Natural Search Blog

To Have WWW or Not To Have WWW – That is the Question

Over time, I’ve become a fan of the No-WWW Initiative.

What is that, you might ask? It’s a simple proposal for sites to do away with using the WWW-dot-domainname format for URLs, and to instead go with the non-WWW version of domains instead. Managing your site’s main domain/subdomain name is one basic piece of search engine optimization, and this initiative can be a guide for how to decide which domain name will become the dominant one for a site. Read on for more info…

I think there are strong arguments in favor of dropping the “dub-dub-dub” because use of a domain with it is not really necessary. Most sites are set up so that either primary domain name will resolve to the same pages.

Removal of the WWW can help streamline pagecode which can reduce data transfer and speed up page load times. (Admittedly, the removal of the WWWs only improves data transfer and page load by relatively insignificant amounts in the majority of cases, but such seemingly minor changes could have very large impacts for large-scale sites which deliver millions of pages per day, and the cumulative reduction of data transferred might even result in some tiny reduction in one’s ISP hosting service costs.) And, it is visually cleaner to lose the WWW when citing a company’s URL in print and other marketing collateral where the domain or URL needs to be displayed.

Since the major search engines have been handling both types of URLs relatively consistently, I think it might be useful to use the No-WWW philosophy when you work on canonicalizing your WWW/No-WWW domain names. As you may be aware, many sites have both the WWW and non-WWW versions of their URLs in play simultaneously. For purposes of SEO, one should have one redirect to the other so that you have one primary, or “canonical” version of your main domain, and all your PageRank can be applied to pages delivered on that domain instead of being spread thinner across both versions. But, which version — with WWW, or without WWW — should be your primary? The No-WWW initiative provides a good reason to choose one above the other.

If you’re considering joining this effort, there’s no reason to do this in a costly manner. Your IT support personnel can typically set up redirection with relatively minor effort, so beginning the conversion process to drop the WWWs from all page code and application interfaces doesn’t have to be done in sync. Using 301 redirects will work for SEO and insure that all the legacy URLs will continue to work for users. Then, over time, convert the URLs in your interfaces as that code is touched when working on other projects.

The WWW subdomains are unnecessary and should be deprecated. Join the effort to simplify!

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8 comments for To Have WWW or Not To Have WWW – That is the Question »

  1. MyAvatars 0.2

    I was a fan of non-www when I bought my first domain back in the 90’s. It was a loosing battle then and it is a poor decision now.

    For SEO purposes, most people will link to your website using the www version of your URLs. That means all of those links will be 301 redirected to the www version. Now, a 301 passes link equity, but some SEO practitioners speculate that there may be equity leakage. Maybe yes, maybe no. Either way I want all the equity I can get.

    So while www is not technically correct it has become the defacto best practice through popular use.

    I guess you could say that www is the vhs of the web.

    Comment by Thomas M. Schmitz — 6/29/2007 @ 9:16 pm

  2. MyAvatars 0.2

    Here we are in 2009, I still use www, may be just old habit. I kinda side with Thomas above.

    Comment by Jake — 3/31/2009 @ 7:04 pm

  3. MyAvatars 0.2

    Wow I am still using the www subdomain. I just caught myself doing it. I am a webmaster myself; however, I used to do a 301 redirect from my www. subdomain to my non www domain. However I ran into a problem – when I went to place my link at google and some other directories, I was forced to include the http://www portion; not so much these days but I stopped.

    Should I go back to my old and have the www. version put back on my 301 redirect? Some search engines and link directories would not accept my link submission because they “would not accept redirects”. How do I get around this?

    Victoria, BC

    Comment by Daniel Tetreault — 5/12/2009 @ 8:55 pm

  4. MyAvatars 0.2

    First of all, link submission is pretty much old-fashioned SEO since there are a number of other ways to get the search engines to absorb new sites. It’s totally unnecessary to do link submission in order to get indexed these days — so, if that’s the major issue hampering turning to non-WWW domain, don’t let it.

    Second, if you’re already well-indexed on the WWW domain, and if it’s a major difficulty for you to switch, don’t do it.

    I finally switched my personal site, to the non-WWW version, and I’ve had no difficulties.

    Comment by Chris — 5/14/2009 @ 1:09 pm

  5. MyAvatars 0.2

    Thanks for sharing this great opinion about www and no-www. I have the same opinion, but I’m in doubt.

    Some SEO even advised me that having no-www may cause a site to be banned. I think that’ ridiculous. But this site is not ranking well for it’s main keyword and it’s not having www. May that be the cause of the deranking?

    Oh, and I’m surprise you are supporting the no-www approach but your site is having www. So, what is really the truth?

    I’m still in doubt because google, yahoo, bing, msn, live, etc all the biggest sites are using www, except for wordpress. So should we follow the authority or should we follow the revolution?

    Comment by Binh Nguyen — 7/26/2009 @ 12:16 pm

  6. MyAvatars 0.2

    Twitter uses it, but I am still skeptical whether the search engines really understand it well. I have to decide whether our new site should have it or now. Another point is if we put the www, it stops showing fully on twitter. I am yet undecided on this

    Comment by PSD to HTML — 10/6/2009 @ 1:10 am

  7. MyAvatars 0.2

    Twitter is “no follow”, so it doesn’t really matter how your link shows on there, it isn’t passing any pr to your site anyway. Also twitter is a small fish compared to some of the huge players out there that are using it.

    I have probably read 100 articles on this debate by now and the funny thing is I’ve heard several reasons for choosing www that could have strong positive impacts on your site, but the most I have heard for the no www argument is that it is cosmetically better looking and fashionable. So, really it seems obvious in my opinion which one you should choose www all the way.

    Comment by Trillionaire Domains — 2/14/2010 @ 12:35 am

  8. MyAvatars 0.2

    I have been a web master for a while, but never thought of the importance of the www, or non www issue. Most of my sites that I build are non-wwws, I first would have thought the www to be the standard, but it appears the non-www is a prefereed one to have the canonicals for. Thanks for this article.

    Comment by Joseph — 7/23/2010 @ 6:45 am

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