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How Important Is Domain Age? Why Data Driven SEO Analysis Trumps Guru Opinions

Posted by Kevin Espiritu on April 19, 2012

At serpIQ, we’ve analyzed over 160,000 SERPs, 1.6 million URLs, and collected tens of millions of data points over the past year. We believe that objective, aggregated data is more important than the opinion of popular SEOs in the community, or your friend’s latest niche website success. We’ve taken our data and selected five factors that Google has confirmed to be important for ranking websites:

  • Domain Age
  • Content Length
  • Exact Match Domains
  • Indexed Content
  • Root Domain vs. Subpage Rankings

We’ll be releasing our data in a five part series. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the importance of domain age. “Everyone knows” that the older your domain, the more Google trusts your website, right? Let’s see if the data backs up this opinion.

We dug into 81,106 SERPs and analyzed the domain age of the website ranking in the first position. The graph below shows how often each domain age range ranks in the #1 position on Google. We originally graphed the frequency of domain age ranges for positions 1-3, but the data was virtually identical, so we omitted it. If you absolutely need to see it, you can find that graph here.

Domain Age Frequency in #1 Ranking Position

Conclusions

As suspected, older domains have a higher frequency in the number one position. In fact, 57% of the domains in our data set that hold a #1 result are over 10 years old. Over 93% of 1st position domains are over a year old. This not only confirms the fact that Google favors older domains, but heavily stresses the importance of seeking aged domains for your projects if possible. As pointed out by a few commenters, these percentages do not prove that Google favors older domains over newer domains, and there are other factors that could be at play. For example, older domains have had more time to build up content, social signals, links and overall trust. So while the raw age of a domain might not directly affect a site's rankings, the data does show that old domains make up the vast majority of #1 results and it should be something to at least bring up for discussion when planning a SEO campaign.

One way to look at the data we posted: it's much more likely that an old domain has built up trust, content, and links than a fresh domain, so they are a worthwhile investment for your SEO campaigns.

We were also surprised to see the high frequency of domains less than a year old that are ranking first in the SERPs - 6.5% of the domains in our data set. Why are these domains performing on par with domains over 10 years old?

There could be a few reasons for this:

  1. serpIQ users typically jump on new opportunities and keywords that are just beginning to trend. There isn’t a long history of traffic for these keywords, so domain age is much less relevant.
  2. Some users are targeting very small niches and low competition keywords for their personal projects and client work. For example, some of our users are building small micro niche websites to monetize. Some are doing reputation management on names with low competition. These small niches can be dominated with little concern for domain age.

Also, there definitely seems to be a bump in the number of #1 results that are on domains over 10 years old. We won't go so far as to say there's an actual definitive cut off point for age, but generally sites that old tend to be much more authoritative, so that's most likely where the bump is coming from. So for anyone working with clients with old sites, you might garner a bit of a boost from their domains.

Important Note: For this data, along with every other post in this series, we're by no means claiming that the key to ranking a site is simply to buy an old domain, nor are we claiming that a new domain can't be ranked. What we're trying to do is provide data that, when used holistically in your SEO campaigns, can give a competitive edge.

What Does This Mean For You?

The overall trend is clear: older domains are better. However, if you’re targeting keywords with relatively little history or low competition, a fresh domain is just as beneficial as an aged domain. Check out Google Trends to see if your keywords have consistent volume over the years, or if they’re only recently starting to gain traction. If the latter is true, go with a fresh domain – it’ll save you money and time.

If you’re working on a new project that targets well-established keywords with volume that has existed for years, consider picking up an aged domain. If you can buy one that fits your needs and is a few years old, you’ll start out ahead of the curve when building a long term brand or authority site.

What's Next?

We hope this post shed some insight into the importance of domain age. It’s a bit of a dry topic for SEO, but is nevertheless important to consider when beginning a SEO project. We’ll be releasing a LOT more of our exclusive data in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

P.S. If you haven’t signed up for a free account yet, what are you waiting for?

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About The Author

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Kevin Espiritu @ Supreme Strategies

Kevin Espiritu is an inbound marketing consultant working in the San Diego area. He works with several small businesses, as well as with author Mel Bartholomew of Square Foot Gardening fame and the SEO competitive analysis and keyword research startup serpIQ. When he's not working, Kevin likes surfing, gardening, and playing music.

Visit my site at Supreme Strategies

Comments For This Post

Posted by johnsonasu35 at April 19, 2012
I agree that domain age can definitely effect a websites rankings. However it is not the sole factor. I think that a consistent SEO campaign still has to be in place to keep solid rankings. I also know that if you are doing SEO on an aged domain, and using similar tactics with a new domain, then the aged one will rank higher, hands down. For example: One of my newer clients has a 9 year old domain. They have only used it for email for the past 9 years and never really built anything out on it, or may have done so a few years back but took it down. Around 3months ago, we got a website live on there, and began to optimize for geo targeted key terms. Literally within days these pages are now ranked in top positions for Accountant, CPA, Tax Prep keywords, and on last PR update in Feb it went from N/A pr to PR 3. vs. Another client who I have been working on for similar key terms in lower competition areas, has barely breached the bottom of the first page for only a handful of pages. So I definitely agree domain age combined with proper SEO can really give a big time boost if done properly. Great thread.. looking forward to more topics.
Posted by phoenixrising at April 19, 2012
Thanks for reading! I agree that a consistent SEO campaign is necessary, domain age is in no way a cure-all for ranking websites. I'm interested in your case study. On your client's 9 year old domain, are you saying that there was no content (and thus, no linking or trust associated with the domain) and that it then popped up in PR and ranking? What's the domain age of the newer client's website? Definitely interesting if they're targeting the same niche in the same area and the only difference is domain age. Thanks for checking the post out, and we'll be coming up with some **really** cool stuff about content length and rankings soon!
Posted by aspratley at April 20, 2012
I think it's good that you are trying to dig into your data a little more and actually do some analysis. However I don't really think that these figures prove much. You didn't do any analysis on the correlation. Saying 93% of the results are over a year old also isn't that helpful. If there was an even distribution then you'd expect each year to have about 4-5% of the results. Though obviously you would need to factor in that there are probably going to be fewer very old domains because there weren't nearly as many people using the web. Could the spike in the 11year range be due to wikipedia? Which ranks very well and has a very wide SERP coverage.

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