Domain and page age are everything when it comes to SEO. Essentially, when you are thinking about domain age, you are also answering the question: "How long will it take my website to rank?" When you create pages on a website, those pages will rank over time. Eventually, Google will remember those URLs. If you change them, take them offline, or do anything else with them other than let them exist and update them over time, you run the risk of taking that page out of the search engines.
How does domain age come into play with SEO?
Let's take a look at a random Google search result. For this example, we picked a Google search for "liquid herbal supplements." If you click the three dots next to the search result to learn more about the individual search result, Google gives you an approximation of when the domain was first indexed. In some ways, this is a trust factor. If you further expand the "more options," you'll find more information about the company on other websites and sometimes you'll see reviews of the business. Clearly, age is a trust factor when a website has a history with search engines.
How do SEOs often think about aged domains?
Backlinks are an important rankin factor. We know this. But, how do they come into play with an aged domain? Here are some things to know about aged domains, backlinks, and ranking potential:
1. Aged backlinks are a double-edged sword.
Search engines do compute them into the ranking factor a little bit. But let's say that you have an aged backlink that ranks to a blog post that has never been updated. Over time, Google will depreciate the importance of that backlink and the blog post itself as it ages towards being outdated.
Here is a backlink to SEO Gone Wild that was secured in 2020 → https://mynewsfit.com/seven-reasons-why-link-building-is-important-for-your-seo-strategy/
This backlink's target URL is towards a blog post that was published in 2020. After a while, the blog post didn't appear in the SERPs any longer. We tried to resurrect that blog post and backlink by taking the following steps:
- We updated the blog to be "Link Building Tips for 2023."
- We did a 301 redirect of the blog post to a new updated link that replaced the 2020 with a 2023 (for another note, you should never do a year in the URL).
- We reindexed the page. Note that the backlink still does not appear in our search console
Effectively, two things killed this blog post and the backlink. The fact that we never updated the content and that we didn't take advantage of the aged backlink. In fact, setting up the 301 redirect was a pathetic last ditch effort to give that old blog post that we wrote some life.
Do all backlinks show up in Google Search Console? No. But it seems that if it is reported to the webmaster in Search Console, Google is likely counting it towards are search engine rankings.
Here is the lesson about aged backlinks to remember:
1. The referring domain must remain relevant (this referring domain used to be largely about marketing topics, but it's gone in the direction of being a "generalist" guest blog).
2. The target URL must be relevant and current (don't change the publication date on the blog post; change the "updated on" field if you have that option.
3. You darn well better keep the original URL.
2. SEOs often have an orgy over an aged domain, but often the website they are rebuilding it on is not relevant.
Let's take a look at purple.com. This is a popular domain for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, it is one of the oldest domains on the Internet. Secondly, when the mattress company bought it, they paid a pretty penny of $900k+ for this domain. But was it a good strategy from an SEO perspective? Here's the SEMrush graph of backlinks over the years.
We can see a huge explosion in referring domains and backlinks from the time Purple bought the domain. But the huge growth in backlinks is not because it's an aged domain. It's because Purple went out, bought a domain, and also did a shit ton of marketing, including digital and print ads. Purple exploded on search engines because of their hard marketing work.
Also, it's interesting to see the existing backlinks in SEMrush (which of course, does not show in tools like Moz and SEMrush). Most of the links that show up in SEO reports come from AFTER 2017. In fact, there are only a handful of URLs pre-2017.
The dangers of buying an aged domain are discussed in detail on this blog post. If you are going to start your business on an aged domain, you better damn well figure out what they did with it before it ended up in your domain portfolio.
The biggest mistake SEOs make with aged domains is that they don't THINK about whether or not the existing link profile will support the niche of the new business. If you are flipping a blog, you don't have any backlinks going to what was a product page and a bunch of backlinks pointing to articles that no longer exist. Do you REALLY want to set up 301 redirects for thousands of backlinks? And where are you going to point them?
The play on the aged domain should be setting up a NICHE website with links to match that niche. Take a look at SEO Gone Wild on the Wayback Machine. We liked this domain because someone set up an e-commerce store on what we think was Open Cart to sell SEO services as products. While this domain doesn't have a ton of aged backlinks, we did notice early on that it was able to rank well quickly for really easy SEO terms. We picked Shopify to build our SEO business because we felt that selling SEO services in an ecommerce setting might be somewhat similar to the older instances of this website.
The bottom line: Purple bought this domain for glamour reasons. They probably would have been just fine building one of the biggest mattress companies on a domain like purplemattresses.com
3. The Lesson: Aged Domains Work Best If You Buy One That Has Some Google History (not necessarily backlinks) And Is Somewhat Similar to Its Earlier History
Don't buy an aged domain because it has a ton of backlinks. You're probably not going to be able to CPR those backlinks into something that is valuable for your website. The domain's history will help you rank better for easier keywords.
To be fair, here is the history of our domain:
You can see we started getting some traction early on, but then gave up on it after a while. In March of 2023, we started pounding the pavement again. In one month, we grew our ranking keywords by more than 200%. But hey, 200% is super easy when you did nothing for almost two years!
Okay, now back to our original point about page age and domain age.
Page Age Is Also Important (In other words, don't fuck with your URLs!)
In softer language, respect the URLs of your website in almost every scenario. There will be some instances where someone screwed up the first time and left it alone after the fact. Making changes could be beneficial in the long run, but will hurt for the short term. Consider e-commerce stores that set up their entire website on a subdomain. You're a friggin' e-commerce store first. You can set up your store without a subdomain. But if you set up a subdomain, you've probably invested some major dollars into SEO. If you change back to the main URL, you're going to have to take three steps back. Those three steps back could turn into five steps forward down the road. But you're traffic will certainly hurt for a while if you change back to the main URL (there is also the possibility that your traffic might not drop).
Here's what Moz said on the issue back in 2016: Every time you do a redirect, your traffic drops a little bit.
Your "barstool," turned into a two-word spelling of "barstool," and then it turned into a "29" bar stool."
It's better to do things right the first time. And look at what this study from Ahrefs found:
The majority of websites on the Internet that have a top ranking are more than three years old. It's very hard to get a new URL to rank within six months, let alone one year. And if you change the URL, even with a 301, you are essentially starting out with a brand new page. Doing a URL right the first term isn't an exact science, but there are a few things to get it done right the first time:
- Try to get the URL in the keyword or get a resemblance of the simplest thing possible: i.e., /basement-waterproofing for a general service page, get the city name and maybe a keyword in for the location pages).
- If you have some version of the keyword in the domain itself, you might be able to get away with something simpler, basementwaterproofingcompany.com/timbuktu.
- Whatever you start with, try to stick with it, unless someone REALLY fucked up (i.e. if someone copied all of your products from one product without changing the URL, it's a good idea to start over).
Remember that older content will likely stagnate over time (pages are likely less to do so than blog posts). You can keep your URLs fresh by updating content, adding new links to old content, and doing all the good "SEO stuff."
What about website migrations?
Well, yuck. But sometimes, site migrations have to happen. When you do a site migration, you are probably doing so because the existing platform isn't scaling for your business. If you are doing a site migration from something like WordPress to Shopify, you will have to change your URLs:
i.e., /widgets/wrench → /collections/widgets/products/wrench
Take the time to go through each one and set up the 301 redirects in this situation. Some people even think about the vice versa, if they go from Shopify to WordPress (which frankly, there must be a good reason for). You could potentially do your "categories" with a "collection" in the URL slug so that your file paths would emulate that of the old Shopify website, but it might be overcomplicating the matter. You might also be dealing with a situation where your old platform didn't support humanized or simplified URLs, but that's an argument for another day. The redirects are just going to need to be checked and doublechecked.
The bottom line
The bottom line? You should understand that domain age and page age are somewhat important Google ranking factors. Don't buy an aged domain without researching it. Don't think that the garbage truck worth of backlinks is going to help you rank. Keep your URLs as constant as you can on your website, don't flip between subdomains and the main domain. You might have to deal with either someone's incompetence when they set up the website. Most of the time, after you delete old URLs, there is no going back. Your journey into Search Console will be like a walk on a minefield...you get to see what no man's land looks like after the explosions have happened.