Is WhoIs Information A Google Ranking Factor?
Upon registering a domain, the registrar gathers the user’s identifying information. However, there is a domain privacy protection option that prevents the names, phone numbers, addresses, and other information from being published on WhoIs for everyone to see. Many SEOs believe that domain privacy is an important website SEO ranking factor. There are several good reasons why people prefer to keep their online presence private. But does WhoIs data, or using domain privacy, affect website SEO rankings?
SEOs Claim That Rankings are Influenced by WhoIs Information
Some of the queries that have arisen concerning domain privacy’s potential influence on SEO include:
- Does keeping WhoIs information private lead to a decrease in rankings?
- Will Google consider the links passing back and forth as valid if there are many sites in the network, even if they all use domain privacy?
- Is WhoIs a Google trust factor?
Compelling Evidence of WhoIs Information as a Ranking Factor
When Google began offering domain registrations in January 2005, the SEO community were worried about how the search engine company would use registration data as a website SEO ranking factor.
Barry Schwartz, a Google representative, sparked the controversy when giving his statement to the New York Times. He said that Google was not planning to register domains, but they think the information can help them improve their search results’ quality.
There was no real industry agreement on this for a few years. Moreover, SEO specialists and webmasters provided opposing reviews and tips on forums.
Other SEOs feel like they just want to protect their mailbox, phone box, and inbox from spam, and using domain privacy does not necessarily tell search engines that the website cannot be trusted.
The blogger mentioned above made that suggestion based on Matt Cutts’ 2006 Pubcon presentation. They explained that they saw many pages were pay-per-click (PPC) parked pages, and all had WhoIs privacy protection. Moreover, these pages did not have any real content, which was unusual. The blogger said that having PPC sites, many websites, or turning on privacy is not necessarily bad. However, once all these factors work together, it becomes a different type of webmaster instead of a person running a single website.
However, there is no proof that using domain privacy protection and keeping home addresses out of the WhoIs database affects rankings.
According to Cutts, it might be interpreted by the webspam team as a warning. However, he was referring to it occurring alongside other circumstances.
In 2016, a prominent website SEO expert published a case study on a reputable website. They claimed that they could prove that WhoIs is a trust factor.
They pointed out that the users should ensure that the WhoIs address in their contact information must be in the same region as their website. Owing to this, it was believed that using domain privacy protection or utilising a mailing/physical address outside of the user’s service area can harm a site’s rankings. Despite this, it’s essential to consider the larger context of Google’s state at the time.
By then, Google had (or was going through) numerous versions of identity detection and verification technologies – namely, Authorship, IPv6, Google+, and so on.
In May 2014, an SEO video series reminded everyone of when Google was using a variety of signals and hints to determine who has control over what sites. Since 2005, when these conversations were making a buzz, the algorithms had advanced considerably.
Given that the SEO professional simply offered a narrative without any supporting evidence, it’s difficult to believe that Google considered WhoIs/domain privacy a trust factor in its 2016 ranking algorithms.
The Case Against WhoIs Information’s Status as A Google Ranking Factor
In 2019, John Mueller engaged in an exchange of tweets, confirming whether or not domain privacy impacts SEO. He told SEOs that they should use the privacy settings as they like.
Today, Google only has a 2% share in domain registration. They do not have enough information to use this as a search signal. In 2021, when asked again on Reddit if domain privacy settings can affect SEO or rankings, Mueller simply responded: “No”.
Conclusion: WhoIs Information Does Not Affect SEO Rankings
There has been no clear-cut proof that Google used domain privacy protection as a ranking factor.
Even if the direction seemed to point at this back in 2005, when they first became a domain registrar, they didn’t make it official or at least push through with it until now.
However, if you’re attempting to hide site owners’ identities to form link networks or otherwise influence search rankings, you’ve entered into webspam territory, which puts you at risk of a manual penalty when caught.
Google recognises the significance of online privacy and understands that there are valid reasons individuals would want to keep their personal information off WhoIs and the Web.
After all is said and done, WhoIs is not considered a Google ranking factor.
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