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Karlonia.com Domain Renewed Until 2018

July 31st, 2008

Debate Continues Over Whether Longer Domain Registrations Provide SEO Benefit

Today I have renewed the domain name of this site for another nine years until 2018, the maximum allowable term under my current registrar, which means that Karlonia.com will be stamping out ignorance along the path to enlightenment for several more years to come.

Meanwhile, of greater importance to most people in the webmaster community is the issue of whether longer domain registrations such as this provide any benefits with regard to search engine optimization. As with most things SEO, there is much debate and guesswork going on among the interested parties over this, and so far it seems that we have not been able to reach any clear consensus. I have read through several articles dating back to 2005 and many related forum threads hoping to figure out whether my longer domain renewal would eventually help me rank better in the search engines. After reading through all of the discussion and comments, it appears that there is roughly a 50/50 split between those who believe that longer renewals confer a (probably small) boost to search engine “trust factors” and those who believe that it makes no difference at all.

The people who believe that it does provide some sort of benefit point to an interesting little tidbit found in a Google patent application from 2005 that states:

[0099] 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. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain and, thus, the documents associated therewith.

The basic idea is that registering a domain for a longer period of time indicates that the site owner is committed to building a legitimate, high quality site whereas a webmaster who is more into spamming, scamming, and generally trying to game the system would not bother registering a “fly-by-night” domain for longer than the minimum period of one year. Jon Glick, who has 15 years experience in the search industry including several years as a key member of the search team at Yahoo, seems to agree that this idea has merit in his answer to a related question from his interview with Matt McGee:

Q: Fact or Fiction — Registering a domain for several years is a good SEO tactic.

A: Fact. There is a minor benefit to domains with longer registrations. It shows that the site is planning on being around a while, and makes it more costly for spammers to buy disposable domains. Just like when the IRS determines who to audit, each “flag” is worth a certain amount, and if you score too highly, boom - you’re audited. A single year registration is just one flag.

There have been a few anecdotal reports on various forums from webmasters who have purchased groups of domains, and after building their sites and letting them remain online for a few months, noted the ones that were registered for at least two years eventually received higher PageRank scores than those registered for shorter periods. However, I have not yet seen any truly controlled study done on this issue which would conclusively prove or disprove the theory that there are any actual SEO benefits being applied.

Opponents of domain registration length theory contend that if spammers thought they could improve their rankings by paying a little more for longer renewal periods, they probably already would have done so. They also point out that Google’s inclusion of information in a patent application does not necessarily mean that the search engine will actually give this factor any real weight in the rankings. Also, some of the more cynical commenters have suggested that this whole idea is little more than a myth being propagated by hosting companies in an attempt to lure people into paying more money for longer domain registrations.

In my particular case, having a longer registration time seemed to make sense regardless of which side of the debate is correct. Even if there are no SEO gains, it will still improve the trust factor for anyone who looks at this kind of data as part of their vetting process for analyzing the legitimacy of websites. It also provides some peace of mind because I will not have to worry about the hassle of renewing the domain for a very long time. Finally, there were some long-term monetary savings involved as well — GoDaddy happened to be running a special promotion through the month of July that reduced renewal prices by 25%.

Since GoDaddy rarely offers promotional discounts on any type of renewals, this seemed like a good time to take advantage of the savings while prices are still relatively low. With all of the inflation going on in the broader economy right now, I would not be surprised if this begins to spill over into areas like website maintenance expenses. Fortunately, I will not have to worry about this particular expense for another ten years, by which time I should be making enough money that it will not make much of a difference anyway.

Meanwhile, if any of you have some actual evidence (pro or con) regarding the validity of SEO benefits for longer domain registration periods, please let us know in the comment section.

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