Will greatly changing the content effectively change the domain age?

This question is based on the following postulates:

  1. The age of a domain is a factor when search engines calculate ranking. Generally, older is better; an older domain is less likely to be a fly-by-night spam site.
  2. If the content of a site is completely changed, the age of the domain will probably be “reset” by the search engines, lowering its ranking. This is to prevent spammers from buying old, high-PR domains and setting up spam sites.

If anyone would like to dispute or clarify any of these postulates, please do so.

If not, on to the question:

What constitutes a complete change of content?

A hypothetical example:

Adam has a website - he has had it since 1999. He built it using tables and updates it manually with Microsoft Word :nono:. Adam’s domain is as old as the site, and it’s also a short, memorable domain. For these reasons it ranks well in Google for keywords related to repairing widgets, which is Adam’s profession.

Adam has a friend, Bob. Bob offers to rebuild Adam’s site in Wordpress with a cool template. In addition, Bob refers Adam to a copywriter, Charlie, who rewrites Adam’s content - removing misspellings, editing, organizing articles more logically, and giving the site a new front page. Some articles are outdated and get deleted. Charlie also helps Adam write some new articles.

By the time they’re through, it looks like a completely different site. Most of the content has changed, and the page structure is totally altered.

Will Google be able to figure out that the site still belongs to Adam and should still be considered an 11-year-old site?

Or, is there a possibility that Google will mistake the facelift for an entirely new site - perhaps even an evil spam site - and penalize Adam for the improvements? Keep in mind that the theme of the site, widget repair, is the same.

Thanks for reading through this long post. Ideas would be welcome. :slight_smile:

Thanks for your thoughts.

Brings up an interesting point: What if the domain in question has privatized registration? I always privatize my own and my customers’ to avoid domain scam junk mailings.

As far as I know, the domain age is calculated on how long it has been with the current registrant - so if Adam still owns the site, it counts as an 11-year-old site. But if he sells the site to Simon Spammer, the age would be reset to zero at that point.

Google is also smart enough to figure out the difference between a site being replaced and a site being upgraded. Re-written content and a new design are common on existing domains, and as long as the content is on the same topic, that won’t ring any alarm bells. Of course, if Adam’s old site was about (for example) tropical fish, and the site that Bob and Charlie write for him is about package holidays in the Mediterranean, that is going start waving red flags at Google HQ, and might cause them to treat it as a whole new site.