Friday, August 5, 2011

www or no-www

The other day a couple of people very close to my hearing radius were debating on www vs no-www. I wasn't aware of the actual nature of the discussion/debate/argument but it seems a good topic to detail on what is the difference, if any, and where it actually lies(considering there is some difference, how so ever subtle). I am hoping this would be a nice introductory and confusion resolving post.

SEO Perspective
Which one is better from a SEO point of view? A question many asks, and something that very easily has numerous of entries in any SEO related forum. Webmasters everywhere wants to know which version will be the best for their domain so as to rank it high and high up in the search results.
Lets try and answer this dwelling as far as my knowledge would let me to. SEO is related to search engines rankings. Search engines rank domains based on some set algorithms. To what I know and understand, there is nothing in a search engine algorithm that suggests which one is best or any preference on which one to rank high. For any search engine, your site with URL as www.domain.com or simple domain.com are two different entries (or sites for better understanding). So considering this to be as true as possible, this means that any search engine will rank www.domain.com and domain.com separately. And thus, these both sites, although same, will be ranked separately by say, Google for instance.
Your users will have no problem in accessing the contents as the site will be very much accessible via either of the URLs. What will get hurt is how the search engines will be collecting the data separately in two buckets, where the collection should actually have pointed to one domain/site.

Choice is Yours
Which URL you go with is entirely up to you. Simple as that. You decide what looks good in your email signatures/sign boards or your business card for that matter. It however is a known truth that people around the globe are now used to the www.
The only thing that you need to keep in mind is that after you are done on the selection, STICK WITH IT!
Don't make the mistake of using both. This will certainly be a problem in your rankings. Search engines, as you would probably know, ranks URLs. So, for example, if 5 sites link to your page as www.yourdomain.com and 15 sites link to it as yourdomain.com, search engine rather then reporting a total of 20 inbound links to your page will report 5 for one and 15 for other URL. And then there could be problems of duplicate contents further putting risk on your site' rank. So choose one and...yes you got it...STICK WITH IT!!

The 301 Re-direction and its How-To
So you have your site both with www and without it. Now, how to deal with these problems that I just described. Well, if you are a webmaster you would know that we can do a redirection. 301 Permanent Redirection is the most efficient way plus its search engine friendly as well. There are several ways you can accomplish this. Most people prefer the .htaccess (non Windows based) way to do it.
This is how you do it:
For a single page redirection, in your .htaccess file (create one in your root if not already) use this:
Redirect 301 /old/yourpage.htm /new/http://www.yourdomain.com/yourpage.htm
For a canonical redirect, use the below code:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
rewritecond %{http_host} ^yourdomain.com [nc]
rewriterule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [r=301,nc]

For other types, you may Google it and will find several links to help you out!

Is www Deprecated?
Some people (or rather communities :-p ) certainly thinks so. You will find a good discussion on a more official website NO-WWW

It Matters That...
At the end of the day, what really matters is that you stick to one of the format and consistently use it. The other obviously will (and should) redirect to the first so as to make more sense and not rather punish you in any rank sense.


It may be interesting to decide if you would use the www URL and redirect the no-www to it and rather go the other way round :). 
Hope you found the information useful. I would love to know your thoughts and which way you will prefer. Have a good one!


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