May 4th, 2010 Add Your Comments Bookmark and Share

I think that everybody knows that how long you have owned your domain has some impact on your search rankings. Google has made this widely known and so every SEO expert has an opinion on it. What I would guess though is that most people don’t realise just HOW important domain age is, I know I didn’t until a recent example highlighted it to me.

Way back in 2003 I bought some new hosting for a specific task I had in mind, it wasn’t that cheap but part of the deal was a “free” domain name. I wasn’t really into building multiple sites back then but I didn’t want to pass up on my free domain so I registered any old junk. A couple of years later when I first thought about looking at WordPress I decided to use that domain as a test install. Essentially all that domain ever had on it was a base WordPress install, not even a single post that I’d written! I had never linked to it either, I’d never done anything to either add to or promote that domain. It sat there for 7 years doing nothing.

Jumping back to the more recent past and at the beginning of this year I decided to wade into another niche that I saw had potential for massive affiliate earnings. I had done all my research, bought a brilliant domain name and have to date spent close to $2000 on content for it. In other words it’s been a significant investment. There is very little in the way of advertising in place at the moment but the traffic stats I’m seeing show that the niche has some obvious potential (no I’m not going to share it). However things seem to have hit a plateau. There seems to be a limit to the competitiveness of the search terms that I can successfully rank for. I’m not getting anywhere with the real big hitters – I don’t mind, I expect this with any new project.

Are you still there, I guess this isn’t making much sense yet? This is where it does get interesting though. In the past 6 weeks I’ve started to use my 2003 domain, I started to just post random ramblings related to my other domains and linking back. After FIVE posts my domain sprung a PR2 on the Google PR checker. I’ve done no linking to it. I then wrote a keyword targeted article about my new niche and posted that to it, linking back to an article on my new website. See if you can guess which one is currently ranked number 2 in Google for the target search phrase and getting in excess of 600 unique visitors a day? Is it the new website, all about one general subject, cracking domain name, good link profile, loaded with unique quality content. Or is it the 1 article on my junk domain that was left with nothing but a WordPress welcome page and now contains a random selection of my brain farts? If it was the first then there wouldn’t be much point to this post 🙂

I’ve always been a firm believer in the sandbox effect, I never expect much from a new site for at least the first 12 months. You have to dig deep and carry on working on it in the belief that you will eventually get the rewards for your work. It’s clear to me now that Google really is heavily weighting the variables that can’t be played with in the latest incarnation of its algorithm – one of the hardest to manipulate has to be domain age so who can blame them? I should state that this 1 ranking isn’t exactly a lucky one-off either. Just about everything on that old domain does very well, so much so that I’ve now started using another old domain I had sitting around as well. It will be interesting to see if it works the same for sub domains.

There are 2 lessons here. One is that I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have registered domains from donkeys ago and have never done anything with them, if this is you then rather than leaving a holding page with some PPC ads on them you really should think about taking advantage of Google’s current weighting on domain age.

The other lesson is that you are seriously going to struggle to outrank an old domain with a new one. It might be best to start getting into the mindset of planning for what you want to build next year, or the year after now. At the very least register the domains and get a few miles under their asses.