While the question Google’s Matt Cutts is answering here is about site age (how Google determines website or domain age, and how much that matters) what’s fascinating to me about this clip is something he mentions as an aside.
But let’s cover the question first. Google determines a site’s age based on when it first crawled it, or when it first found a link to it, not when the domain was purchased. In typical Google fashion, Matt doesn’t really answer the question about exactly how important a site’s age is, and mentions quality content and links again (Oh Matt!). He mentions that Google acquired a patent on using historical data in search results 5 years ago, which might lead one to believe site age really matters to them. Though Google has acquired an awful lot of patents over the years…
Either way, we do know that site age IS an SEO factor. Having a domain that’s been up and running for 10 years is a definite boon to rankings. Though not enough to cancel out the big two – lots of good content and quality back links. Without those, the age of your domain is insignificant.
What particularly interests me is how Matt suggests buying your domain 2 or 3 months ahead of time and putting up a placeholder before putting your website live. As you can easily buy a domain, upload your already completed site, and find it crawled by Google in a matter of days with no effort on your part, this is peculiar. It almost seems like a validation of the much disputed “sandbox” for new sites theory that still rears its head from time to time. This theory being that new websites would be indexed but were unlikely to be ranked for a period of time, which they would spend in a metaphorical “sandbox” created by Google. Whatever it means, I think we should probably follow his advice on this one. “2 or 3 months” ahead of time for new domains.