WhoIs Information - Or Using Domain Privacy - Does It Have Any SEO Impact?See what experts have to say about WhoIs as a ranking factor.
When you register a domain, the registrar holds your identifying information.
However, if you do not want WhoIs If the names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. of website contacts listed in the website are available for viewing by the world, you can choose domain privacy protection.
There are many reasons why people want to protect their privacy online.
But, are there any SEO implications of WhoIs information (or using domain privacy)?
Disclaimer: WhoIs information is a ranking factor
Some of the questions raised around the potential impact of domain privacy on SEO include:
- Does hiding your WHOIS information hurt your site's rankings?
- If we have a large number of sites in our network, but are using domain privacy, will Google consider the links passed back and forth as legitimate links?
- Is WhoIs a trust factor for Google?
Evidence of WHOIS information as a ranking factor
When Google became the domain name registrar in January 2005, SEO professionals were immediately skeptical about how registration information was used in ranking algorithms.
Barry Schwartz noted in the following month that a Google spokesperson made the following comments to The New York Times: Fanning the flames:
"While we currently have no plans to register domain names, we believe this information can help us improve the quality of our search results.
For several years now, there has been no real industry consensus as SEO professionals and webmasters have shared conflicting experiences and advice on forums.
In 2007, an industry blogger cited Matt Cutts as the basis for this advice.:
"If you don't have a legitimate need, don't hide behind a domain privacy service.
Evidence suggests that search engines can see through this "wall" anyway, making your site less trustworthy to the average (albeit tech-savvy) visitor/customer.
As Loren Baker said at the time:
"Because you don't want spam in your inbox, mailbox, phone booth, and maybe even through your XBox, are you telling search engines that your site isn't trustworthy?I'm not sure if this is the case.
The blogger above made this suggestion based on what Matt Cutts wrote about a site review he did at Pubcon in 2006:
"Instead of any real content, most of the pages are pay-per-click (PPC) parked pages, and when I check their whois, they all have the 'whois privacy protection service'.
This is relatively unusual.
Having a ton of sites isn't automatically bad, it's not automatically bad to have a PPC site, it's not automatically bad to have whois privacy turned on, but once you put a few of these factors together, you're often talking about a very different type of Webmasters, not people with just one site or so.
Even so, there's no evidence that "hiding" behind domain privacy protections and choosing to exclude your home address from the WhoIs database has any effect on rankings.
As Katz said, it could be seen as a red flag by the spam team.But what he said was that it came along with other factors.
That was all a long time ago, so let's get a little more up-to-date.
In 2016, an SEO professional published a case study on a fairly reputable website claiming WhoIs is a trust factor, and he can attest to it.
Specifically, he said, the address you use in your WhoIs contact information must be in the same general area your website serves.
Turning on domain privacy protection or using a mailing/physical address outside the area the site is intended to serve can kill your rankings.At least that's the story.
At this point, we have to look at the broader context of the state of Google.
By then, Google had entered (or had gone through) many iterations of identity detection and verification methods - Google+, Authorship, IPv6, etc.
This May 2014 episode of Whiteboard Friday with Cyrus Shepard takes us through the various signals and cues Google used at the time to determine who controlled which sites.
These algorithms are far more sophisticated than we were in 2005 when we had these conversations.
Given that SEO pros are simply presenting a story with no supporting evidence, it's hard to accept Google's anecdotal experience of treating WhoIs/domain privacy as a trust factor in its ranking algorithm in 2016.
Evidence against who is information as a ranking factor
So let's find out more up-to-date information.
In 2019, John Mueller tweeted a question about whether domain privacy settings affect SEO.He is very clear:
No, you are free to use the privacy settings however you want.
— John (@JohnMu) April 3, 2019
Today, Google has only a 2% market share in domain name registrations.
They don't have access to enough data to have any reliability as a search signal.
In 2021, Mueller was asked again (this time on Reddit) whether domain privacy settings would affect SEO or rankings.
His answer was: "No.
Who is Information as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
There is no evidence that Google has ever used domain privacy protection as a ranking factor.
Maybe they plan to go back in time in 2005 when they first became domain registrars.
Maybe they even did it on short notice.
But not for long, if that's the case - they certainly aren't using it today.
That being said, if you're trying to disguise the identity of a website owner to create a web of links or otherwise manipulate search rankings, you're firmly entering the realm of web spam.
This puts you at risk of manual penalties if detected.
Google recognizes that online privacy is important, and there are perfectly valid reasons why people choose to keep their personal information out of WhoIs.
WhoIs are not a ranking factor.