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Does Domain Age and Registration Length Matter in SEO?

SEO and domain registration length 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.

 

Photo provided under CCL by Juvetson

 

 

Chris Gregory

Chris Gregory

Principal and Lead SEO at DAGMAR Marketing
Chris Gregory is a managing partner and director of SEO at DAGMAR Marketing, a leading local SEO and digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida. Chris is a Market Motive-Certified Master SEO and SEO Mentor, and has an extensive business management background in the network communications and business directory publishing industries.
7 Comments
  1. Wow, Chris… awesome article..man, i did NOT know about that favorites data and bookmarking thing..and that part about domain age/ length of time registered.. yes.. totally clarifies things for me. i actually got into a debate with an old client about that last year and they couldn’t understand how or why Google would use this information to properly rank websites… wish you were hanging out with me on that conversation!! thank you for this.. hope to do biz with you soon!

  2. Mike,

    There are a lot of opinions on this and you will find most regurgitating what Google officially puts out. In most cases I do too, but we also have to remember that Google is not our friend but a business. When they make careful PR type statements such as this you have to take it at face value and read between the lines.

    That said, you have to back up your contrarian position with hard data. That I can do. I have multiple examples of new domains that I was working on suddenly “Pop” on the first page of Google at the 6 month mark after not appearing in the index at all.

    Thanks for posting.

  3. Thanks for this nice post. In my experience, domain age really matters for real estate sites (so might be true for other domains as well). I have seen improvement in ranking with age of site keeping other parameters unchanged.
    As far as registration length, I never knew this can also be a crieteria. Will surely observe this in futre. Thanks again.

  4. Hi Chris,

    Great write-up! I would agree that M. Cutt’s statement regarding Google’s utilization of Domain info was a political one.

    Not only does it make sense that search engines would utilize domain info as a ranking factor, it is necessary given the various unethical traffic generation practices that occur to “trick” search engine rankings.

    Cheers,
    -Keller

  5. Great article. I love the simple point “why wouldn’t they?” After all, they’re looking for any metric that can help separate quality websites from spam. It’s quite likely there’s a correlation between domain name registration length and authenticity. As you pointed out he doesn’t actually deny that it’s a factor either.

    • Hi Chris, I find you can tell as much about what Google doesn’t say in some of their replies to really good questions then the actual reply. Thanks for your comment!

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