Choosing the right URL structure for your website is an important decision that can impact user experience, website management, and search engine optimization (SEO).
In this article, we'll explore the differences between www and non-www URLs, delving into their technical distinctions and the implications for SEO. Our objective is to help you understand the pros and cons of each option and guide you in selecting the best URL structure for your website, ensuring a seamless user experience and optimal search engine performance.
What are domain names?
Domain names are a crucial part of any website's online presence, as they serve as the address that users type into their web browser to access a particular site. In essence, a domain name is the human-friendly version of an IP address, which consists of a series of numbers and is used by computers to locate a website on the internet. Domain names are made up of two parts: the top-level domain (TLD) and the second-level domain (SLD).
- The TLD represents the highest level of the domain hierarchy (e.g., .com, .org, .net),
- while the SLD is the unique identifier chosen by the website owner (e.g., example in example.com).
When it comes to setting up a website, one important decision webmasters must make is whether to use a "www" or non-"www" URL structure. This choice can have implications for both the user experience and the site's search engine optimization (SEO) performance. In the following sections, we'll look into the differences between www and non-www URLs, their technical distinctions, and the impact of each option on SEO.
What Are www URLs?
www URLs, also known as World Wide Web URLs, are website addresses that include the "www" prefix before the second-level domain (SLD). This prefix represents a subdomain that was historically used to differentiate web servers from other types of internet services, such as email (e.g., mail.example.com) or file transfer protocol (FTP) servers (e.g., ftp.example.com). However, with the evolution of the internet and modern web technologies, this distinction has become less significant.
As an example, lets use our own website, m8l.com, a www URL would look like this: www.m8l.com. In this case, "www" is the subdomain, "m8l" is the SLD, and ".com" is the TLD. When users enter this address into their web browser, they will be directed to the our home page.
We prefer to use a www domain because it allows us to be more strategic with our subdomains use, and implement a good reverse proxy strategy. But it is worth noting that while www URLs are still prevalent on the internet, their usage has been declining in recent years, as more webmasters opt for non-www URLs to create a cleaner and more concise web address. Nonetheless, many well-established websites continue to use the www prefix, and it remains a viable option for those considering which URL structure to adopt.
What Are non-www URLs?
Non-www URLs, also known as "naked" or "bare" domain URLs, are website addresses that do not include the "www" prefix before the second-level domain (SLD). This type of URL structure has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it offers a cleaner and more concise web address that is easier for users to remember and type into their web browsers. Non-www URLs are functionally equivalent to their www counterparts in terms of accessing a website's content, and modern web browsers automatically recognize them as valid web addresses.
Here are a few real-world examples of websites using non-www URLs:
- https://twitter.com - Twitter, a popular social media platform, uses a non-www URL for its main website.
- https://medium.com - Medium, a widely-used online publishing platform, also opts for a non-www URL structure.
- https://github.com - GitHub, a platform for hosting and sharing code repositories, similarly features a non-www URL.
In each of these examples, the non-www URL provides a streamlined web address that is easy to recall and share. While there is no inherent technical advantage to using non-www URLs over www URLs, the preference for non-www URLs often comes down to aesthetics and the desire to provide a simpler user experience.
WWW vs Non-WWW - Technical Differences
While www and non-www URLs may appear to be simply a matter of preference or aesthetics, there are some technical differences between the two that can have an impact on website management and SEO. Below, we'll outline the key technical differences between www and non-www URLs, highlighting the aspects that may influence your decision when choosing between the two options.
It is important to remember that while there are technical differences between www and non-www URLs, neither option has an inherent advantage in terms of SEO performance. The key is to choose the option that best aligns with your website's needs and to ensure that proper redirects, canonicalization, and DNS configurations are in place to maintain a consistent and well-optimized web presence.
Pros and Cons of www URLs
While we have covered the technical differences between www and non-www URLs, it is helpful to explore the advantages and disadvantages of using www URLs more explicitly. This section will provide you with a clearer understanding of the practical implications of choosing a www URL structure for your website.
Pros of www URLs
Familiarity and trust
The www prefix has been used since the early days of the internet, and as such, it may be more familiar to some users. For certain audiences, a www URL may instill a greater sense of trust and professionalism in your website.
As www is a subdomain, it allows for greater flexibility in managing DNS records and web server configurations. This can be useful for websites that require multiple subdomains or complex server setups.
With www URLs, cookies can be restricted to the www subdomain, preventing them from being sent to other subdomains. This can result in improved website security and performance.
Cons of www URLs
Longer URL structure
Websites using the www prefix have a longer URL structure, which can be less appealing and harder to remember for users.
Canonicalization and redirect requirements
As search engines may treat www and non-www versions of a website as separate entities, it is crucial to implement proper canonicalization and redirects to avoid duplicate content penalties. This can require additional configuration and ongoing maintenance.
Perception of being outdated
In some cases, the use of the www prefix may be perceived as outdated or less modern, particularly among tech-savvy users.
While there are both advantages and disadvantages to using www URLs, the choice ultimately depends on your specific needs and goals for your website. It is essential to consider the technical implications, user experience, and overall perception when making your decision.
Which Is Better For SEO: www or non-www?
In the context of SEO, there is no definitive answer to whether www or non-www URLs are inherently better, as both options can perform equally well if properly configured and maintained. The choice between www and non-www URLs has an indirect effect on SEO, with aspects such as canonicalization, redirects, and cookie handling playing a more significant role in optimizing your website's search engine performance.
It is important to recognize that other SEO improvements, such as creating high-quality content, optimizing page load speeds, and ensuring mobile-friendliness, will have a much more substantial impact on your website's search engine rankings. In essence, the choice between www and non-www URLs should be made based on your specific needs, preferences, and technical requirements, rather than focusing solely on the potential SEO implications.
Which One Should I Choose?
To determine the best option for your website, consider the following factors:
Assess your website's technical needs, such as the necessity for multiple subdomains or complex server configurations. This can help you decide whether the flexibility offered by www URLs is advantageous for your situation.
User experience and aesthetics
Reflect on your target audience's preferences and the desired appearance of your website's URL. If a clean, modern, and concise web address is a priority, a non-www URL may be more suitable.
Familiarity and trust
Consider whether the traditional appearance and familiarity of a www URL will positively impact your website's credibility and trustworthiness among your target audience.
Ultimately, your choice between www and non-www URLs should be based on a combination of technical considerations, user experience, and the overall perception of your website. By carefully evaluating these factors and ensuring that proper redirects, canonicalization, and DNS configurations are in place, you can create a well-optimized website that performs effectively in search engine rankings, regardless of whether you choose a www or non-www URL structure.
Need some help setting up your website and optimizing your SEO strategies? We're here for you! Reach out to m8l.com and let's collaborate. 🤝 Click here to get in touch with our friendly team. 😊 We're excited to work with you!