Does the length of your website's domain name registration affect the search results at Google? This question has come up recently and a lot of website owners have been wondering about it, especially since it was mentioned in a patent awarded to Google in April. According to the patent, "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." According to this statement in the patent, domains that expire in 10 years are more valuable and legitimate than domains that will expire in less than a year.

Google, in general, is always looking for ways to weed out the bad (spammers) from the good (legitimate) websites. I suspect that they looked for a pattern among the good, legitimate websites and found that most good, legitimate websites have a commitment towards their business and their domain name-they register it for a long period of time. In other words, the theory behind all of this is that if you register a domain name for several years it shows Google that you're committed to that domain name. If you register a domain name for 1 year then you're not as committed to that domain name. A lot of spammers use "throw away" domain names and register them for only a year. So, Google uses the length of time that a domain is registered to determine whether the owner of that domain name is committed to it or not.

One domain name owner I talked to recently told me that renewing his domain names once each year was a part of his business plan. He made a certain amount of money each year from each domain name/website, and he didn't want to cut into the profits of each site by renewing each domain name all at once for several years. "Renewing a domain name for 10 years or even 2 years ahead of time means that I have to spend more money. If I have to come up with $50 or $100 more per year for the domain renewal fees it cuts into my profits", says John, who wished to remain anonymous. John's website is probably exactly the type of website that Google wishes to identify. Google is looking to identify quality, well-established websites whose owners are committed to their domain names. According to the statements made in Google's patent, Google thinks that websites that have been renewed for a long period of time meet that standard.

Should you renew your domain name for a long period of time? And if so, how long is long enough? If you want to stay ahead of your competition, then you might consider looking at the length of time your competitors have registered their domain names. If your competitors have generally renewed their domain names for one or two years, you might consider registering your domain name for 5 or 10 years. While putting off your domain name's expiration date might help your search engine rankings, keep in mind that this may be only a small boost (or a "tie-breaker" among two websites) when it comes to the actual search engine rankings. And, be aware that just because Google has a patent on the idea it doesn't mean that they're actually using that criteria now to rank websites. They, too, want to stay ahead of their competition (mainly Yahoo! and MSN).

I've registered the domains that I really care about for at least 10 years. Initially, I registered these domains for a long period of time because I didn't want to lose them-and I didn't want to go through the somewhat-lengthy annual process of renewing them every year. Since most domain names I own come up for renewal at different times during the year, it seemed as though I was renewing a domain name at least once a month-and renewing them for a few years put it off for a while.

Expired domain name buyers are prevalent nowadays. If your domain name expires, there's a good chance that someone watching will register your domain name within seconds after it expires. If, for whatever reason, you don't renew your domain name, someone watching a 'watch list' of expiring domain names will try to capitalize on the online business that you've built over the years. They know that there is potential website traffic they can have simply by renewing your old domain name. By renewing your domain name for several years, your domain name won't expire for a while, and it won't be opened up to expired domain name buyers.

If you really want to stay ahead of the competition, you might consider registering or renewing your domain name for 100 years. Currently, Network Solutions ( is the only registrar offering the 100 year option, which costs $999.00. GoDaddy (, currently offers to renew or register a domain name for 10 years, at a discount of $6.95 per year. Dotster (, another leading registrar, offers domain name registration and renewals for up to 10 years at a cost of $129.95.

What's the bottom line? If you're committed to your online business, your website, and your domain name, then renewing your domain name for a long period of time will not only stop expired domain buyers from registering your domain name when it expires, it will show Google that you're committed to it-and that may give you a boost in the search engine rankings, as well.

July 22, 2005

Bill Hartzer currently runs a Strategic Online Marketing Consultancy that includes services such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online reputation management.

Bill Hartzer formerly managed the Search Engine Marketing division of Vizion Interactive and MarketNet, leading interactive marketing and website design firms in the Dallas, Texas area.

Hartzer is a successful writer, blogger, search engine marketing, and social media marketing expert. During the past fifteen years, some of his many accomplishments include: Search Engine Marketing Manager, Vizion Interactive, Search Engine Marketing Manager, MarketNet, Search Engine Optimization Strategist, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Webmaster, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing, Administrator, Search Engine Forums, Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences, Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld's PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference.

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