When and Why should I use www versus non-www domain structure? And the SEO implications.

Which one is better for SEO? Should your change your site URL? In this article, we'll help you understand the difference between www vs non-www and which one is better for SEO.

WWW vs non-WWW – SEO Benefits (Thanks to https://www.wpbeginner.com/)

There are absolutely no SEO benefits of choosing one over another. Even Google has said that it all depends on your preference. What’s important is that you stay consistent with the one that you chose at the time of starting your website.

In other words, DO NOT change your site URL to add or remove www from it.

You can let Google know about your personal preference, and they will honour it. All you have to do is go in your Google Search Console account and click on your site. If you have not added your site to Google Search Console tools, then follow our guide on how to add your WordPress site to Google Webmaster Tools.

Technical Difference between WWW vs non-WWW

When you add www. in front of a site, it acts as a hostname which can help with flexibility with DNS, ability to restrict cookies when using multiple subdomains, and more. Whereas non-WWW domains also referred to as 'naked domains' do not have a technical advantage.

For full technical explanation and details, refer to this article on Why use www?

At some point, you may have heard of using a 'rel=canonical' tag. This is a short piece of code added to the <head> code area of the website. This code alerts Google to your preferred domain (host) structure.

The full hostname www is a preference for HubSpot users, due to the use of subdomains in HubSpot and the flexibility mentioned above. Today many sites use the naked non-www version and Google accepts both versions without preference. Using a 'rel=canonical' tag in the Head coding of the website ensures Google is alerted. If no 'rel=canonical' tag is visible and preferences haven't been set in Search Console, Google views both the www and non-www versions as two websites, hence duplicate content and SEO issues. Full Global Redirects are also used in many cases.

So, why use one over the other?

For many years there was a real concern that people might not understand that a non-www hostname was actually a World Wide Web address. Then we started leaving off the www and more recently the http:// part as well.  Today, people understand a web address whether you have the www or not.

The choice of which to use is really just a matter of preference, that's all. There are absolutely no SEO benefits of choosing one over another.  What’s important is that you stay consistent with the one that you chose at the time of starting your website.

In other words, DO NOT change your site URL to add or remove www from it.

WHAT ARE THE SEO IMPLICATIONS OF HAVING BOTH LIVE

If you're running Intensive SEO services with us, and as part of our SEO service, we always check to see if the domain is on a 'Secure Sockets Layer' best known as an SSL Certificate to ensure privacy and security for the website and its users.

We also tend to check if the site domain protocol is set correctly e.g. www versus non-www. Although this is not part of our SEO requirements, because search engines don't care, it is part of ensuring a good customer/User experience.

SEO is already optimising the correct protocol format e.g. www and all search engine searches go to that site as they should.

It's a website usability issue if both versions of the protocol - www or non-www are accessible. This will be an issue for users who do not go to a search engine and/or do not enter the correct protocol format.  This setting is normally addressed via a .htaccess file added to the server files and hosting.

What is an SEO issue and is checked as part of our process, is if people can reach your website via both versions of the protocol www and non-www and neither one redirects to a preferred site, (e.g no canonical tags). This is then a duplicate content issue to be fixed for SEO.

We recommend this issue be fixed for user experience - that way a user will never see an error page via a search on a Search Engine.