To www or not to www? [SEO Wednesdays]

Here’s a way in which many companies can instantly improve their standing in the search engine results, by removing any “canonicalisation problem” which might be present. Don’t be scared of the terminology! The problem occurs because of the historical convention of giving website domains a “www” subdomain prefix, to show the domain is on the worldwide web, something which has persisted to this day. So, for example, you might know our website as http://www.bmon.co.uk, but nowadays http://bmon.co.uk ought to suffice.


Now, if your website has been set up correctly, you’ll have settled on one of the formats above (with or without the “www”, nearly always “with”), and if you type the other format into your browser’s address bar, you should see the URL automagically change to the format you do want. If your website hasn’t been set up correctly, it’ll stay in the wrong format, and effectively you have two separate but identical websites.

Why is having two identical websites an issue with the search engines? Well, the strength passed to your pages by external links may be diluted across two versions, for a start. However, Google and its competitors have got much better over the years at detecting and eliminating such problems, so even if your site isn’t set up well, it still may not be a problem. Let’s go to Google and see if it is. We do this by querying Google to see how many pages it has in each of the “www” and “non.www” formats, using the “site:” command:

The result, if everything is as it should be, is that both should show the same number of results, or one should show zero results. If the two queries are showing different numbers, you need to contact whoever manages your website and get them to sort out the canonicalisation problem using a “permanent redirect”.

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