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Choosing a good domain registrar can make a difference in search engine optimization or SEO. But more than helping you get a boost in rankings, a good domain registrar will dutifully comply with search engine best practices and avoid the wrath of Google and other search engine companies.
But what are the qualities of a “good” domain registrar? Should you stick to dirt-cheap providers or invest in ultra-expensive ones? Does popularity even matter? And should you stick to one registrar or spread out to as many as possible?
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These questions and more will be answered in the guide below. A “good” domain registrar will basically have four important attributes.
Popular and Has Excellent Reputation
See those domain registrars that keep making the Top 5 lists of technology review websites like LifeHacker? Or the domain registrars that keep being recommended in user forums? While a few of these might be biased evaluations (paid or fanboying), the vast majority are based on actually trying out the registrar.
Popular domain name registrars such as Namecheap or GoDaddy are, for their prices, dependable and value-packed. They offer an astounding amount of free add-on services that will bring convenience to your online enterprise.
Meanwhile, excellently reviewed registrars have gone through the gauntlet of more experience technology experts. It would be impossible for you to compare every one of them, so when a handful of high-profile reviewers proclaim them to be a cut above the others, then the consensus is likely something you can trust.
But specifically for SEO, these popular and five-starred registrars are less likely to leave SEO footprints. It is a well-known in the industry that second-tier registrars tend to leave larger and more frequent footprints when you go about interlinking your websites. With more footprints, Google and other search engines will more likely punish you harshly in the rankings for what they believe to be abusive search engine manipulation tactics. And you definitely do not want that happening.
If you find that your domain registrar has been slacking off lately in the reliability department, causing your website to become offline for frequent or long periods of time, then it might be time for you to start shopping around for a more dependable registrar.
Going offline has a chance of hurting your SEO rankings. Google and other search engines crawl the Web regularly, and think about what will happen when these crawlers constantly find your homepage in perpetual 404 notices. It has a chance of being penalized, according to many SEO experts, and will only begin to bounce back when the indexing returns to normal.
Both your domain and pages will be penalized, albeit not heavily, but still every bit of SEO disadvantage is an advantage for your competitors. That is not acceptable, and you should quickly transfer or upgrade to a registrar who can keep up with your needs.
Of course, this advice comes with a reminder that occasional downtimes are acceptable. Five minutes for maintenance should be quite fine, but a couple of hours without prior notice should be taken with deserved alarm. If you have been satisfied so far with your registrar and have only been recently experiencing reliability problems, then talk to the customer service first as they may fix the problem and save you the hassle of transferring.
Values Internet Freedom
Choose registrars who genuinely value internet freedom and you will no longer have to worry about the devious SEO hurting tactics of competitors. Separating the real supporters of internet freedom has become easier recently when the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA grabbed the spotlight. Suddenly, registrars had a choice of support SOPA or oppose it. GoDaddy initially supported it but after great public pressure, switched stances. Compare this to Namecheap who outright opposed the measure.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, consider a situation where a competitor tries to send a shutdown or complaint request to your registrar? Which registrar is more likely to be more vigilant in checking the veracity of the claim? That’s right, it will be the authentic Internet freedom-loving registrars who will make sure your website stays safe from malicious rival schemes.
Provides Free Whois Privacy (Or At Least the Option)
For SEO strategists who employ interlinking and do not want to generate footprints that may ultimately lead to ranking penalties, domain privacy is absolutely essential. But not all registrars provide domain privacy for free. By choosing registrars with free domain privacy features, mainly Whois privacy services, you can save on money.
This is not to say that you should only limit your choices to registrars with free Whois privacy. You may have found the perfect, well-reviewed registrar who is asking for a small add-on payment to include a Whois privacy feature. Then go ahead and choose that registrar. Just avoid registrars who absolutely refuse to offer Whois privacy, as this will crimp on your SEO activities.
Karsten runs Domain Raccoon where he provides price comparisons and reviews for domain registrars covering all major top-level domains. When not blogging about the pros and cons of different bulk management panels, he helps start-ups with getting their SEO right.