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Deciding whether or not to use WWW in a URL

Over the past couple of days I’ve been deciding how to structure my blog URL. Prior to today I had two versions of my blog:

http://bowdeni.com
http://www.bowdeni.com

Although I obviously have just one blog, but to search engines these are actually two different sites. This presents problems for duplicated content and link building. For the former,  search engines don’t like duplicated content and with two variants of the site, it’s essentially duplicated perfectly. In terms of link building, you could waste efforts and not benefit from genuine links if they are targeting to the two different versions. I therefore went on a journey to build rationale to pick one of the two to keep.

Advantages of www variant:

  • Branding.  A lot of web users come to expect www as a prefix to a website, and when entering a URL into an address bar, will include the www subdomain.
  • Natural links. Usually when people organically link to you without being paid to do so (shock horror!) they’ll include the www subdomain.

Advantages of the non-www variant

  • Link building juice. My understanding of the search algorithms is that if you receive a link to this version of your site, Google will automatically credit the link equity to the www version of a site too.
  • Low char. The omission of the www. subdomain reduces the length of your links by four characters. On social networks, especially Twitter when you have a minimum amount of characters, this gives frees up more characters to use on Tweeting you!

With this in mind, I chose http://bowdeni.com . The rationale for this choice was the fact that the nature of my content is likely to be linked to on social networks. I’m at an early stage of running this blog and I believe there will be trend will be towards the non-www variant. I therefore added a canonical tag to my header on the blog as follows:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://bowdeni.com/" />

When search engines read this canonical tag, if there are any links to the www variant then it will credit the link equity to the non www variant. There is however a price. It seems that Google reduces link equity passed through a canonical tag, and it’s at the same level as a 301 redirect. To make everything watertight, I’ve 301’d it to the non variant anyway!

If I had a giant website such as the BBC where people will write out the www variant in links made , and I had a giant portfolio of links, then I’d keep the www variant. However my blog doesn’t have such a sparse portfolio of links (sad) and accordingly I can lever a bit more control over the link building.

I must confess that I had done a tiny bit of link building to my blog with the target URL being the www variant, so this very moment, I’m going to change all those backlinks where possible to ensure I don’t lose any link juice through the canonical tag or 301 redirects!


One Comment

  • Tolumi Adamson |

    Interesting thought process. Consider most social networks and twitter “tiny shrink” your url anyway, that wouldn’t have factored in my thought process.

    Personally, I prefer the www version… no logic behind it, just do ;).

So, what do you think ?