Why Domain Age and Expiration Affect Search Engine Rankings

Search engines like to see that your domain name has history, since spammers frequently register and then quickly release domains. The theory goes that the older the domain, the more credible the site.

There are some in the SEO community who play down its importance, but one of Google’s patents refers to domain age as a valid signal to determine site relevance. Consequently, others conclude it plays a significant part in the ranking algorithm. The problem is that domains can be registered for years but contain no site content (parked domains), so if age is used by search engines there are certainly other factors to consider its relevance rather than just the date alone.

Admittedly, you don’t have much control over the age. With a brand new domain name, there’s not much you can do about the creation date since it’s set at the moment of registration. But you don’t always have to purchase new since there is a secondary market in existing domains, which enables the new owners to take advantage of aged domains. You can find these through most major domain registrars, such as Name.com and they also trade in auctions like eBay.com.

Whereas a brand new domain usually costs between $7-12 a year, the price of existing domains can vary widely. The only caveat to purchasing an existing domain is to carry out due diligence to ensure it hasn’t been part of a ‘bad neighborhood’ – inheriting sites with a history of spam or phishing will definitely not help SEO.

To find out when a domain was first created, go to http://whois.net and enter the name in the search field:

– Created Date shows the birthday of the domain and tells search engines how long the site has been in existence.
– Expiration Date indicates when the registration will lapse and the name will be deleted.

If you’re already committed to a ‘young’ domain name, even though you can’t change its age, you can extend its expiration. By default, most registrars bill their customers for the next 1 or 2 years, but you can optionally pay up to 10 years in advance (and at $9-12 a year, this is a reasonable investment).

Nobody knows for sure the significance of domain age and expiration in search engine rankings, but my opinion is that it doesn’t hurt to register the next 5-10 years if you have an established business that plans to operate for the foreseeable future. A longer domain expiration demonstrates a commitment to search engines that the site will be around for a while, so even if there’s only a small SEO benefit, it’s probably worth the investment.