One of the many factors in Google's search engine algorithm is the age of a domain name. In a small way, the age of a domain gives the appearance of longevity and therefore a higher relevancy score in Google.
Driven by spam sites which pop up and die off quickly, the age of the domain is usually a sign whether or not a site is yesterday's news or tomorrow's popular site. We see this in the world of business, for example. While the novelty that may go with a new store in town brings a short burst of initial business, people tend to trust a business that has been around for a long time over one that is brand new. The same is true for websites. Or, as Rob from BlackwoodProductions.com says, "Rent the store (i.e. register the domain) before you open for business".
Two things that are considered in the age of a domain name are:
- The age of the website
- The length of time a domain has been registered
The age of the website is built up of how long the content has been actually on the web, how long the site has been in promotion, and even the last time content was updated. The length of time a domain has been registered is measured by not only the actual date the domain was registered, but also how long it is registered for. Some domains only register for a year at a time, while others are registered for two, five, or even ten years.
In the latest Google update that SEOs call the Jagger Update, some of the big changes seen were the importance given to age; age of incoming links, age of web content, and the date the domain was registered. There were many things, in reality, that were changed in this last update, but since we're talking about the age of a domain, we'll only deal with those issues specifically. We'll talk more in other articles about other factors you will want to be aware of that Google changed in their evaluation criteria of websites on the Internet.
One of the ways Google uses to minimize search engine spam is by giving new websites a waiting period of three to four months before giving it any kind of PageRank. This is referred to as the "sandbox effect". It's called the "sandbox effect" because it has been said that Google wants to see if those sites are serious about staying around on the web. The sandbox analogy comes from the concept that Google does this by throwing all of the new sites into a sandbox and let them play together, away from all the adults. Then, when those new sites "grow up", so to speak, then they are allowed to be categorized with the "adults", or the websites that aren't considered new.
What does this mean to you? For those of you with new websites, you may be disappointed in this news, but don't worry. There are some things you can do while waiting for the sandbox period to expire, such as concentrating on your backlink strategies, promoting your site through Pay-per-click, articles, RSS feeds, or in other ways. Many times, if you spend this sandbox period wisely, you'll be ready for Google when it does finally assign you a PageRank, and you could find yourself starting out with a great PageRank!
Even though the domain's age is a factor, critics believe it only gets a little weight in the algorithm. Since the age of your domain is something you have no control over, it doesn't necessarily mean that your site isn't going to rank well in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It does mean, however, that you will have to work harder in order to build up your site popularity and concentrate on factors that you can control, link inbound links and the type of content you present on your website.
So what happens if you change your domain name? Does this mean you're going to get a low grade with a search engine if you have a new site? No, not necessarily. There are a few things you can do to help ensure that your site won't get lost in the SERPs because of the age of the domain.
1. Make sure you register your domain name for the longest amount of time possible. Many registrars allow you to register a domain name for as long as five years, and some even longer. Registering your domain for a longer period of time gives an indication that your site intends to be around for a long time, and isn't going to just disappear after a few months. This will help boost your score with regards to your domain's age.
2. Consider registering a domain name even before you are sure you're going to need it. We see many domains out there that even while they are registered; they don't have a website to go with it. This could mean that the site is in development, or simply someone saw the use of that particular domain name, and wanted to snatch it up before someone else did. There doesn't seem to be any problems with this method so far, so it certainly can't hurt you to buy a domain name you think could be catchy, even if you end up just selling it later on.
3. Think about purchasing a domain name that was already pre-owned. Not only will this allow you to avoid the "sandbox effect" of a new website in Google, but it also allows you to keep whatever PageRank may have already been attributed to the domain. Be aware that most pre-owned domains with PageRank aren't as cheaply had as a new domain, but it might be well worth it to you to invest a bit more money right at the start.
4. Keep track of your domain's age. One of the ways you can determine the age of a domain is with this handy Domain Age Tool. What it does is allows you to view the approximate age of a website on the Internet, which can be very helpful in determining what kind of edge your competitors might have over you, and even what a site might have looked like when it first started.
To use it, simply type in the URL of your domain and the URLs of your competitors, and click submit. This will give you the age of the domains and other interesting information, like anything that had been cached from the site initially. This could be especially helpful if you are purchasing a pre-owned domain.
Because trustworthy sites are going to have to be the wave of the future, factoring in the age of a domain is a good idea. Even though a site that may have been around for years may suddenly go belly-up, or the next big eBay or Yahoo! just might be getting it start, it may not be a full measure of how trustworthy a site is or will be. This is why there are many other factors that weigh into a search engine's algorithm and not just a single factor alone. What we do know is that we've seen age becoming of more importance that it had been previously, there are only good things to be said about having a site that's been around for a while.
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