www vs non www: SEO and Technical Differences

Yesterday, I wrote about how to redirect www URL to non-www URL (and vice versa). Today, I am going to write about the next natural question: which URL format is better? Should you use www URLs or non-www URLs? Which one of these is better from the SEO point of view? And what exactly is the difference between www and non-www URLs? These are questions that come up in every new webmaster’s mind. Let’s dig a bit deeper and gain understanding of this www vs non-www business!

Let me be straight to the point in the beginning. Both www and non-www URL formats are equal. Neither is better than the other. So, you can use either of the format, it’s totally your personal choice. But it is highly recommended that you use only one format. Either stick to www or consistently use non-www format. Google Webmaster tools allow you to set your preferred domain (http://www.example.com or ). And therefore Google states that it does not care which one you use.

There are two distinct aspects of this issue. One is SEO aspect and the other is technical (DNS stuff). Let’s examine them further.

www vs non-www : SEO and Ease of Use

I know you still want to ask, “ok, all that is fine, but still which format is really better?” Well, as I said, it all depends on personal preference. All I can do is to tell you a few more bits of important information. Then you can decide for yourself.

www verses non-www URLs and domain. Both are equally good for SEO.
www verses non-www URLs and domain. Both are equally good for SEO.

www URL format is better because most people remember URLs that way. “www” is etched in people’s memory and most people who are not tech-savvy, often speak and write URLs beginning with www. Therefore, www format has a mnemonic advantage over non-www.

non-www format is shorter. So, it requires less efforts and occupies less space. Honestly, for me typing three Ws is irritating. Therefore, I love to use non-www format! Yes, it is as simple as that!

www vs non-www : The Technical Differences

The non-www URLs are often referred to as the naked URLs. And naked domain names can not have something called a CNAME record.

If your website is small (that would include websites with millions of pageviews per month) then there is no problem. But if your website is massive (millions of pageviews per day) then you may require to deploy redundant hosts. Redundant hosts are computer servers that all keep a copy of your website. If one of these machines gets overloaded with traffic, the traffic is automatically redirected to the other machine in the array.

These redundant hosts are defined using CNAME records. But because non-www domain can not have a CNAME record, you will not be able to set it all up!

There is another reason that makes URLs with www better than the non-www URLs is how cookies are served. If you’re interested, you can read a good explanation on yes-www.org website.

All this technical superiority of www format will arise only when your website will become a mega website. Until then you can be rest assured that www vs non-www issue does not affect your website’s performance or ranking.

Google does Canonicalization

“What? Canonicalization? What on the earth is that?!”

Most newbies ask this question! The word indeed sounds weird. I had to practice it to be able to pronounce it correct. And still I hardly can speak this tongue-twister. Anyway, canonicalization is the process through which a search engine decides which URL to select and keep in its index. As Matt Cutts has explained it, if there are several URLs, all pointing to the same resource, canonicalization process decides which one of these URLs is best. For example, all of the following URLs may point to the same resource:

  • www.example.com
  • example.com/
  • www.example.com/index.html
  • example.com/home.asp

How does Google decides which URL to pick? Only Google knows! But one thing is certain, Google does give a lot of importance to the most consistent format. That is why consistency in URL format is important.

How to Setup a Preferred Domain?

Two important tools can help you in achieving the said consistency. One is, of course, Google Webmasters Tools. Here you can select preferred domain for your website. Just log into Google Webmaster Tools and then go to Site Settings by clicking on the wheel icon:

Google Webmaster Tools Settings Menu.
Google Webmaster Tools Settings Menu.

In Site Settings, you can make your choice of preferred domain.

Select preferred domain from Google Webmaster Tools Site Settings.
Select preferred domain from Google Webmaster Tools Site Settings.

If you are running a self hosted WordPress website, the second tool which can make you life easier is WordPress SEO by Yoast. This superb plugin allows you to setup a preferred domain name and then output all the URLs only in that chosen format.

Should you change non-www to www format?

If you have been using non-www format and now want to change it to the www one; you should setup a 301 redirect so that your links remain valid.

Do not panic! Either of the format is equally good. Even Twitter uses the non-www format (naked domain). So not worry and just focus on producing good stuff for your website or blog. And you’ll be all fine!

I hope it was useful information for you. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions. Thank you for using TechWelkin.

26 thoughts on “www vs non www: SEO and Technical Differences”

  1. Hi,
    That’s a great post. I have a domain indexed as non-www and added the same domain in Webmasters Tools including www followed by the domain. The problem is that I’m not getting any search traffic data and nothing is updating at Webmasters Tools for the domain. Is including www at Webmasters Tools a problem? If that’s the problem how can I overcome it? Please give me suggestion to overcome it…

    1. In Webmasters Tools you need to added both non-www and www versions of your domain name. Then you set one of these as your preferred domain. That’s all. If you still do not get any search data, then the problem is elsewhere.

  2. Recently I installed WordPress blog in my hosting cpanel and I use non-www as preferred domain; like your website that uses non www. It seem to be easier for people to write and remember our website with non www URL. But the most important thing is that we must set preferred domain in our Google Search Console and use the same format consistently.

  3. Using www in URL is essential if you want to strip all the cookie and analytics meta data from all sub domains or static files. Thanks for putting a better article on technical differences it is really helpful.

  4. The truth is no one is going to type http://www.example.com as the www part is not really user friendly, and many non-tech savvy people don’t like to use technical words much. beside people usually remember a domain name without its www part. Have you ever heard anyone said I today visited http://www.techwelkin.com and it was a really good site? nope right? People say, I usually visit google.com, I know twitter, I really like youtube etc.. like that. .com part always comes at end as it’s the default and must, you can’t avoid it. but www part can be. When the URL is short as much as possible, it gives a pleasant look to the people.

    Another advantage of having non-www domain is, it doesn’t slow down the page slightly when someone uses non-domain, as with www, they are subjected to redirection to www version. The delay is really subtle ,like less than 100ms, but if you really care about the site loading time in milliseconds, then it’s better stick to non-www and use a separate domain to host static contents like twitter does to improve the page load time, while preventing the cookie leaking.

    I honestly prefer non-www version, because it’s easy to remember, people usually use it, no redirection (read about landing page redirects), give a legit look. Of course it may be an issue when the site is getting bigger, but if twitter manages it, I am sure it wouldn’t be a problem to anyone. Google probably uses it because they have been using it for decades, but twitter is relatively a new site, so www part is unnecessary because of the latest technology.

  5. Hi Lalit,

    Really after reading your blog it all became clear to me. I was searching for answer on Google and I came across your blog TechWelkin. Really I got a perfect answer. Thanks for share with us.

  6. I have recently changed my blog url from non-www to www. All things are working fine. I have 20+ backlinks that pointed to my non-www version. Now I am on www version, will these backlinks be still working.

  7. VINOD KUMAR MAHINDROO

    I have set my preferred domain with www but I had done my seo submission without www. Is their any technical issue in SERP?

  8. I think with www or without www search engine reads 2 diffrent domains. Does it effects on getting backlinks as well ?

    1. No, I don’t think it would affect your getting backlinks. However, it is always recommended that you use only one of the formats; either www or non-www.

  9. My webmaster has my naked URLs going to the homepage and the www URLs going to their unique pages. Will this impact my Google rankings?

    1. Hi Katherine, if the naked URLs are doing a 301 redirect (i.e. permanent redirect) then there should not be a problem. However, if all naked URLs are pointing to homepage without a 301 redirect then there could be a problem as Google will see it as a case of duplicate content. In any case, the idea of sending all the naked URLs to homepage is a bad one. Ideally, both versions of a URL (i.e. naked and www based) should point to one unique page.

  10. Great point about the www. and relation to cname records. Of course website popularity is not the only factor affecting the usage of cnames, there are various other technical reasons to use them or not.

    1. Thanks for the input! Could you please elaborate a bit more on what other factors you are referring to? What other technical factors play a role in deciding whether to use www or non-www URLs?

      1. If you want to use a CDN not only for distribution but also as an additional security layer (the way Cloudflare works) you will run into the CNAME issue as well. And this might also be interesting if you only have a smaller website.

    1. Hi Savan, adding or omitting www in your domain name does not affect your Domain Authority (DA) or Page Authority (PA)

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