Does Google favor older, established domains in its search results?
Does buying a brand new domain name put you at an SEO disadvantage?
These are just a couple of the questions surrounding domain age as a ranking factor – a topic that has been hotly contested and debated during the past two decades.
We know that Google at least considered it as part of a document scoring algorithm at one point in time.
Read on to learn whether domain age is really a Google search ranking factor.
The Claim: Domain Age As A Ranking Factor
The claim here is twofold:
- The longer Google has had a domain in its index, the more it will benefit your search ranking.
- The longer the domain is registered, the more it will benefit your search ranking.
Basically, here’s the argument:
Let’s say you registered two domains, one in 2010 and the other in 2020. Until three months ago, you never published a piece of content on either site.
That means Google will consider the 2010 domain “stronger” – simply because it was registered more than 10 years prior to the second site, and it should have an easier time ranking.
Does that seem logical?
The Evidence For Domain Age As A Ranking Factor
Back in 2007, some folks in SEO believed domain age to be one of the top 10 most important ranking factors.
More recently, some have pointed to this Matt Cutts video as “proof” domain age is a Google ranking factor.
Because in it, Cutts said: “The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one-year-old is really not that big at all.”
To some, this makes it sound like Google uses domain age as a ranking signal – although perhaps not a very important one.
The Evidence Against Domain Age As A Ranking Factor
The thing is, that video is from 2010.
And here’s what else Cutts actually said:
- Registrar data doesn’t matter at all. It’s too difficult to gather and Google doesn’t have access to enough of it for it to be a reliable signal.
- What Google was able to measure was when the site was first crawled and when the site was first linked to by another site.
Even then, he stated,
“The fact is it’s mostly the quality of your content and the sort of links that you get as a result of the quality of your content that determine how well you’re going to rank in the search engines.”
A 2005 patent application called “Information retrieval based on historical data” by Matt Cutts, Paul Haahr, and several others gives us a bit more insight into how Google perceived these domain signals at the time.
The patent outlined a method of identifying a document and assigning it a score composed of different types of data about its history.
This data included:
- Information about its inception date.
- Elapsed time measured from the inception date.
- The manner and frequency in which the content of the document changes over time.
- An average time between the changes, a number of changes in a time period, and a comparison of a rate of change in a current time period with a rate of change in a previous time period.
- At least one of the following: the number of new pages associated with the document within a time period, a ratio of a number of new pages associated with the document versus a total number of pages associated with the document, and a percentage of the content of the document that has changed during a time period.
- The behavior of links relate to at least one of appearance and disappearance of one or more links pointing to the document
There’s a lot more, but already you can see this patent was never only about domain age.
There are elements of links and content quality/freshness in here, too.
Domain age may have been a factor back then. But there’s no clear evidence it was a direct ranking factor so much as a weak signal inside of a more comprehensive document history score (and that was/maybe still is the ranking factor… maybe).
Domain Age As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Google has said domain age is not a ranking factor – and we have no reason to doubt them on this one.
How long you register your domain doesn’t matter to Google’s search algorithm.
Buying old domains won’t help you rank faster or higher. In fact, you could inherit junk links or other negative associations that could hurt your SEO efforts.
But again, that’s not purely because of the age – it’s what happened to that domain during those years.
Bottom line: Google does not use domain age as a direct search ranking signal.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita