The motivation for writing this post is I was asked if it was a good idea to abandon an old website and put up a new one on a new domain, and what would the SEO impact be. Well, age is one of the major components for gaining the trust of a search engine, in particular Google. Think about why that might be for a moment: as an SEO, I cannot manipulate age, it is simply a function of time, so Google is able to trust that whatever the age is of your website, then it is a credible metric because it is ‘pure’. If we are looking at age in isolation, then in this case, Google would choose an old hag of a website over a new, pristine model – looks are meaningless when you are dealing with a search engine algorithm.
Google places trust in age because it is a sign you have a credible, legitimate website that is not looking to deliver irrelevant results in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
But, there is another important reason why Google puts an emphasis on the age of your website: the lifespan of the majority of websites is measured in weeks, not years. Most sites that are created have a nefarious purpose, to scam users, or to spam them with porn, get rich quick schemes, Viagra, casinos, pharma and nutraceuticals, and a host of generally crappy content.
Millions of these websites pop up, fly for a few days or weeks, and then disappear, and it is an endless process which continually repeats.
Only a small minority of websites actually make it to their first birthday, and being one-year-old is considered a milestone in the eyes of Google.
The older the website becomes, the more it is considered credible and trustworthy, for very similar reasons we as people look to a business that has been established for some time when we are handing over our money.
When I carry out a website audit, the age of the website is one of the things I specifically look for, and see how it compares to the age of the online competition. This helps me come to a reasonable estimate of the level of effort required to get the website to rank in SERPs generally, and particularly to outrank the competition (though is only one of a number of factors that will determine this).
Three Notes of Caution
The Age Clock is Set Against the Website and its Content not the Domain
The age clock is determined by how long the website (and its content) has been in the Index (the database maintained by Google, against which it runs the ranking algorithms).
The age clock is not set against how long ago the domain was registered – Matt Cutts, Google’s anti-spam guru, explains why the myth of aged domains came about in the video below:
This distinction is important because domain resellers try to put a premium on domain names registered years ago and simply renewed, but the age clock doesn’t start ticking until Google sees the website, with content, published to that domain.
Buying aged domain names is a waste of money if you are just looking at buying it because it is old – save your money.
The Age Clock Can Be Reset
Gaining age is a good thing because you’re gaining the trust of the search engines by having it, but while we cannot improve upon the age factor, we can do things that will cause the age clock to reset and lose the benefit of it.
Things to look out for include, changing domain ownership, or a major website rebuild that take the content off the previous theme of the site.
The impact of losing the benefit of age in the eyes of Google can be extremely severe, especially in highly competitive environments.
Buying an Aged Website for SEO
Rather than buying an aged domain name, you may be tempted to buy an aged website that has been around for a while. This can be a great tactic, as you have age, plus content, plus you may have a backlink profile already built to provide more trust and authority for the website.
But you must check what you are buying and the history of the website. Spammers are known for buying defunct websites precisely because it is easy to get it to rank for other search terms. For instance, buying a pet accessories website, but instead of selling pet stuff, they will re-purpose the website to offer porn, pills, or casinos, or at least they do until Google catches on and takes action to classify it as a spammer. The spammer then puts the site up for auction, typically replacing the bad content with the original theme, or simply sells the aged domain after canning the content.
Along comes a clueless buyer, thinking they are getting a deal when in fact they are buying a toxic dump that will leak hazardous waste all over their efforts and web portfolio because you are now the owner of a known spam website (but don’t know it).
In this instance, Caveat Emptor – buyer beware! Always check what you are buying when it comes to domains and websites, because not only can you buy a lemon, the fact you own the lemon can have a severely negative impact on other websites you own and operate (if Google identifies a spam site, it will seek to identify the owner, and once it has done this, it will then look at every other website that person is associated with).
Age is one of over 200 factors used by Google to generate the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
The older your website and its content is, the better.
Credit is given for the content on the website, not for the domain name – buying an aged domain name for the age is a worthless exercise.
Be careful with age, as you can unwittingly lose the value by allowing a domain to expire, changing domain ownership, or fundamentally changing the character and content on the website.
About Karl Hindle
Karl is the founder of Wellspring Search, a digital marketing firm serving Frederick MD and the surrounding area – if you have any questions you would like to ask, you can call him on 240.415.6191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
He has over 15 years of SEO experience, formulating and executing SEO and PPC campaigns for a wide range of businesses and organizations, at local, regional, national, and global levels.
He is certified by Google in both Google Analytics and Google AdWords (including Video AdWords) – click the image below to see his profile on Google Partners website.