Does Registration Length Effect SEO?

I wrote a post yesterday about a particular Internet company tricking customers into believing that registering a Domain for a longer period of time will improve its search engine rankings. I thought I needed to cover this issue a bit more and get opinions from other SEO professionals. I’ve been building SEO-optimized websites for over fifteen years and stay on-top of all the latest SEO techniques. To give this company a fair chance I thought I’d do some more digging to see if there was something I missed. As always the point of my blog is to provide useful information to my readers not just spout-out my own personal opinions and slam other companies.

I do have to say that Network Solutions was very prompt at responding to my post as well as on Twitter which is a LOT more than I can say about many other companies online (like 1&1 who never responds to my posts, emails, or even phone calls asking about their service). So I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt, swallow my pride and look-into this issue a bit more. Here’s what I discovered.

Google’s Matt Cutts who is considered to be one of the world’s leading SEO experts said the following about registration length and SEO:

“To the best of my knowledge, no search engine has ever confirmed that they use length-of-registration as a factor in scoring. If a company is asserting that as a fact, that would be troubling.”

On a popular site – Internet Search Engine Database they say something a bit different that specifically applies to Google’s own algorithm.

According to the patent, “Certain signals may be used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains. For example, domains can be renewed up to a period of 10 years. Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year.

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This is contradictory to what Matt Cutts has said and does give Network Solutions a viable reason to believe that registration period may indeed be used in search engine ranking.

Popular Domaining blog NameCake discussed this issue back in January of this year:

If you get a chance to read the patents Google submitted for their search algorithm, you’ll see that length of registration is listed, so it very well could be a factor. But the chances are that if they do count it the impact given will be very minimal as it doesn’t tell them anything about the quality of your site or it’s relevance to a specific query.

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I downloaded Google’s own SEO Starter Guide and couldn’t find a single mention of registration period in their optimization techniques. If this was an important technique you’d think they would at least include it in their SEO Starter Guide since this is a technique that anyone of any skill-level could apply.

So with no conclusive evidence available I think the jury is still out on this one. While registration length does not seem to have any significant effect on search engine ranking it could play a small role in Google’s super-secret search algorithm. The only major factor shedding doubt on this is Matt Cutts himself who clearly says that if a company is asserting that registration length is a factor in rankings it would be troubling.

As a blogger it is only fair that I show both sides of the issue and let you make-up your own mind. I’d like to thank Network Solutions for getting back to me so quickly after I wrote my post – this does show that they are actually out there reading blogs and staying on-top of Twitter chatter. Still I do have to say that I don’t understand why I can register a .com domain with GoDaddy for $8 and have to pay $35 to register the exact same domain with Network Solutions. If you only own one domain it might not be an issue but as a domain investor with hundreds of domains I can tell you Network Solutions will have to drop their prices and play with the big boys to grow their market-share.

Share your thoughts? Do you think that registration length effects search engine ranking?

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Jamie Zoch August 3, 2009, 9:03 am

    I think registration “length” does NOT. I have tested it with DotWeekly and have seen no difference. One thing I DO think makes a little bit of difference is Creation Date. Newly created domains (even ones from PD Drops) will have a harder time ranking then domains with a creation date that has some age.

  • Ross August 3, 2009, 9:33 am

    I have not seen length of registration have any effects on my websites at all. I usually only register domains for 1 year and see if i can make something of them.

    My blog is testament to the fact that length has little to no effect. I have regged the domain only 1 year at a time and come to find out google sends me boat loads of traffic everyday. On top of that i am indexed at least once a day.

    However i can see that length of registration playing in a role of when google sorts and crawls your site when it is brand new. It does make sense to crawl a brand new site that has been regged for 10 years over a site that has been for 1 year. Small chance of this playing a part but i doubt it.

  • Jamie Zoch August 7, 2009, 3:11 pm

    I think further proof that the length of registration has little effect, is Google.com itself. It’s currently registered until 9-14-2011. It “could” be 2019, but it’s not…

    Yahoo.com is about the same with it’s expire date at 1-18-2012

  • Cool Springs TN October 10, 2009, 4:44 am

    That was a pretty good review of the situation. I think another thing that complicates it, but is hard to factor out and that is the Google sandbox.