To www or not to www – Which is Best?

When it comes to domain names www, short for world wide web, has been around for some considerable time – as I’m sure you’re aware (who isn’t)

However, you might have noticed – if you’ve been paying attention that is – that there are now a considerable number of domain names that do not start that way, although there are still plenty that do. If so, then you may be wondering what the difference between the two is and you wouldn’t be alone, as many people don’t know.

www a plotted history what is the difference

www – a potted history

For those who aren’t web historians, it may be worth taking you back a little with a short potted history of www. 

The World Wide Web came into existence in 1989 and it was invented by British Scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee whilst he was working at CERN. It wasn’t, however until 1991, that the first web server came online. 

In those early days, all websites used www as a prefix to their domain names. Many people don’t realise but the prefix was never actually a mandatory requirement for a website address, but everyone used it. 

Over time, people realised it wasn’t necessary and so many companies simply chose to stop using it.

So, which is best?

In answer to the question, which is best? the simple answer is that they are both really the same. The choice of which one you might choose for your website is entirely down to personal preference. 

That’s right, there really is very little difference – who knew?!

But.

What you really should be looking at is consistency on your website. 

Ultimately this is what will affect your SEO, so you need to look at whether you have been adding – or removing – www from the URL of your site. Chances are, if you’ve had several people working on your site, you could have links that point to both www and non www pages.

There is a very small speed benefit from using non-www (but its barely measurable) so I wouldn’t recommend changing if you are currently using the www version. If setting up a new site, maybe going with the non www version would be best,  but, let’s be frank, we are only talking fractions of a second here.

What is the difference?

Apart from the obvious difference, the lack of www at the beginning of a website URL, there really is only one difference between the two options and that is a technical one. If you choose to add www to your website name then it is your hostname that modifies to DNS and it is also your hostname which restricts the use of cookies whilst making use of other domains.

Choose one

In order to reap the benefits of this one very small item, you should decide if you want to stick with www or if you think it is time to say goodbye to those three small letters. 

However, if you have already got a setup that is working for you, one that is already out there on some of the more well-known search engines then it isn’t actually a good idea to change the URL that your site uses

What is important is to select the one you want and redirect the other. (see my guide on how to do so).

This is still one of the biggest issues I find when auditing websites.

If you don’t do this, then the search engines will treat both forms of your website address, the one with www and the one without, as separate entries and you could end up in a whole heap of trouble in the form of a ban as a result of having double content, double keywords and of course double pages.

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