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The Truth About Domain Expiration And SEO

Today let’s discuss the importance of domain expiration and whether or not it has any effect on search engine optimization (SEO).

To be clear, we’re not talking about buying expired domains to build private blog networks (PBNs) for growing traffic. If you’re more interested in that topic, you can check out our other post, Where Do You Find Good Expired Domains?

What we’re here to discuss is the impact that expiring domains could have on your site.

How old should a domain be to have any effect on SEO? Is there any correlation between domain registration and higher SERP rankings?

Let’s talk about it.

What Does Domain Expiration Have to Do With SEO?

The older a domain is, the better its chances of ranking higher in the search engine result pages. That’s been the long-standing belief of some SEOs.

And honestly, the logic behind it makes sense.

Google looks for all sorts of signals to determine if a site is good or bad. Some believe that domains registered for extended periods appear more legitimate than newer domains.

But is there any truth to this?

The short answer: No.

Think about it. There are plenty of reasons why someone would choose to renew their domains annually. It could be due to budget constraints. It could be part of their strategy. Or maybe they just don’t like committing to a domain registrar for long periods.

None of these reasons has anything to do with the quality of a site or its content.

Also, newly registered domains need to have a fighting chance. If domain registration becomes a ranking factor, none of them stands a chance.

Besides, a site that’s been around for a while can be just as spammy as any other domain. There’s no guarantee that it will operate in good faith under the guidelines that Google has set.

Someone can also buy a domain and hold on to it for years without using it (commonly referred to as domain parking). Some companies even choose to purchase new domains and use them to redirect some of their old pages.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. This theory got disproved and laid to rest several times already.

Debunking the Myth

Just look at these reports from SEO Roundtable. The site has gone on record several times debunking the myth, citing sources from Google itself. But despite their best efforts, SEO Roundtable can’t seem to put people at ease.

Here’s a brief timeline of the reporting:

  • May 2008 — It’s believed that registering a domain for prolonged periods signify that you’re committed to your site. However, some believe that it has no bearing at all.
  • September 2009 — Google goes on record that domain name registrations have no impact on search engine rankings.
  • November 2016 — The issue is once again brought up. Google’s John Mueller denies that domain registration is a ranking signal. He points out that this is not what you want to spend your time on.
  • April 2017 — People once again asks if domain age matters when it comes to SEO. This time, John answers in one word: “No.”
  • November 2018 — You get where this is going. John Mueller once again had to emphasize that there is no link between domain registration and site ranking. He goes on to say that domain registration is more of a practical matter than anything else.

Here’s the Twitter exchange where John explains his answer.

domain expiration - john mueller twitter

Notice that he mentions that there are restrictions in place that limit registration lengths. This is true. There’s a limit as to how many years a user can register a domain.

But what about new domains? If not old domains, maybe newer ones have an advantage?

As it turns out, they don’t. At least according to John.

domain expiration - john mueller new domains

There you have it. Google doesn’t appear to give either new or old domains any advantage. It treats both domain types the same.

Why the Persistence Then?

If Google itself has denied the claim numerous times, then why are people insisting that there’s a connection?

It may have something to do with a patent that Google has in its possession. Without getting into the weeds of the patent, it does mention obtaining historical data and using it to rank pages.

Do note, however, that just because a company—especially one that’s as big as Google—has a patent to something does necessarily mean that they’re using it.

But there’s more evidence that supports the sceptics’ claims.

In an interview with Small Business Search Marketing, Jon Glick (a former member of Yahoo!’s search team) disclosed that domain registration is a factor.

domain expiration - jon glick interview

Then there’s commentary from known SEO personalities like Sean Si who claim that domain age does matter.

So Should I Worry About Domain Expiration?

Yes and no.

While other online marketers would say that it does matter, there’s no evidence to suggest that domain age impacts SEO in any way.

However:

There’s still a need to worry about domain expiration. It’s always a vital part of your website, and you shouldn’t take it for granted.

You don’t want to lose your domain because this will force you to secure another. That’ll affect not only your branding but also your inbound links. You’ll lose your organic traffic and rankings.

One way to avoid that is by automatically renewing your domain registration. This means your domain registration gets renewed before or as soon as your contract expires.

Keep in mind that by enabling this feature, the registrar will automatically bill your account for renewal.

There are other compelling reasons why you’d want to renew your domain registration automatically. Let’s take a look at a few.

You’ll Never Forget to Renew

In July 2017, Marketo (a marketing software automation company) started receiving complaints about users not being able to access the system. While their team scrambled to figure out the issue, one of Marketo’s customers—a domain name specialist—knew what was going on.

Marketo forgot to renew their domain registration automatically.

Fortunately, that customer was kind enough to buy the domain and hand it back to Marketo. If the domain somehow ended up in the wrong hands, the billion-dollar company would have suffered a tremendous loss.

If it could happen to a company that big, it could happen to anyone.

By setting up your account to renew as soon as it expires, you’ll save yourself from all the hassle. You can focus on other aspects of your business without having to worry about domain registration.

You’ll Save Money

Registration fees are set to increase in the next couple of years. As The Verge points out in their post, domain prices could improve for the first time in eight years.

From the average price of $7.85 per domain, it could rise to $13.50 over the next ten years.

By signing up for a longer plan, you’ll pay for a couple of year’s worth of domain registration at today’s prices.

You’ll Be Able to Sell Them Easier (and at a Good Price)

Old domains are an easy sell, especially if yours is a good one.

Why?

While the domain name itself is an essential factor, its SEO benefits also go into consideration. As mentioned earlier, some people believe in the value of aged domains. And they’re willing to spend on acquiring them.

Recently, some businesses bought domains at Sedo, a buy-and-sell marketplace for domain names. The prices went north of $2,000 — the highest of which went all the way to $150,000.

You’ll Appear More Authentic

Domains that have been around for longer tend to be more authentic than newer ones. People prefer sites that have a proven record. This is especially true for sites where the wrong information could prove fatal.

Let’s look at medical sites as an example. As it is, there are tons of fraudulent sites online that capitalize on the latest health scare.

Take the coronavirus. Hackers are now taking advantage of people looking for news about the life-threatening illness. They are creating malicious sites by buying coronavirus-related domain names and using them as a delivery system for a malicious malware called Emotet.

domain expiration - mashable

The same issue arose during the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign. Phishers are now using fake domains to impersonate presidential hopefuls such as Bernie Sanders (or any of their representatives). Their end goal is to have people download suspicious files or set up a call that they can record and publish.

Now more than ever, people need reliable sources of information. And believe it or not, domain age is starting to play a role in determining which sites are legitimate and which ones aren’t.

You’ll Never Have to Depend on Renewal Requests

Renewal requests can be irritating. Imagine receiving them every couple of months. By signing up for longer periods, you’ll rid yourself of these prompts and have peace of mind.

You might think turning them off would solve the issue. But we’re only human and therefore tend to forget. By the time you remember to renew your domain subscription, it may be too late.

Take pay.io as an example. The company only recently discovered that their domain had been acquired back in 2012. They only found out about it in October 2019.

Why the big fuss?

Domain names with a .io extension are valuable. The domains swipe.io and cook.io were sold at $68,000 and $39,750 respectively.

domain expiration - io

So don’t risk losing your domain because you missed a renewal request. Renew your domain for more years so you never miss a payment.

Keep your domain names secure.

Conclusion

Look, there’s reason to think about domain expiration. But it shouldn’t be your sole focus. If you want to improve your SEO, your time would be better spent fixing dead links, enhancing your anchor texts, link building, reaching out for blog opportunities, or any of the other proven SEO strategies.

If there’s a key takeaway, it’ll be this: Make sure you don’t forget to renew your domain registration once their expiration date comes around.

Also, don’t forget the email address you used when you signed up for your domain names. Otherwise, you won’t be able to access your domain service provider’s interface.

 

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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