user maintained or generated data may be used to generate (or alter) a score associated with a document. For example, search engine 125 may monitor data maintained or generated by a user, such as “bookmarks,” “favorites,” or other types of data that may provide some indication of documents favored by, or of interest to, the user. Search engine 125 may obtain this data either directly (e.g., via a browser assistant) or indirectly (e.g., via a browser). Search engine 125 may then analyze over time a number of bookmarks/favorites to which a document is associated to determine the importance of the document.
[0115] Search engine 125 may also analyze upward and downward trends to add or remove the document (or more specifically, a path to the document) from the bookmarks/favorites lists, the rate at which the document is added to or removed from the bookmarks/favorites lists, and/or whether the document is added to, deleted from, or accessed through the bookmarks/favorites lists. If a number of users are adding a particular document to their bookmarks/favorites lists or often accessing the document through such lists over time, this may be considered an indication that the document is relatively important. On the other hand, if a number of users are decreasingly accessing a document indicated in their bookmarks/favorites list or are increasingly deleting/replacing the path to such document from their lists, this may be taken as an indication that the document is outdated, unpopular, etc. Search engine 125 may then score the documents accordingly.
[0116] In an alternative implementation, other types of user data that may indicate an increase or decrease in user interest in a particular document over time may be used by search engine 125 to score the document. For example, the “temp” or cache files associated with users could be monitored by search engine 125 to identify whether there is an increase or decrease in a document being added over time. Similarly, cookies associated with a particular document might be monitored by search engine 125 to determine whether there is an upward or downward trend in interest in the document.

Domain Age
Something else that is worth mentioning that if you have a new domain and are building relevant links early and often you can outrank an older domain with more links that hasn’t added any links or content recently. Google sees your site as being fresher which relates to being more relevant. More info on that below:
[0039] Consider the example of a document with an inception date of yesterday that is referenced by 10 back links. This document may be scored higher by search engine 125 than a document with an inception date of 10 years ago that is referenced by 100 back links because the rate of link growth for the former is relatively higher than the latter. While a spiky rate of growth in the number of back links may be a factor used by search engine 125 to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine 125. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine 125 may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming.
However, if you have a seasoned domain age and ad frequent relevant content along with frequent but natural backlinks then it will be very hard for a newer domain to overtake your rankings.
This also comes into play with certain link building services that promise 3,000 links in 1 week! Simply put….don’t do it. For most small businesses this would make your Google index profile look unnatural. Variation and moderation are key here.
Of course for those of you that embrace good consistent SEO practices none of this is new information and in the immortal words of Matt Cutts: ”I wouldn’t worry to much about that”.
If you have a different opinion or other thoughts please leave them in the comments. I welcome your feedback.
Resources used:
SEO by the sea blog
Google’s historical patent online (scroll to page 4)
Good forum discussions related to this
SEOMoz put together a nice summary of this patent.

Domain age