Barry Schwartz picked up on a thread over at WebMasterWorld. The thread was started by Brett Tabke, and discusses the affect of domain age on search engine rankings. In it Brett suggests that it’s a top 5 or top 10 factor in rankings.
That’s lofty territory! However, I can confirm from my own experience that domain age is a major factor. I know of sites that seem to be absolutely squatting in the number 1 position on major search term results when the links and content they have just don’t seem to justify it.
What’s behind this, and how big is it? First things first, we know that “Trust Rank” is a big factor in rankings. Sites that have been around for a long time, and that have maintained a consistent theme (this is key) get positive points from a trust point of view.
This is simply because businesses that survive the test of time are less likely to be spammers. There are other related things you can do, such as pay for your domain for multiple years in advance, as this is something that a spammer may be less likely to do (although this would be a minor rankings factor).
Trust is huge. Another major factor is to get a link from a highly trusted site. This is something that will provide value beyond what you would expect, provided that the link is relevant, and not purchased. The reason this provides higher levels of benefits is that it affects your trust score, and your relevance rankings as well. You win twice.
But back to the old domain discussion … having a domain that has a few years on it has real value. If you are planning to start a new web site, you might want to think carefully about acquiring an existing domain that has been around for a while.
Just make sure you buy something that is highly relevant to the topic of your planned web site. And check out it’s history and make sure it doesn’t have any negative flags on it from the search engines (i.e. was it banned at any time in it’s history, or does it appear to have any algorithmic penalties on it)