WWW or Non-WWW?
One question that seems to pop up time and time again when speaking to clients is that of choosing between a www or non-www domain. We’re often asked which is better and does one give any advantage over the other when it comes to SEO.
The simple answer is it doesn’t matter from an SEO perspective. Google doesn’t favour one over the other and has stated as much. So if you’re looking for possible reasons why one site is ranking higher than the other, it won’t be because they’re using a www or non-www domain. It really comes down to personal choice. However, what is important is that you make that choice and then stick with it consistently throughout your site.
Making a choice
It’s vitally important that whichever you don’t choose re-directs to the one you have chosen, otherwise you effectively have two versions of the same site competing against each other and preventing it from ranking as high as it should. It is best to do this page-for-page, rather than re-directing an entire domain as long as the URL structure is the same. In addition, you can tell Google which version is your preferred choice by accessing your site’s Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) and specifying your preferred domain in the Site Settings section.
Pay attention to your links
If you’re having trouble deciding which one you should choose, take a look at which version other people are using for your site. Get a list of external links to your site and go through it to see how many people are linking to the www version and how many are linking to the non-www version. As previously stated, there’s no SEO advantage either way, but you can save yourself some work in terms of re-directs if you choose the one more people are linking to and more importantly, you get to keep more of the “link juice” (an annoying term but relevant in this case) as redirects can lose as much as 10% of a link’s ranking power.
For 99.99% of sites, it doesn’t matter
There are some technical differences between the two but these are only really relevant for large sites with very high levels of traffic (eg, millions of hits per day). This is because very large volume sites may use redundant hosts, which are used to transfer traffic when a server becomes overloaded. CNAME records are used to define these redundant hosts but these cannot be used with non-www domains. To be clear: this is only an issue if your site is receiving millions of visits every day. If that applies to you, then choose a www domain. Otherwise, it really doesn’t matter and it’s all down to your own preference. Just remember to pick one, stick with it, and make sure it is properly re-directed.