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Is domain age an SEO ranking factor and is it easier to rank an aged domain to rank on Google versus a new, fresh domain?

Domain age and SEO performance are a hotly contested topic in the SEO community.

In some camps, there is a strong belief that an old/established domain is a strong indicator of potential SEO performance. While for other SEOs, there is a belief that domain age (on its own) does not provide any real benefit over an unestablished domain.

Google have released official statements on the matter through their search advocates and web team. But in this article, we’ll aim to dispel any myths and get to the bottom of whether domain age is an SEO ranking factor, or whether it falls into the category of SEO myth.

What is domain age?

When we talk about domain age in SEO terms, we are talking about how long a domain has been registered, active, and in use.

But that’s not where it ends. A domain name can have multiple lifecycles. Let’s say that you buy a domain name – you think it’s never been used before because it’s free to register. But then a few months down the line, an SEO geek looks at the domain for you and discovers that the domain has been registered in a previous life under a previous use.

Considering domain age & history

When it comes to buying a domain name to start a business or even just to start a blog, it’s important to consider that domain age doesn’t just refer to the age since you purchased it – it considers the age from when a domain was first used.

When asked about domain age, here is what Matt Cutts, the former Head of Google’s web spam team had to say on the topic.

“Domain age is not necessarily determined by the date of first registration but instead may be based on their historical search data, i.e., the date they first saw the domain”

There are plenty of free online tools for checking a domain age, so we’re not going to give anyone a free plug. If you’re looking to understand some SEO factors that go beyond domain age (like traffic history, backlink history etc.) then it’s worth speaking to an SEO professional who can use third party SEO tools to help property understand the history of a domain.

Things to consider when buying a domain

Before you start on a new domain, we always recommend doing a comprehensive check of its history. Previous Google actions such as penalties, as well as the backlink profile of the website can all play a factor in how your domain performs – so it’s worth doing your due diligence before committing to a domain.

Is domain age an SEO ranking factor?

Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst and Search Relations John Mueller emphatically stated that back in 2019 “No, domain age helps nothing”.

John Mueller on Domain Age

The exchange which occurred on Twitter back in June 2019 came in response to a statement made by another Twitter user declaring:

“Domain age only helps to gain the trust value, it is may (sic) one of the signals from more than 200 signals of ranking”

John Mueller shut down the idea that domain age was a ranking factor. Despite this, SEOs and webmasters have continued to assert that domain age is a ranking factor that is considered in Google’s search ranking algorithm.

Does Google put new websites in a sandbox?

The concept of a ‘sandbox’ period for new websites is hotly contested in the SEO community.

The notion of a ‘sandbox’ period refers to a period that a new website will have to wait before being included in the search results. The rumour mill has been going for more than 20-years on whether the ‘sandbox’ period for new websites actually exists, or whether the ‘sandbox’ can be overcome through a strategic approach to on-page and off-page SEO.

Our reckoning is that the ‘sandbox’ period is not a real thing or a pre-determined amount of time that websites must wait before being included in the search results. From our experience, Google is far more likely to show a site with high-authority (proven through links) and high-quality content, than one that doesn’t tick these boxes.

Does it take longer to rank a new website?

Ranking a new website is a process. The ‘sandbox’ period or whatever you want to call it is almost like a courting period between site owners and Google.

Site owners must prove that their site is worthy of being included (ranking) for relevant search queries by demonstrating value (think E-E-A-T) and proving trust (think: backlinks). The sooner that sites can prove these two factors, the sooner that they can expect to rank in Google – and other search engines for that matter.

Established domains typically (not always) outperform new ones by virtue of building trust with search engines. Just like in our everyday interactions, building trust with search engines takes time – so the sooner that you can demonstrate trust through high-quality content and prove trust with recommendations from other websites, the sooner you can expect to rank in the search engines.

So then, is domain age a ranking factor?

Domain age is not a direct ranking factor in Google. However, the byproduct of an established domain (backlinks, trust with readers, and high-quality content) make it far easier to rank like-for-like content on an established versus a new domain.

Site owners looking to expedite rankings for a new website should focus on building unique, well-thought-out content that demonstrates trust, and acquiring links from recognised websites that can past trust. The sooner that new websites can build trust, the more likely they are to appear in search engines and compete with more established domains.

Just like anything in SEO, the cream rises to the top. Sites that focus on providing value and building trust are the ones that will see long-term success in the search engines and with their target audience.

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