Does Domain Age Matter for SEO?
Your domain’s age can be a critical factor in the way Google ranks your website, but not for the reasons many people think. Some people believe the older their domain is, the better chance they have of moving up in the search results. But is domain age specifically a ranking factor? Is it possible to rank a brand new domain? What are the challenges for new domains in SEO? Does domain age matter?
Before we can answer the question about domain age and ranking we must first understand some basics on how Google operates.
Domain Ranking Factors
Although no one is exactly sure what Google’s algorithm looks at for determining which websites rank, many SEO agencies have done extensive work to create domain metrics which have proven to shed some insight. SEO companies have created systems to measure a specific websites metrics with the sole purpose of providing useful information on how Google will react to your website and why.
We call these measurements Domain Metrics and they include titles such as Domain Rank, Moz Rank, Domain Authority, Trust Flow, Page Rank (no longer used), and some refer to domain AGE. Individual metrics provide some insight by measuring a specific thing as it pertains to a website. Each of these metrics takes TIME to become established — and without some age on the domain, none of those metrics exist.
What I mean by that is, when you acquire a new, unused domain, it has no metrics at all. You are starting from scratch. It takes time and effort to build up website metrics. So the age of your domain and its ability to acquire pertinent domain metrics, is extremely important. Those domain metrics measure things such as the number of URLs that have links pointing to your website, the authority of any referring domains, how trustworthy the website may be and so on.
How Does Google Determine Who Ends Up On Page 1?
Google is very picky about who they rank on page 1 of their search results. Their job is to provide a great user experience for their clients — and their clients are the people using Google to find a website or to get an answer to a question. Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant result to the search query. Google is searching out the most quality content it can find. If a specific search engine provides incredibly accurate results for their searches, people will continue to use that search engine. Google is, by far, the most advanced and the most used search engine on the planet. For what it’s worth, Google also owns the #2 most used search engine, YouTube.
Although Google has evolved over the past 20 years, most SEO experts agree that back-links (other websites that link to your website) are still the single most important ranking factor. By no means does that mean that backlinks are the ONLY ranking factor, or even that more backlinks are better for SEO.
Because backlinks are so important, some SEO agencies, as one of their digital marketing services, attempted to “game” Google by throwing up thin websites, lacking in quality content with the intention of outsmarting Google’s algorithm. Over time, Google has made many changes to further give their users a better experience; with Panda being one of the major updates.
The Panda update specifically reduced the visibility of websites which relied on thin or automatically generated content specifically designed purely for ranking purposes.
What Does This Have To Do With Domain Age?
When we ask the question “Does domain age matter for SEO?”, it is important to understand how Google calculates where a website ranks in its search engine. With backlinks playing such an important role in Google’s algorithm, we should also question what may be a “natural” process for a website to acquire backlinks. We also need to realize that Google is intimately aware how some SEO agencies have attempted to game the system by creating thousands of backlinks quickly in a deliberate effort to push a website to page 1.
So when there is a brand-new virgin domain, it is generally starting off with no backlinks at all. Gaining quality backlinks takes time. The website (or digital marketing agency working for the owner) owner must create original quality content, socially syndicate that content, and with a little bit of luck, another website will reference your content in something they post on their site. This does not happen overnight; not naturally anyway. In the event that an unethical SEO company creates a bunch of unnatural backlinks to your website, Google has the ability to recognize this unnatural process – and may penalize any website determined to be engaging in manipulative tactics such as this.
Does Domain Age Matter?
The short answer to this question is YES. Domain age DOES matter. But the reason that domain age matters is NOT simply because the domain is young, but rather that it would be unnatural for any new domain to have a reasonable quantity of quality backlinks needed to rank in a competitive search.
So, Should I Not Use a New Domain If I Want To Rank?
As an SEO Agency, we are often asked to provide some sort of guarantee on SERPS (Search Engine Results Page) results. The truth is, no one can “guarantee” search rankings. Effective SEO “Gurus” can abide by Google’s “Best Practices”, along with some acceptable tips, tricks, and a lot of hard work to get you ranking well in as short of a time as possible.
The ease in which one can rank a specific website varies on a number of factors.
- Level of competition for your keywords
- Quality metrics of your existing domain
- Quantity of the backlinks pointing back to your existing website
- Quality of the backlinks pointing to your website
- Your websites craw-ability
- Direct traffic coming to your website
- Brand mentions
- Proper on-page SEO
- Quality, layout, design, and copy of your existing website
Even if some of these factors are less than perfect, a good SEO Company will focus on the stronger aspects that are in your favor. You can overcome occasions when new domain rankings are less than satisfactory if you have a great site, optimized for mobile, is well laid out with numerous unique custom blog contents full of quality content and the competition isn’t too heated.
It may take a little longer to start seeing results with a new domain, but it can be done. However, even if you have a terrible site, as long as the domain has good metrics, an effective SEO Agency can rework that site and leverage the domain’s benefits to rank it well and with relative speed.
Overcoming a New Domain
A “brand-new” domain is simply a reference to one that has only been indexed for a short period of time. Simply owning a domain with nothing on it or redirecting it to another site doesn’t provide much leverage or advantage over a newly purchased domain. To rank well, a new domain requires a great deal of work.
If you compare increasing your website’s rankings to driving a car uphill, having a brand new domain is like going uphill with a trunk full of bricks. It doesn’t mean you can’t get there, it’s just harder and will take more time.
The first step for a new domain is to create quality and engaging content, get all the pages/posts indexed and then to obtain backlinks from some of the most basic third-party websites. The acquisition of backlinks will occur naturally over time, but for a new website, it should be high on the list of things to accomplish. Because of these factors, ranking a new domain for SEO generally takes longer than it does for an aged domain.
Buying an Existing Domain
If you’re building a new website and looking to purchase a new domain, understand there will be specific challenges for the site’s SEO. However, if the domain is your company name or has a specific branding purpose, then it may be worth the extra work. Another option is to purchase an aged domain that, at one time had quality content and ultimately has quality backlinks and good domain metrics.
Where a new domain may cost you $11.99 or so, an aged domain will usually start around $60. Older domains with quality metrics can get extremely expensive, into the millions. This article isn’t delving into how to purchase aged domains, but just know that it’s a possibility and the right domain that can provide large SEO benefits.
Pointing an Already Authoritative Domain
Whether you already have an authoritative domain or are purchasing an authoritative domain, one option is simply to create a 301 redirect from your old site to the new one. This is how companies who merge or buy other companies handle the former website. It could also happen under very normal circumstances where a business owner simply combines all of their domains into one website. It is VERY IMPORTANT to understand, you can not simply point any domain to another to increase its authority and ranking ability. The referring domain must be in the same business vertical for it to be considered as natural. To gain that authority in the first place requires other websites to have backlinks pointing to yours, so the TYPE of websites (and the business vertical they are in) that are backlinking to you matters.
Conclusions on Domain Age
Having a domain with some age on it is a very powerful tool. If you’ve owned a domain for a long time, it has substantial value. DO NOT LOSE IT! If you’re starting a new website and are purchasing a brand-new domain, simply understand the ranking of the new site will take more time and work.
Consider all options, and give thought to purchasing an existing domain that fits your needs. Look at the level of competition for your keywords and the metrics and backlinks of the domains that rank well. After reading this article, understanding your options and which routes you can take is a key for success.
If you have any specific questions about domains or SEO, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our SEO gurus are always willing to talk shop…sometimes too much.