opinion

Does WHOIS Data Affect Search Engine Rankings?

Stephen Yagielowicz

Does WHOIS data (the information detailing a domain name’s ownership) affect search engine rank? While it is not a new question, the correct answer may change over time — prompting webmasters to continually seek facts in support of ongoing speculation surrounding WHOIS and search rankings.

Indeed, several years ago, the question ran rampant when Google became a domain registrar, with many marketers opining on the subject, most anecdotally noting no significant change in ranking when switching between public and private registrations, or when changing registrars.

It seems that Google does not consider registration age from WHOIS records, but values “age” indirectly.

However, is this the case today — and was it even true back then?

Although search engines are notoriously cautious about revealing the exact parameters of ranking algorithms, one consideration that is doubtlessly prominent is “transparency of ownership,” especially when it comes to “commercial” websites. The reason for this is simple: legitimate businesses make it easy for customers to find them, while scammers do their best to hide from customers. Ownership data obfuscation, such as “Private Registration,” should thus result in a rank decline, as opposed to an entity using a real name, street address and contact / telephone information — when other factors are equal.

Still, a physical address on the website (whether it matches WHOIS data or not) seems to help only localized searches, such as for a retail store.

Another consideration is single ownership of multiple sites, such as an adult blog network, where one owner operates (and interlinks) perhaps thousands of websites. An impartial human observer may note significant similarities between these properties, judging them one site — not thousands of unique properties, each deserving high rankings. A search engine may see it the same way.

Furthermore, many registrars put forth the benefit of better search engine rankings associated with longerterm domain registrations. For example, a site with a registration expiration date next month is likely to rank lower than it would if it had a date a decade into the future — if the registrar is truthful about this “benefit.” Google denied this several years ago, however.

Additionally, the notion of “domain age” arises frequently — especially by those selling old domains, but once again, it seems that Google does not consider registration age from WHOIS records, but values “age” indirectly, reasoning that older domains have more inbound links.

For adult marketers, privacy is a concern and while these assumptions stand to reason, without a direct admission from a major search engine, none of this speculation may be provable — and those admissions are not likely to be forthcoming.

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