You can reach a company website just by typing their web address, and it makes no difference whether or not you put www. at the beginning. So a lot of our customers ask us if it matters whether they use it or not.
In brief, the answer is "not really".
Traditionally, the website address like website.com, without www. before it, is your server name. When you use www.websitename.com, it means your files are shared publicly on the web, in contrast to ftp.websitename.com, for example, which means that your files are shared internally.
But today we usually use the term “domain” to refer to your www. address, not your server, so you can use a www.domain or a non-www.domain, which is also called a naked domain. Technically, using a www. web address can help DNS to limit cookies in sub-domains, but that would only concern you if you’re a techie web developer.
As a business and website owner, all you need to know is that both www. and non-www. website addresses work equally well.
For most of our managed WordPress hosting clients, the real question is which formulation is best for WordPress SEO purposes. They want to know if search engines will find them better with a specific type of domain name, or if they could be penalized for using (or not using) www. at the beginning of their URL.
We have good news for you here too. When it comes to WordPress SEO, there is no difference between the two types of web addresses.
Just like your visitors don’t pay much attention to whether or not there’s a www. at the beginning of your web address, nor do search engines. Using a www. web address is really only a matter of personal preference, not WordPress SEO.
Even Google says that your choice is down to your own preferences, not about WordPress SEO. The only thing that really matters is consistency.
If you seesaw back and forth between using a www. address and a non-www. address, you’ll end up paying for it with your WordPress SEO. Google and other search engines won’t know which web address to use when attributing link juice, or which one to suggest when people search for your business’ keywords.
You’ll end up competing with your own website for WordPress SEO love.
So whichever you choose, be consistent. If you’ve already got a web address with (or without) www. just keep on using it.
If you’re undecided about which address formulation to use, you don’t have to make a choice. You can use both www. and non-www. if you think that people might have trouble remembering your correct web address.
But to keep your WordPress SEO going strong, you’ll need to set one of them as your primary domain. Otherwise you’ll weaken your WordPress SEO for all the reasons we mentioned above - search engines won’t know which one to suggest for search queries, so your ranking will be split between the two web address versions.
Here’s how to tell Google which domain address to use and maintain your WordPress SEO.
If you didn’t add your website on Google Webmaster tools, now is the time to do so. Login to your Google Webmaster Tools account and click on your website.
Then click on the Settings Icon and choose Site Settings.
Under Site Settings, choose Preferred Domain.
If you’d prefer not to use Google Webmaster Tools, there is an alternative, and that’s the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin. Just click on the link and hit the Download button to add the WordPress SEO Yoast plugin to your WordPress dashboard.
Once you’ve installed Yoast WordPress SEO, you’ll see that it automatically defines the canonical URL in your website header, which lets Google know which is your preferred URL formulation.
Now you’re all set and your WordPress SEO is protected.
In case you were wondering, at uPress we prefer to use www. in our domain names. It’s not because we think they are better than non-www. domain names, it’s just the approach that we like best. You can still use a non-www. web address if you prefer. We won’t judge, and it won’t affect your WordPress SEO.
We hope we managed to explain the differences between websites with www. and those without www in their domain address, and to reassure you about your WordPress SEO. As always, please contact us if you have any questions about managed WordPress hosting services, or any WordPress question at all!