What does “www” mean in a domain?

Stock computer photo, Website SEO Strategy.
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A website’s URL is more than a mere web address—it’s the cornerstone of your online identity. A key element, often unnoticed but hugely impactful, is the ‘www’ prefix in your site’s URL. You might think it’s just a small detail, but it can make a big difference to your online success.

So, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the deal with ‘www’?”.

Well, it’s not just a random prefix—it’s a subdomain, and it can seriously affect your SEO. Search engines like Google treat ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ URLs as separate entities. This can mess with your site’s search rankings.

This article explores the significance of ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ in your website’s URL and how this seemingly small detail directly impacts your SEO, brand consistency, internal network functionality, and long-term online success. By understanding the nuances and making informed choices, you can optimize your website’s performance and ensure its readiness for future growth.

Whether you’re a seasoned website owner or just starting your online journey, this content provides actionable insights to enhance your digital presence and make the right choices for your website’s success.

“www” Impact on SEO and Your Site's Visibility

Let’s talk about “www” and how it can shape your website’s success, particularly when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and your site’s visibility. This might sound a bit technical, but we’ll break it down for you in plain language first.

In SEO, every detail counts – especially your URL structure.

Picture this: you have a website that can be accessed with or without the “www” in front of your domain name. Now, you might think, “What’s the big deal?” Well, here’s the deal:

Search engines like Google consider “www” and “non-www” versions of your website as separate entities. It’s like having twins with almost identical names. This can confuse search engines and, in turn, hurt your website’s search rankings. And we all know that when your website doesn’t show up near the top of search results, it’s like being invisible on the internet.

Not good for business, right?

Now, here’s the golden nugget of wisdom: If you decide to stick with “www” from the beginning, you’re making a proactive move. Why? Because you ensure that no matter how someone types in your website’s address (with or without “www”), they’ll always end up on one consistent version of your site.

This consistency is music to the ears of search engines. They love it when you make their job easy. So, when they see a website that’s always the same, no matter how you access it, they reward you with higher search rankings. And higher rankings mean more visibility, more clicks, and more visitors checking out your website.

That’s a win-win!

So, by choosing “www” and sticking with it, you’re not just keeping things simple for your audience; you’re also telling search engines, “Hey, I’m organized and reliable.” And in the world of SEO, that’s a big deal.

Brand Identity

Think about your URL structure as part of your brand’s identity. It’s like your company’s signature. Like in real life, you want your signature to be the same every time.

So, here’s the thing: If you start your website with ‘non-www’ in the URL, it’s essential to stick with it. Changing your mind and switching to ‘www’ or vice versa can confuse your audience.

Consistency is a game-changer.

Imagine you’re a loyal customer trying to visit a website and always used ‘non-www’ in the address. Suddenly, the website switches to ‘www’. You might end up on a different page or even think you’re on a completely different website.

That’s not what you want for your brand, right?

Think about your favorite local coffee shop. You love their cozy atmosphere and know exactly where to find them. Their sign outside has the same logo every time you pass by. It’s familiar, and you trust it.

But what if one day, you walk by, and the logo has changed, and the shop’s name is different? You’d be puzzled.

That’s how your audience might feel if your website’s URL structure keeps switching. It’s like changing your coffee shop’s name overnight. Consistency, my friend, is what makes your brand memorable and trustworthy in the eyes of your audience.

Woman searching on phone


‘www’ isn’t just a fancy prefix—it’s a subdomain, and understanding this tiny detail can unlock a treasure trove of SEO potential for your website.

Think of your website’s URL as a map to your digital kingdom. The ‘www’ is like a secret passage that leads to a treasure chest filled with SEO goodies. It’s not just for show. It’s an integral part of your domain’s architecture.

Now, let’s talk about how search engines, like Google, view ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ sites.

You might be surprised to know that this distinction plays a significant role in how your website is indexed and ranked. And guess what? It directly influences your reach to potential customers. Imagine it’s like being the main attraction at a bustling market versus being tucked away in a hidden alley. Your choice of ‘www’ or ‘non-www’ can determine whether you’re in the spotlight or lost in the crowd.

Let’s say you’re running an online store selling handmade jewelry. You put your heart and soul into creating beautiful pieces and want the world to see them.

You have two options for your website’s URL: ‘www.jewelryartistry.com’ and ‘jewelryartistry.com’.

If you go with ‘www’, you’re essentially putting a spotlight on your jewelry business. Search engines recognize it as the main event, giving it a prominent place in search results. But if you choose ‘non-www’, it’s like your jewelry store is hiding in the shadows, making it harder for potential customers to find you.

How Google differentiates between ‘www’ and ‘non-www’

Now let’s look at the nitty-gritty of it. Google differentiates between ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ websites primarily through its treatment of URLs in its search index. Here’s how Google handles them differently:

Separate Indexing: Google treats ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ versions of a website as separate entities. Each version is indexed individually. This means that if you have both ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ versions of your site accessible, Google might index and rank them separately.

Canonicalization: Google employs canonicalization to determine the preferred version of a web page when there are multiple versions with similar content. It may choose one version as the canonical (primary) URL. If you don’t specify a preferred version using canonical tags, Google might make this decision for you, potentially causing SEO issues.

Backlinks: Backlinks are crucial for SEO. When other websites link to your content, it boosts your site’s authority. Google treats ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ versions of your URLs as distinct when counting backlinks. This means backlinks to ‘www.example.com’ and ‘example.com’ are considered separate, potentially diluting the link equity between the two versions.

Keyword Ranking: If you have different content or keywords on ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ versions of your site, Google may rank them differently for relevant search queries. This can affect your visibility in search results.

Redirects: Many website owners use 301 redirects to ensure that both ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ versions of their site point to a single, canonical version. This helps consolidate SEO efforts and avoid duplicate content issues. However, improper implementation of redirects can lead to SEO problems.

So Here’s what you should do:

  • Choose a preferred version (either ‘www’ or ‘non-www’) and stick with it consistently.
  • Implement 301 redirects to redirect traffic from the non-preferred version to the preferred one.
  • Use canonical tags to specify the canonical version of your pages to search engines.
  • Ensure that your internal and external links consistently use the preferred version.

By addressing these considerations, you can optimize your website’s SEO and prevent potential ranking fluctuations caused by the ‘www’ vs. ‘non-www’ distinction.

Stock image of a man searching for information

Peace in Your Internal Network

Now, we know not everyone has to worry about internal networks, but if your business does, this part is crucial.

Imagine your website as the heart of your company’s digital operations. It’s where your team accesses resources, shares information, and collaborates seamlessly. Now, if your website uses ‘www’ in its URL, it’s like a well-tuned instrument playing in harmony with your internal network. Everything works smoothly, and your team can access the website without a hitch.

However, if you decide to ditch the ‘www’ and go with the non-www version of your URL, it’s like playing a different tune.

This can disrupt your internal networks and cause operational hiccups. Your team might face access issues or unexpected errors, which can slow down your business processes.

Nobody wants that, right?

Here are the specific ways in which ‘www’ and ‘non-www’ URLs can affect internal networks:

Two people hacking into a locked computer

Consistency in Access and Access Issues

If your internal network has been set up to work with ‘www’ URLs, using ‘www’ in your website’s URL ensures that internal users can access the site seamlessly. It aligns with the network’s configuration, allowing for a consistent, error-free experience.

When ‘www’ is part of your URL structure and your internal network is configured accordingly, removing it (switching to ‘non-www’) can lead to access issues for internal users. They may encounter authentication problems, security warnings, or broken links, disrupting their workflow.

Content Delivery

When it comes to content delivery within internal networks, it’s important to consider the URL structure. In specific scenarios, content delivery systems and caching mechanisms are configured to work optimally with ‘www’ URLs. These systems are finely tuned to recognize and deliver content efficiently through the ‘www’ subdomain.

However, if you decide to switch to ‘non-www’ URLs, it can disrupt this optimization.

The consequence of such a change can manifest as suboptimal performance and slower content delivery for your internal users. This means that accessing resources, web pages, or data within your internal network may take longer, affecting productivity and user experience.

Security, Authentication, and Customized Internal Tools

Internal networks often have security measures and authentication protocols in place. If the URL structure changes, these security settings may need to be adjusted to accommodate the new configuration. Failing to do so can result in unauthorized access or security vulnerabilities.

Some businesses develop custom internal tools or applications that rely on specific URL structures. If these tools are designed to work with ‘www’ URLs, switching to ‘non-www’ may require updates or modifications to ensure their continued functionality.

IT Maintenance:

Any changes, such as switching from ‘www’ to ‘non-www’ or vice versa, should be cautiously and meticulously planned.

Coordination with your IT teams is vital to minimize disruptions during these transitions. They are responsible for aligning the network’s configuration with the chosen URL structure. This process includes updating access controls, security measures, and any custom tools or applications that rely on specific URL configurations.

By collaborating closely with your IT professionals, you can ensure that changes are executed smoothly, minimizing downtime and potential complications within your internal network.

Planning For Future Growth

Let’s talk about future-proofing your online presence because planning for what’s ahead is always smart.

So, you might be thinking, “How does ‘www’ fit into all of this?

Well, imagine your website as a sturdy ship sailing the digital seas. You want that ship to navigate smoothly and adapt to any storm that comes your way. Starting with a ‘www’ URL is like building your ship with a versatile hull that can handle various conditions.

Now, let’s get practical.

Say you’re a small e-commerce business selling artisanal soaps, and your website starts with ‘www.soapcrafters.com’. Your business is thriving, and you’re expanding your product line. As you grow, you might need to add more features to your website, like an advanced e-commerce platform or a customer portal.

If you’ve started with ‘www’, you’re already one step ahead. Your website’s structure is flexible and ready to accommodate these changes without causing major disruptions.

On the flip side, say you went for the ‘non-www’ option when you started your website as a small business, using ‘soapcrafters.com’. As your business takes off, you realize you need to revamp your website to meet the growing demands.

This can be tricky, involving potential migration headaches, SEO complications, and the risk of losing some of your hard-earned search rankings.

Starting with ‘www’ ensures that your website is like a chameleon, effortlessly adapting to whatever changes the future holds. It’s all about future-proofing your online presence and making sure your ship stays on course, no matter how big the waves get.

Unlock Your Website's Full Potential for Future-Ready Success!

Thinking about the future? You should be! Starting with ‘www’ URLs is smart if you plan to grow your online presence. It sets a solid foundation for your website as your business scales up and your IT needs evolve.

At My Website Spot, we’re all about future-ready solutions. We’re here to guide you in choosing the right URL structure so that your site remains strong and adaptable to whatever the future holds.

Ready to take your website’s SEO to the next level? Contact My Website Spot today and let’s make the right choice for your online success. Your website deserves it!


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