Search Rank: Site Age in Context

By Rebecca Stewart, Organic Search team
TOPICSFeatured, Google, Organic Search

The connection between a site or page’s age is a recognized ranking factor, but a recent roundtable with Google’s John Mueller shed some light on the reasoning behind some age-related patterns. The entire ranking algorithm plays a considerable role when weighed in context, but ultimately, site age can be an outsized factor even among other signals.

Old vs. New Pages in Google

What are the differences between an old page and a new page as it pertains to the ranking algorithm for Google? Among other considerations, an old site may be more likely to start with “http” than a new site, which will most likely begin with “https”. This is a “soft ranking factor” in Google’s algorithm according to Mueller. “Https” indicates that the site has been updated to the latest security protocol, although it gives only a small ranking boost over an “http” site.

The algorithm is more responsive to user behavior in this case. If multiple searchers regularly click on recent site pages for a specific query, Google will respond accordingly by ranking newer pages over older ones for that query.

External links directing to a page are still a strong influencer on site rank, however, and older sites have simply had more time to accrue those links and other indicators of being a popular resource worthy of higher rankings.

Mueller explained that people may be linking to longstanding pages either because they are still a valid reference or potentially because they aren’t aware that the Internet has produced fresher, more accurate content. While this is something Google intends to address, it’s not something that the algorithm accurately parses in its current incarnation.

Site Age by Industry

Some industries are affected by the passage of time in different ways, and this is also a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. As an example, the method to change a tire has been more or less the same over many years and would be considered evergreen content — which refers to content that doesn’t change much over time.

Alternatively, a news site would be considered valuable by searchers for having current, accurate content. The site would receive more visits and presumably more external links to the desired content and therefore, they would rank accordingly.

For this reason, evergreen content presents a unique obstacle when ranking old versus new pages and sites. Evergreen content such as long-term research and basic how-to guides is perceived by the algorithm as a valuable reference that deserves to rank higher. Although Google does try to balance newer content as well, it has less authority than established content in evergreen subjects.

While the opportunity for new pages to rank is limited in an evergreen topic, the highest-ranking newer pages will place higher in search results as the algorithm maintains a balance of established content with fresher content.

The Takeaway

While it is possible for new pages to overtake old pages on Google, there are a variety of factors to consider that are beyond just site age. Old theories may not be as accurate as originally believed, but this new information opens opportunities to establish fresher content as an equally valuable resource to searchers, and by extension, the algorithm.