At this point, everyone is familiar with the ranking factors that Google uses to assess web pages.
But most people often leave one out from their list. And that’s domain age.
So how important is domain age to SEO? How does it affect how pages are ranked in the SERPs?
Is this something worth considering or should you simply go on with your current strategy and not give this a second thought?
In this post, we’ll explain what domain age is, how it works, and if you should spend more or less time thinking about it.
The answer might surprise you.
So, let’s jump right in and discuss the merits of domain age in SEO.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Domain Age?
- 2 How to Find the Domain Age of a Website?
- 3 The Significance of Domain Age as a Ranking Factor
- 4 Are Aged Domains Necessarily Better?
- 5 What Does This Mean?
- 6 So Is Domain Age Just a Number?
- 7 Building a Great Foundation for Your Domain
- 8 Conclusion
What Is Domain Age?
There are two ways you can interpret this. The most common meaning is the time a domain is bought and registered.
Search engines like Google define it another way.
To them, it’s the period by which a page is crawled for the first time. That or the first time search spiders see a link pointing to an uncrawled page.
For the rest of this article, we’re mostly sticking with Google’s definition.
If a website was bought and registered in March but wasn’t crawled until April, a domain turns one in April the following year.
So before we proceed, you might be wondering:
Why would search engines prefer to use site crawling as its method of establishing domain age? Wouldn’t it be easier (and fairer) if they used a site’s registration date instead?
Well, there’s a reason for that.
A site’s WHOIS information—a database of domain registration details—are not accessible to Google and other search engines.
It’s way easier for them to rely on crawlers to find new domains, pages, and links. Their algorithms then set the first day it saw the new content and uses that information to establish the site’s domain age.
How to Find the Domain Age of a Website?
It’s not so easy to determine when a page was first crawled.
But finding out when a site was registered should be a great starting point!
And while search engines find it hard to look up WHOIS information, it’s not as difficult for people like you to do so manually.
All it takes is finding the right tool for the job. You have several options.
Wayback Machine is a free online tool that stores cached versions of websites. Not only will it show you what a site used to look like years ago, but it also provides an estimate of when it launched.
The tool is easy to use. You simply enter the domain in the field provided, hit Browse History, and let Wayback Machine do its thing.
As an example, we’re using Neil Patel’s domain. After running the Wayback Machine, we saw that the first crawl happened on July 2001.
So we can then assume that as of July 2019, neilpatel.com is 18 years old.
However, if a site prevents web crawlers from accessing its pages through robots.txt then you’d have to use another method.
Domain Age Checkers
There are a good number of domain age checkers online. And most SEOs prefer using them over a site like Wayback Machine for their efficiency.
Not only will some domain age checkers let you scan multiple domains at once, but they also provide you with more data to go on.
For this section, we’ll be using Small SEO Tools’ Domain Age Checker.
And because it can check more than one domain at a time, let’s find the domain age of WordStream and Search Engine Journal.
Running the tool revealed that both sites have been around for 16 years and 2 months.
You’re also shown when the sites were created as well as their expiration date. If needed, you can download the report as a spreadsheet.
WHOIS Lookup Tool
A WHOIS lookup tool works the same way as a domain age checker.
By using a lookup tool, you’d be able to cross-check the time a domain was first crawled and when it was purchased.
As previously mentioned, getting WHOIS information is not that easy as they are not readily available to the public. You’ll need some luck if you’re using this method.
There are sites that offer this service for free. One of which would be whois.com which we’ll be using as an example.
Using the tool is pretty straightforward. Enter the domain in the corresponding field and hit Search.
WHOIS results go beyond the date of registration. They’re able to extract other information such as the domain registrar used along with other equally important details (registrant contact, administrative contact, and technical contact).
If the webmaster opted to hide his contact information, the registrar will show their contact information instead (GoDaddy in this case).
But regardless, both the registration date and the domain’s expiration date will be displayed.
SerpWorx is a paid SEO tool with single-user plans that start at $29.95 a month.
The company provides more than domain age information. You’re given access to popular SEO companies such as Majestic, Moz, and SEMrush.
While that may seem pricey, especially when the alternatives are free, SerpWorx offers more than just check for one’s domain age.
To start, install the SerpWorx extension for Google then sign up for an account.
Note: The company offers a 5-day free trial that doesn’t require users to provide their credit card information. You’ll only need to provide an email and a password.
Once registered, check your email to verify.
Once verified, you can log into your account through the browser extension. Now you can start using SerpWorx.
SerpWorx functions on a credit basis. The free version only gives you 210 daily. Every domain searched counts as 1 credit. Every Google query is worth 10.
Spend your credits wisely.
With SerpWorx activated, you can perform a Google query for a keyword you’re targetting and see the domain age of your competitors.
Let’s search Google using the term “domain age”.
You’ll notice that the results page includes a bunch of SEO data that wouldn’t be there without SerpWorx installed.
Towards the end of the columns, you’ll find a box labeled YRS. This tells you when the domain was first archived.
Hovering over the box, you’ll also be shown the average domain age of all the sites listed in the results. That lets you know how long these sites supposedly had to be up to rank for the keyword you’re also targeting.
The Significance of Domain Age as a Ranking Factor
Using any of the methods above, you should be able to determine a domain’s age.
Is it worth the trouble?
I say this because sources indicate that domain age isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
SEMrush does not include it in its list of the top 17 ranking factors.
And when Matt Cutts was asked about it some time ago, he too said that webmasters shouldn’t worry about it.
So is that it? Are we done here?
Well, not quite.
There’s still reason to believe that domain age plays a factor when it comes to SERP placement.
When you check the average domain page for keywords, for example, you’ll notice that the top pages would usually have domain ages that span years.
And we’re not only referring to short- and medium-tail keywords either. This is just as true for long-tail keywords as well.
And as you may know, it’s important for sites to focus on long-tail keywords. They have better chances of ranking thanks to their low keyword difficulty.
If you Google “what happens when you pulled the cardboard”, the average domain age of all the entries is 3.69 years.
Let’s try doing some research for a bunch of keywords that are related to chatbot technology.
We’re looking for the average domain age for all the pages that are ranking for the following terms:
- Facebook chatbot
- What are chatbots
- How do chatbots work
- Why chatbots fail
- Make money with chatbots
- Chatbots for customer service
- Chatbots talking to each other
- How to get rid of chatbots
- How to make chatbots talk to each other
We’re using SerpWorx for this test.
These are the results:
Out of the ten keywords, there’s only one instance when the average domain age seems to not matter (“How to get rid of chatbots”).
But that keyword’s search volume indicates that this could only be a new term and that people have just started writing about this topic.
As for the rest of the keywords, the pages that are ranking for these terms have an average domain age of 3.385 years.
Admittedly, the keyword sample size is too small to make a decisive inference. But these results do make you wonder why the average domain size exceeds the 1-year mark.
There has to be a connection, right?
Are Aged Domains Necessarily Better?
The results from our previous example showed us that aged domains tend to rank higher than new ones.
But does that mean aged domains will automatically rank higher?
Just because a domain has been around longer, it does not mean it will always outrank other pages who are ranking for the same keywords.
As of this writing, DFY Links only has a domain age of 11 months. And not to brag but it’s currently ranking in the number 6 position for the keyword “link building packages”.
And as you can see, we are outranking a few prominent sites including that have been around for far longer:
- SEOforgrowth.com (3 years, 10 months)
- Backlinko.com (7 years, 11 months)
- 1solutions.biz (10 years, 7 months)
- EZrankings.org (10 years, 6 months)
There are a number of factors that affected these results.
However, you also have to consider the nature of all the ranking pages. The keyword “link building packages” could be taken as either informational or transactional.
Note: We’ve covered User Intent in our post, Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines. There we cover the meaning of informational and transactional queries.
Some of the results are lists of what link building packages include so they fall under the informational category. Other pages like DFY Links offer link building services which make them transactional.
Since the user intent isn’t as clear, Google offered both types in the results.
It still does not change the fact that a younger site like ours managed to beat domains that have an average age of 7.5 years.
Here’s another example. This time we’ve used the keyword “Google Fred update”.
Once again, our entry has managed to outperform pages from sites that have been around a while.
In fact, DFY Links comes nowhere near the domain age of the rest of the entries for this keyword.
Needless to say, having a high domain age doesn’t translate to outranking the competition.
So what metrics enabled us to outrank other pages?
We used SerpWorx and Ahrefs to check competitor pages. We hoped to find clues as to how we were able to perform so well for this keyword.
We checked every page that ranked for “Google Fred update”. Or at least those that landed in the top ten results.
We gathered the following information for all pages concerned:
- Domain age
- Trust flow
- Citation flow
- Domain authority
- Page authority
- Backlinks (Ahrefs)
- Domains (Ahrefs)
- Word count
What did we learn?
Let’s see the results:
If you’ll notice, DFY Links’ key metrics do not surpass its competitors for “Google Fred update”.
Not in domain age, trust flow, citation flow, domain authority, page authority, backlinks, or domains.
Note: SerpWorx did not work in Wikipedia, hence the results being marked as N/A.
But we do beat them when it comes to word count. Our post clocked in at 3.43K words while the rest had 2,000 words give or take.
So is that the secret sauce?
Honestly, it’s not the only sauce.
Even while using third-party tools, we can definitely say that domain age did not play a role in ranking on the first page for this keyword.
But we can’t pinpoint which specific metrics pushed our post to page one against our well-known competitors.
What Does This Mean?
So after running our little test, where does that leave us? Is domain age really that important?
The answer: not really.
Hear us out.
Judging from the stats we pulled, domain age seems to be a benefit of circumstance. What do we mean by that?
Old domains are ranking higher in the SERPs because they’ve had more time online. And because of that, they’ve had more opportunities to generate backlinks. They’ve also had time to form a relationship with their audience.
Think about it:
There are so many sites that have been around forever. But most of them are not ranking for the keywords they are targeting. If domain age really affected page ranking, SEO would be as easy as buying mature domains.
Having an aged domain by itself won’t cause your pages to rank.
Let’s use an example to elaborate further.
Take Search Engine Journal again. As of August 2019, they have over 160,000 domains linking to them.
But that wasn’t always the case. Back in March 2013, they only had over 23,000 referring domains.
Over six years, this site was able to grow its referring links and make it six to seven times larger than before.
SEJ started at a time when they had fewer competitors. Starting earlier than the rest was one of their main advantages.
The site was born 16 years ago. Back then, there were only 40 million websites according to Internet Live Stats.
Don’t get us wrong: 40 million is a lot.
But compared to today’s numbers (1.7 billion sites), 40 million is a mere drop in the bucket. Plus, only a small fraction of the 40 million can be considered SEJ competitors.
What SEJ’s domain age tells us is that they had more time to mature. By the time the market had been oversaturated, they had a good foothold in the industry.
Does that mean new players have no chance of catching up to old domains?
No. In fact, some sites were able to establish themselves and outperform competitors despite being relatively young.
Take Backlinko this time.
Backlinko started only eight years ago. Back then, there were over 346 million sites online. It was a time when other SEO-related sites had already gained traction.
But today, Backlinko is one of the most trusted resources for SEO information.
And based on the numbers we’re seeing, Backlinko is still growing stronger.
It’s getting more referring links as time goes by.
What we’re trying to say is that new sites don’t have to be discouraged just because their domains are young. Everyone has a good chance of outranking established websites.
So Is Domain Age Just a Number?
In a way, it is.
If we’re being honest, domain age isn’t as important as the other ranking factors you may already be familiar with.
What’s more important is that pages have outstanding content. Making sure you follow Google’s guidelines should be your priority.
If you do things right and you have far better content to offer than your competitors, then your pages will rank for your target keywords no matter what.
Domain age doesn’t hurt you either.
Secure your domain as early as today. This just gives you more chances of creating tentpole content that will carry your brand moving forward.
Look at DFY Links.
As shown earlier, our site is ranking for competitive keywords even though DFY Links is only a new domain.
So you’d think that we’ve amassed hundreds—or even thousands—of links by this point, right?
But you’d be wrong for assuming that.
The reality is, we only have less than 200 unique domains pointing to our content.
You don’t need us to tell you that it is not enough nor does it compare to our competitors.
Our site performance on GTMetrix confirms that there’s still a lot we can do to improve.
So how were we able to manage to rank a page without domain age and backlinks factoring in?
Let’s talk about it.
Building a Great Foundation for Your Domain
We were able to establish that domain age isn’t a significant SEO factor when it comes to ranking in search engines. Or at the very least, its role is kept to a minimum.
So let’s set aside domain age for now.
Let’s shift our focus to other factors that can help you.
How can newer sites stand a chance against established ones?
Matthew Woodward, an SEO specialist, ran an experiment to see if he could earn money on Google without relying on off-page SEO factors.
How did he plan on accomplishing that goal?
By using nothing but high-quality content. He didn’t even do any link building (outside of self-promotion on forums and social media).
All he did was build his website around Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
At the end of it all, he wants to build a following through email subscribers, social media, and RSS.
As for his niche, he chose to create an SEO blog. Ironic when you think about it. But he chose a niche that’s rich with saturated content where it’s difficult to find anything original — one of the key requirements in the Webmaster Guidelines.
So how did he do?
According to his (now defunct) income report, pretty well.
Matthew basically set out to prove that you can build a site and use none of the usual off-page SEO tactics and still make money.
He relied solely on solid content and self-promotion and it worked.
DFY Links did the same. We continue to publish great content and share them with the world. Doing it this way paid off big time for us. It wasn’t long before we started ranking for keywords that we targeted.
We never relied on domain age.
How can you do this for yourself?
If you want to rank without the help of domain age and backlinks, you have to focus on three things. You want to think about your site architecture, you need to have killer content ideas, and improve your on-page optimization.
Site Structure and Architecture
When was the last time you paid any attention to what your site looks like?
Webmasters often create pages one after another. Which is great in a way but they often do so without giving any thought to site structure.
There should be a natural order. Internal linking is key.
SEO Fight Club discussed internal linking in-depth in one of their videos:
In the diagram above, you have four elements:
- Target Page
- Supporting Articles
- Home Page
- External high-quality backlinks
The goal here is to help boost the target page by publishing supplementary content and linking back to the page.
Then you need to build your articles with backlinks from authority sites to help funnel the link juice down your target page.
Another important factor here is finding related keywords for your target page.
In particular, make sure that people search the related keywords for your supporting articles. This increases the visibility of the articles and helps lead users to your target page.
In essence, find related pages and group them together.
Like a tree, your strongest pages should be the base. Supporting pages should branch out from the trunk. Your minor pages, like leaves, should be connected to the right branch.
When viewed from a distance, your internal linking should still make sense.
Killer Content Ideas
Create a list of killer ideas will make it possible for you to generate content on a regular basis.
Jot down ideas in your notebook or have an app that lets you make a list of post topics.
If you need some inspiration, you can look at some of your competitors and see what’s working for them.
You can even build an entire strategy around it. Not sure how? We dedicated an entire post around the idea. Look into our Skyscraper Technique article to learn more about it.
The bottom line:
You need a steady supply of well-written posts if you want to succeed without relying on domain age.
Webmasters will always link back to quality content.
You have to publish original content and follow Google Webmaster Guidelines. Don’t go copying the works of other people. You will be penalized if you do it that way.
Now, here’s another question:
How often should you publish content on your site?
A study conducted by Hubspot shows that writing at least 16 blog posts in a month will get 3.5x more traffic than those that publish 0-4 posts a month.
So does that mean you have to publish at least 16 skyscraper content a month?
Not really. Because here’s the thing:
You want to create content for the purpose of helping out your audience.
You don’t have to create content every day just so you can say you have lots of content.
In other words, your blog posting frequency has to make sense!
A single skyscraper content can yield results similar if not better than sites that publish the usual blog post content every day.
And if you can create skyscraper content every day without dumbing down the quality, then more power to you!
And that is the challenge. Exceptional content takes time to create. The process also includes promoting and building links to it.
So there are more factors involved here than simply winging the post for publishing.
But the key here is for you to establish what you’re comfortable in publishing and sustain your production. And the answer to this will come from you.
Since you’re not relying exclusively on off-page SEO, you need to build up your on-page SEO tactics.
WordPress users can make use of free plugins like Yoast to identify problem areas that they may not even be aware of.
But there are other third-party options available for improving on-page SEO.
You need to take a serious look at your metadata information to see if they include your key terms.
This way, even if you have a younger site, search engines will be able to pick up on your posts.
And you’d also want to familiarize yourself with Schema.
Note: Not sure what Schema is? We briefly covered this in our post, How To Do SEO For Multiple Location Businesses & Franchises.
Through Schema tags, search engines can have an easier time crawling your content and identifying your post’s context.
You’re going to need this if on-page optimization is your primary focus.
What else can you do?
Keywords, my dude.
Keyword research to be more specific. You need to push the right amount of keywords that are related to your niche.
Domain age isn’t a big factor but it does come into play indirectly.
There are better things to focus on. Even newer sites stand a chance at ranking for any keyword so long as users follow Google’s guidelines.
You should focus more on the quality of your content and other on-page factors that cause entries to shoot up the SERPs.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the factors that helped propel our site on top of SERPs are nothing groundbreaking.
In fact, you’re probably implementing them as part of your current strategy.
But we did answer the question about domain age as a ranking factor: it’s not really one.
In our case, aside from running a sophisticated content creation campaign, we focused on consistency.
Coming up with an effective SEO campaign is the easy part. Getting it done is another story.
So it really doesn’t matter if you have a young or old domain. What’s more important is that you build a site that serves a purpose to its search engine users.
And build it in such as way that you deliver value on a consistent basis.
Don’t create stuff whenever you feel like it. Publish content regularly so you can develop a readership. Also, launch a scalable link building strategy that you can improve on every month.
Ultimately, these ranking factors add up to higher keywords positions on SERPs.