Over at Search Engine Roundtable today, Barry Schwartz writes about the latest comments from Google about domain registration and its impact on SEO/search rankings. In this case, it’s Google employee John Mueller suggesting in a Google Webmaster Help forum thread that Google doesn’t look at the length of a domain registration:
A bunch of TLDs do not publish expiration dates — how could we compare domains with expiration dates to domains without that information? It seems that would be pretty hard, and likely not worth the trouble. Even when we do have that data, what would it tell us when comparing sites that are otherwise equivalent? A year (the minimum duration, as far as I know) is pretty long in internet-time :-).
But let’s look at some more evidence. Earlier this year, Danny spoke with Google’s Matt Cutts about a variety of domain/link/SEO issues. In light of the claims from domain registrars that longer domain registrations are good for SEO, Danny specifically asked “Does Domain Registration Length Matter?” Matt’s reply:
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.
But wait, there’s more! Shortly after the Q&A with Danny that we posted here, Matt published more thoughts on the matter in a video on the Google Webmaster Central Channel on YouTube.
If you don’t have time to watch the video, Matt says, “My short answer is not to worry very much about that [the number of years a domain is registered], not very much at all.” He reiterates that the domain registrar claims “are not based on anything we said,” and talks about a Google “historical data” patent that may or may not be part of Google’s algorithm. He sums it up by saying, “make great content, don’t worry nearly as much about how many years your domain is registered.”
So we have, essentially, three recent Google statements about the length of a domain registration and its impact on search rankings. None of them specifically say, “No, it doesn’t matter at all.” John’s comment that it would be “pretty hard” for Google to look at inconsistent domain registration data is funny; this is the company that uses complex mathematical equations as a casual recruiting tool:
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Ultimately, as with many SEO issues, you and I have to decide what we agree with and what we don’t. Google isn’t specifically saying domain registration length doesn’t matter, just that it’s not all that important in the Big Picture. Several years ago, I interviewed Jon Glick, a former member of the Yahoo search team, and he said the length of a registration does matter, but it’s just one signal, one potential flag.
And that’s what SEO is all about, isn’t it? Knowing which flags matter and when. My gut feeling, based on what the Googlers have said, is that if you build a great web site that attracts lots of people, lots of links, lots of attention, etc., it won’t matter if your domain is only registered for one year. But if you build an iffy web site with iffy content and questionable links — in other words, if you look like part of the low-quality, spammy Internet neighborhood — a one-year registration just might matter. Individual SEO factors don’t exist in a vacuum; you can’t easily look at one factor and say it always matters to the same degree for every web site or web page. If CNN.com has a one-year domain registration, it doesn’t matter. If Jimmys-Vegas-Casino-Secrets.com has a one-year registration, it might … depending on what else Jimmy has been doing.