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WWW vs Non-WWW ‘Naked’ Domain: Which Is Right for Your Website?

If you’re in the early stages of developing a website, you might be wondering to use a www or non-www domain. In the past, all websites were required to use the www prefix. An initialism for “World Wide Web,” it allowed businesses to make their websites accessible on the internet. Unless an internet user included the www prefix, he or she wouldn’t be able to access the intended website.

The www prefix is no longer required, however. You can now launch a website using a non-www domain. With that said, both types of domains offer unique benefits. To determine which one is right for your website, you must learn the differences between www and non-www domains.

WWW Domain Benefits

If your website has subdomains attached to it, you may want to use a www domain. Both www and non-www domains support subdomains, but only the former allows you to restrict cookie access.

With a non-www domain, cookies are passed down to all of your website’s subdomains. When you configure your naked domain website to send visitors a tracking cookie, for instance, the cookie will be sent to all users who visit your website or any of its subdomains. Whether a user visits example.com, subdomain-one.example.com, subdomain-two.example.com or subdomain-three.example.com, he or she will receive the tracking cookie. If you use a www domain, on the other hand, you’ll have the freedom to restrict cookie access to specific subdomains.

You’ll have an easier time setting up your website on a Content Delivery Network (CDN) if it uses a www domain. A type of web hosting service, a CDN is an interconnected group of servers that’s used to improve website speed and performance. It helps visitors load your website more quickly by serving copies of your site’s static content from dozens or even hundreds of servers.

To get your website up and running on a CDN, you’ll typically need to set a CNAME record. Like subdomains, CNAME records are supported by both www and non-www domain. The problem with non-www domains, though, is that setting a new CNAME record overwrites all previous records. Networking jargon aside, using a www domain allows you to easily place your website on a CDN, resulting in faster load times for visitors.

Non-WWW Domain Benefits

Your website will have shorter, cleaner-looking URLs if it uses a non-www domain. According to a study conducted by Gaebler, the average length of a domain is 10 characters. Assuming your website’s domain falls in line with the majority, using the www prefix will extend its length by nearly one-third. If a user wants to visit your website, he or she must type the www prefix before your site’s domain. Using a non-www domain eliminates this step so that users can type your website’s in fewer keystrokes.

Not only are naked domains easier to type than their www counterparts; they are also easier to remember. If you develop and promote your website using the www version of its domain, users will become accustomed to seeing the www prefix. As a result, they’ll assume it’s part of your website’s address. And because www domains are longer than naked domains, visitors are less likely to remember them when typing your website’s address.

The Myth About WWW and Search Rankings

Contrary to popular belief, search engines don’t favor one type of domain over the other. Google and Bing disregard the use of www as a ranking signal. Therefore, your website won’t rank higher just because it uses either a www or naked domain.

Consistency Is Key

Whether you use a www or non-www domain, the most important thing is that you are consistent. In other words, you should build all your website’s links using a single version. If you want to use a www domain, all internal links and inbound links should feature the www prefix. If you want to use a naked domain, all links should omit the www prefix.

Switching between different versions of your website’s domain can lead to cannibalization of your website’s link juice. If you create links to both versions of your site’s domain, they’ll share link juice. As a result, the preferred version may not rank high as it should. Maintaining a consistent link structure prevents link juice cannibalization by pumping all the link equity to the preferred version of your website’s domain.

Set Up Redirects

In addition to being consistent with the preferred version of your website’s domain, you should set up redirects to it. With redirects in place, users who try to visit the unpreferred version of your website’s domain will automatically load and see the preferred version. Additionally, redirects ensure that all link juice is passed to the preferred version of your website’s domain.

There are several ways to set up redirects to the preferred version of your website’s domain, one of which is to use canonical tags. Canonical tags tell search engines the preferred version of a web page. While on the unpreferred version of your website’s domain, you must add a canonical tag to each page. The canonical tags should point to the same page on which they are published,

An easier redirect method involves configuring your website’s .htaccess file. If your website’s server is powered by Apache, it will either have or support a configuration file known as a .htaccess file. In this configuration file, you can set up site-wide 301 redirects from the unpreferred version of your website’s domain to the preferred version. It only requires a few lines of added code, after which the unpreferred version will automatically redirect to the preferred version.

If you use a www domain, you’ll have greater control over subdomain cookies and the ability to use a CDN. If you use a naked domain, you’ll create shorter URLs for your website that are easier for visitors to remember. Regardless, whether to use a www or non-www domain for your website is mainly a decision of personal preference. Just remember to stick with a single version when building links and set up redirects.

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www vs non www

Last Updated in January 2022 by Lukasz Zelezny