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Apr14

To WWW or not to WWW...

Author // Matthew Baylor Categories // Rants

One Site - One URL

I recently had a few queries about URL’s, using www, not using www, using both and forwarding different names. In summary, all of the questions were pretty much the same.

Q. What’s the difference they all end up at the same place don’t they?
A. Short answer: Visually yes, but not in the eyes of the search engines.

Variations of URL’s that return the same content are bad Mmkay.  Multiple URL’s, at first glance, seem to be a good idea. I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, it’s more access points to my site. More ways to get there means more traffic, right?

Wrong.

When it come to SEO the bots that crawl the wonderful tangled web we all weave look at those different URL’s as separate websites.  So now that you have http://www.mysite.com and http://mysite.com, according to Google, you have 2 websites with the same exact content. Think of it as 2 Starbucks on the same block: Overkill, boring and in the eyes of the evil bots your two ‘different’ sites aren’t so unique. Oh yes! Their watching and taking notes – those bastards!
 
With me so far?

So how do we determine if we use www or non-www?

First off, the proper term is Canonicalization. The choice is down to your personal preference. I usually setup sites using the www version.

I use www for one simple reason: laziness. On most browsers when you type the name in you can hit CTRL+ENTER and it will automatically add the www and .com to what you typed.

In the search engine’s eyes, they don’t care which version you use. They are going to list the page with the highest score first no matter what the URL is.  One of the biggest portions scoring systems is the number of relevant links that point back to your site. No matter if we choose www or non-www, it’s best to keep links you put out consistent.

Now you’re thinking “Okay where do I set my preference?” and “What happens if someone tries to go to the version I’m not using?” There are a few places you can set your choice.


Via Your Host

Most hosts have settings in the domain control and usually they give you three choices:

    * Use www
    * Use non-www
    * Leave it Alone/Use either.

On Site

You can use an .htaccess file to force your preferred version.

##Force www##
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.example.com/$1 [L,R=301]

-or-

##Force non-www##
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.example\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://example.com/$1 [L,R=301]

 


Either method has the same outcome. No matter which version someone requests, the settings above will direct the browser to which ever version you set.


What about buying different domain names and forwarding them to my main URL?


Most of the time: Pointless.

You’re just wasting time and money really. The only instances I ever buy more than one domain is if I need to protect a brand/name or if a project is targeting multiple, specific geographic regions. If you don’t have a specific reason then just avoid the potential negative impact on your page scores.


In summary it doesn’t matter if you use www or non-www, just use one or the other and not both.

About the Author

Matthew Baylor

Matthew Baylor

I'm a web designer, focused on sites developed using Joomla! for small and start-up businesses. I strive to create stong bonds with clients to provide world class support. I also managed the Joomla Extensions Directory Team from 2012-2016.

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