Thanks to spammers, making your email address visible on the web can be a painful mistake. Spammers, of course, often harvest email addresses using automated programs, and when doing so, they pick off the lowest hanging fruit.

One particularly tasty piece of fruit: the WHOIS database that provides access to domain registration information.

In response, many domain name registrars offer private domain registrations. With a private registration, the registrar’s contact information is displayed instead of yours, leaving it harder for spammers (and shady direct marketers) to use WHOIS for nefarious purposes.

But should you use domain registration privacy protection solutions? Last week, I stumbled upon a blog post suggesting that private registrations may have a negative impact on SEO.

The idea isn’t new, and in fact, there is some evidence that private registrations could be a red flag that search engines look at in certain circumstances.

The fact that Google might be skeptical about a private registration when other red flags are present doesn’t necessarily make private registrations a worst practice to avoid. In fact, there are plenty of websites with great SERPs whose domain registrations are private.

But the issue of private registrations goes well beyond SEO. With many segments of the consumer population becoming increasingly sophisticated, private registrations can become a red flag for customers and potential customers, particularly in instances where a company doesn’t provide a physical address or phone number on its website.

Some point to private registrations as evidence that a company is trying to hide something, and those investigating a business sometimes believe that a private registration calls into question a company’s legitimacy.

In light of this, private registrations may not be as advantageous they might initially seem. Even for sole traders who operate their businesses from their homes, privacy protection is possible without private registrations.

Many email hosting providers offer quality spam filtering, and with mailbox/mail forwarding solutions and VOIP-based telephony providers, it is entirely possible to maintain a high level of privacy without leaving interested parties wondering if an opaque domain registration is a sign of something bad. As such, companies using private registrations may want to reconsider.