Svetlana Shchehel
Feb 27, 2020 | 14 min read

When you type a website name into the browser address bar, do you ever start with www? Can you tell whether Wikipedia, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter are www or non-www? Don’t worry if you can’t because you’re not alone. 

Since popular web browsers like Google Chrome and Safari now hide the www part of a URL, it’s easy to lose track of the www prefix in the names of popular websites. If you’re wondering, all of the above-mentioned Internet giants except for Twitter are www. But if you type instead of, you’ll still get your news feed loaded in a few seconds. 

The fact that omitting the www part won’t hinder your access to most websites can make you think that www is obsolete, and you may not bother to include it in your website URL at all. But if that were the case, then why would Wikipedia, Amazon, and Facebook stick to this conventional format? 

In this post, we’ll consider the pros and cons of making www a part of your website name. On top of that, I’ll also share some technical setup tips that will help you keep your website SEO-friendly regardless of whether you choose to go www or non-www. 

What’s the point of www?

Before we delve into discussing all the benefits and drawbacks of keeping or skipping the www part, let’s first understand where it comes from. To run a website, you basically need two things: a server where all your website files will be stored along with an easily memorable name aka the domain name. The latter will let users access your website by typing (www.) instead of the server’s IP address into the address bar with DNS doing all the heavy lifting. 

How does DNS work?

So, why would you add the www prefix to your registered domain name? Historically, such prefixes were used as a means of differentiating between servers within your network. In the early days of the Internet, there were no hosting providers and virtual private servers. Every company used to manage its own network of servers, every server within the network was considered a host and performed a single function like storing files for sharing on the web or mail exchange. So, with regard to the kind of service the host provided it received a particular host name.

Stores files for sharing on the web www
Used for exchanging files within the network ftp
Handles e-mail delivery over a network mail

When combined with the company’s registered domain, each host name formed a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) – an Internet equivalent of the property’s full address with the zip code, street name, city name, etc. Entering the FQDN into the browser address bar allowed users to access the necessary server within the company’s network.

In the modern Internet landscape, things no longer work that way. A single server with one IP address can be used both as a web server and as a mail server. Besides, it is common practice to point both the root domain—this is how non-www websites are called in technical terms—and the www hostname to the same IP address. It will let users access your website regardless of whether or not they add www to the website URL. For SEO reasons, however, you’ll still need to choose which of the two domain name variations you prefer. 

Putting it right SEO-wise

Surely you want to decide whether to go www or non-www with SEO in mind. But from an SEO standpoint, it doesn’t really matter which option you go for, as was confirmed by John Mueller on Twitter. Favoring one over another is really a question of branding and technical capabilities—we’ll dwell on both things in more detail later. 

John Mueller on www vs non www

If you make your website accessible through both www and non-www, what matters for SEO is telling Google which of the domain name variations is your preferred one. Otherwise, Google will treat the www and non-www versions as separate websites, they will both get indexed, and you’ll have to deal with the duplicate content issue.

When it comes to indicating your preferred domain name (also called canonical), you have several means at hand. The most common solution would be to set up server-side 301 redirects. That way, every time a server receives a request to the non-canonical domain, it will automatically redirect users to the canonical equivalent. So, if your preferred version is and a user types, he or she will end up seeing in the browser address bar.

How does 301 redirect work?

If for some reason you have no technical means to set up 301 redirects, you can add the rel=canonical <link> tag to the HTML code of all non-preferred version pages. Just keep in mind that this method is not as reliable as 301 redirects. Google treats canonicals as recommendations and not instructions, and as a result, both website versions may get indexed.

So, if adding rel=canonical tags works better for you anyway, here’s how you can implement it. If your preferred version is, add the following line to the HTML code of

<link href="" rel="canonical">

With WordPress 2.9 or higher, rel=canonical tags will be added to all your website pages automatically, so you won’t even have to do anything on your own. Tags will either point to www or non www versions of your website depending on the one you specified as your WordPress Address (URL) under the general settings of WordPress.

From the user perspective, the difference between using 301 redirect and rel=canonical tags is that, in the latter case, the URL in the browser’s address bar and history doesn’t change. So, a user trying to access will see this exact URL in the address bar even if is your canonical variation. However, as popular web browsers now skip www, I doubt that users will even notice that something’s changed.

Now, once you decide whether to go www or non-www and mark your preferred version as canonical using either of the two methods, it’s also essential to consistently use your chosen URL variation. So, if you decided to keep www, make sure all your Sitemap URLs and internal links are www. Moreover, whenever possible, try to arrange for your backlinks to also include www—while both 301 redirects and rel=canonicals are supposed to pass link juice, some of it may get lost along the way. In turn, Google will appreciate your consistency and reward you with better rankings.

No set-it-and-forget-it approach

Once you set up 301 redirects or mark preferred pages with rel=canonical tags, make sure to check from time to time if things are still working properly. If you’re wondering why they wouldn’t, here’s a real-life example. 

Let’s say you’ve marked your webpages with rel=canonical tags and then added a new WordPress theme that automatically included the same tag on all pages that you were unaware of. So, you’ll end up having duplicate rel=canonical tags, which Google finds confusing, but you won’t even know that there was aa problem until it impacts your SEO performance. 

To avoid such situations, you can systematically run a website audit. SE Ranking’s Website Audit tool, for example, will tell you if some pages of your website have duplicate rel=canonical tags, if several pages point to the same canonical URL or if some pages are missing the rel=canonical tag.

SE Ranking's Website Audit checks rel=canonical implementation

Under the audit’s Health check section, you can see if you have 301 redirects from www to non-www (or vice versa) set up properly.

www redirect implementation check in SE Ranking's Website Audit

You can set SE Ranking to run a website audit for you regularly, like every week or month, so that you’ll be able to spot if something goes wrong in time. To check if everything is set up properly on your website, you can start your 14-day free trial and the system will automatically audit your website as soon as you add your project to the platform.

Choosing the preferred domain

Now that you know how important it is to clearly tell Google which domain name version you prefer, let’s finally figure out which of the two will serve you better as canonical. At first sight, the non-www URL looks neater and more appealing. It also rolls off the tongue much easier. As English author Douglas Adams once noted, it takes three times longer to pronounce the abbreviation www than simply saying “World Wide Web”. So, it’s no wonder broadcasters normally drop the www part when mentioning a website on-air. This is actually what most people do when saying a website name out loud.

When typing a domain name in the address bar, users who don’t remember the early days of the Internet typically also skip the www part. So why not skip it when choosing the canonical version of your website name? After all, it’s 2020 and people will still understand it’s a web address even if www is not a part of the URL and as long as you use one of the common top-level domains like com, net or org

It really makes sense to choose non-www for the sake of branding. But before doing so, there are some technical restrictions you need to consider. These limitations are the reason why Internet giants stick to www.

When is www a necessity?

Let’s say you decided to go non-www and mapped both your root domain and hostname to the same IP address you received from your hosting provider. It is done using an A-type record, and the DNS record looks like this. IN A IN A

Then you marked as your canonical domain. Everything looks good so far.

Now, let’s assume that one day your website will significantly grow and will start getting thousands or even millions of visitors every day. A single server cannot sustain such an increased load, and that’s the reason big websites like Wikipedia, Amazon, and Facebook don’t have their domains mapped to a single IP address. Instead, they rely on content delivery networks (CDN) to quickly and securely deliver content to millions of their users. So, you’ll naturally want to also use a CDN. And here come the technical limitations.

Handling loads of traffic

According to DNS specifications, root domains should always point to an IP address. But to make use of CDNs, you’ll need to point your website to a CDN domain, and not to an IP address. Theoretically, you can map your domain both to an IP address using an A-type record and to a CDN domain using a CNAME record. But here comes another DNS rule telling that a CNAME record cannot co-exist with other resource records types. So, if you add both, the A-type record pointing to the IP address will be ignored, violating the first rule. 

If you got slightly overwhelmed by all the technical terms mentioned above, here’s the short version. Because of the way DNS requests work, you cannot point a non-www host name to a CDN domain. Doing so will lead to unexpected errors and won’t let your website function properly.

At the same time, if you choose the www host name as your preferred version, you won’t have any problems complying with DNS rules. You’ll simply create a CNAME record for the www hostname, mapping it to a CDN of your choice. And you’ll also add an A record for your root domain pointing to your website’s IP address.  CNAME      A

It is also worth mentioning that some DNS providers like Cloudflare, DNS Made Easy, DNSSimple, and more have introduced workarounds to overcome the DNS restrictions. But relying on the workarounds will limit your choice of DNS providers and you may also face the problem of hindered user experience because of users being routed to a far-away CDN node.

Taming website cookies

In addition to DNS limitations, choosing a root domain as canonical brings up the cookies issue. The thing is in modern browsers, cookies of the main domain are automatically passed down to subdomains. So, if you set cookies for, they will also be sent to,, etc. And here’s why this is a bad thing. 

The first reason is the negative impact on user experience. Bigger websites often choose to store their static content (image, video, JavaScript and CSS files) on a subdomain to free up the main server for dynamic requests. But if the website runs as the root domain, then cookies will still be sent from to, slowing down access to static content and hurting website performance. The only way to prevent this waste of bandwidth would be to store your static content on a whole different domain. This is what Twitter being non-www does—they host their static content on

The second reason is security risks. When you log into your website’s CMS, a cookie is issued. Then when you visit or, the cookie is sent to these subdomains and can be read by server administrators. It poses a security risk as administrators can copy the cookie and use it to log into your corporate CMS. To mitigate the risk, you can resort to IP restriction only allowing access to your corporate network IPs. 

So, if you want to optimize your website’s speed by hosting static content separately, but you are not quite eager to purchase a whole new domain for this purpose, consider keeping the www prefix in your preferred domain name. This way, you also won’t have to worry about third parties reading your website cookies. 

To www, or not to www

The www prefix in the domain name may seem little and insignificant, but it can make a big difference. Your branding and your website’s scalability are affected, so make sure to choose wisely based on your priorities and future plans. And once you make the decision, mark your preferred version as canonical and stick to it. Switching back and forth from www to non-www is technically possible, but it won’t do your website’s SEO any good. 

Finally, we’d love to hear which camp you are in. Share in the comments sections below why you prefer to www or not to www.

Share article
Post Views: 12,863
  1. Hey, I changed mine just now to www from non www, will this damage my prexisting SEO? I already have both added to Search Console and just changed my preference. Thanks!

    1. Hey, Mario. No need for you to worry. If you set up the 301 redirects then it should have minimal effect on your SEO.

  2. Thanks for the great post, rather easy to grasp 🙂
    I have my website with a naked URL as I prefer the look of it. Your points of using www are reasonable but my website is rather small and I don’t think I need to bother about the technical limitations so far

    1. Thank you for sharing, Merle! You really shouldn’t worry about CDNs and cookies if none of the cases I described apply to your website. And if any issue arises in the future, you’ll know what to do

  3. Hi Sylvia, great post.
    In a website audit they say I have to make redirect some pages to www to non-www. How can I, exactly, set up 301 redirect ? I’m new and I don’t understand so much of this…..

    1. Hi Philip,

      No worries, it’s no rocket science. The setup process varies depending on your hosting server. For Apache Web Servers offered by many popular hosting providers, what you need is adding a few lines of code to the .htaccess file.
      If your hosting comes with a cPanel, go to the File Manager, choose to show the hidden files in the Settings and you should be able to locate the .htaccess file in the public_html directory. Make a copy of it and then try adding these lines of code replacing with your website name:

      RewriteEngine On
      RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
      RewriteRule .*{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

      If this doesn’t work for you or you are struggling to find the .htaccess file, try googling your hosting name + .htaccess, and you should find all the necessary instruction.
      Hope this helps.

  4. The advantage I can think of for having www is on instagram. For example, an address that ends with .us or .biz e.g or could be an instagram user name.
    So when promoting your website on instagram, its better to add www so people would know its your website you are promoting not your account name.

    1. Fola, thank you for providing such a great example. Sometimes without the www part, it is really way harder to understand that we’re looking at a web address.

  5. I’m running into the exact issue you mentioned about non-www not working with cdn. I had cdn for almost a year until I discovered it wasn’t working due to not using www. So now I’m in the position where I need to change it to www, but I’m really concerned I’ll hurt my seo.

    1. David, thank you for sharing. I wouldn’t worry too much about hurting your SEO. 301 redirects pass up to 99% of link juice, so your hard-earned backlinks will still work for you. And redirects will also tell Google it should now index the www-version. To track your www-website’s performance, add it to GSC. But if you already have your website added to GSC as a domain property, you can skip this step. Then, add your updated Sitemap to GSC for Google to spot the new versions of the pages faster.
      Finally, there’s a few more things you can do to speed things up and keep all the link equity.
      1. After setting up redirects, go though your internal linking and replace all the URLs with the www-versions. Another option would be to implement relative URLs before setting up redirects.
      2. You may try to amend your most important backlinks by contacting website owners and asking them to add www to the URLs.
      3. You can also manually ask Google to recrawl your most important pages via the URL Inspection tool.

      Good luck with changing your website to www 🙂

  6. Thank you for the vast knowledge and insight given regarding this issue. I am facing this now, as I have a 2 month old website that I changed from non-www to www, as I plan in the future to add an ecommerce and will look to add a CDN service. However, I am struggling to figure out how o do a 301 redirect. I have hostgator, and it seems that on the Cpanel theirs an option for redirect. However, you say to add to the Htaccess file. Which one do you think I should use? Last, I do not have Analytics or GSC setup yet, so I got confused when you mentioned this above. Also you ask to go over internal links, but how do I do that? Do I have to worry that when I search for my domain in google it shows without the www? Maybe because is relatively new and I changed to www this past week. ANyway, sorry for all the question and excuse me for my novice comment and concern.

    1. Danny, sorry for the slow reply.
      1. So, let’s start with setting up a 301 redirect. It’s a server-side redirect, and it affects every single page of your website. The process will vary depending on the server that hosts your websites. It looks like HostGator uses Apache Web Servers, so what you need is located your .htaccess file and add a few lines of code to it (replace example with your website name).

      RewriteEngine On
      RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^$
      RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

      Here’re some tips on editing .htaccess file from your hosting provider:
      The redirect option you’ve seen in your cPanel is a different thing, it’s used to redirect a single page.

      2. When advising to go through the internal links I mean that you need to fix your internal links so that they all include www.
      3. If you don’t yet, have a GSC and GA, I advise you to sign up.
      4. I’m not sure what you mean by saying that you changed to www this past week as normally initially your website is available both with www and without it. After you set up a server-side redirect, it should only work one way. It may take some time, though, for Google to learn that you prefer www, especially if your site is new.

  7. I forgot to ask on the question above, if I have to do a redirect for every single page inside my website, or to is enough?

  8. Thank you for the most and clearest article about www and non-www!
    Do you think that the speed of domain reacts is different from www with on-www?

    1. Thanks for your warm feedback 🙂 As to your question, www doesn’t really impact speed. However, if you serve an international audience, a CDN does can improve the loading speed for users accessing visiting your website from some faraway locations. And to have no issues with using CDN, you need your website to be www.

  9. Hi! I have just made a website where I present my work (photography and graphic design). I wont have millions of visitors so if I correctly understand non-www website is perfectly ok? Thanks for the answer.

    1. Thanks for your question, Ana. You’re right, with a small website you should be perfectly ok as long as you don’t need to use a CDN or create subdomains.

  10. Hi Sveltana, love this blog, I was so confused about www vs non-www for my canonical tag. After reading your blog now I will prefer www.

  11. What if we don’t have an .htaccess file? Does SERanking require that? I tried crawling via sitemap.xml but still get all the same errors and it never crawls. Our tech guy says we do all the in web.config? We’re on an iis server not linux? Can I still use the Website Audit report?

    1. Thank you for your question, Angela. SE Ranking does not need to access an .htaccess file to crawl a website, and it’s perfectly fine not to have one. If you have problems with our bot crawling your site, perhaps that’s due to restrictions in your robots.txt file. I’d advise you to contact our customer success team—they’ll help you figure out what can possibly cause the problem.

  12. Hi Svetlana. Thank you for this technically profound piece. You explained everything with great clarity. I have a rather different opinion on the branding aspect of this.
    Although the non-www would look better, we can still get the branding benefits of a naked domain even after using www because of a few things. While branding, we don’t have to mention www. We don’t even have to add it to the links we share or in the logo. Even if someone clicks on a non-www site of our link, they will automatically be redirected towards the www version using 301 redirects. And it wouldn’t look ugly because modern browsers automatically hide it. The users who didn’t type www wouldn’t even notice the redirect or that the www prefix was automatically added. For short single page websites, or static websites of companies, it might make sense to not use www but it I believe it wouldn’t hurt the branding of bigger websites as well for the reasons I mentioned. What do you think about all this? Interested in your opinion.

    1. Hi Umar, thank you for sharing your feedback and offering an interesting point of view on the topic. You’re right, you can have your website as www and still get all the branding benefits of a non-www website in most cases. Still, what you need to remember is that some browsers (Firefox, Edge) still show the whole URL in the address bar including the protocol and the www part. Besides, other websites may link out to you using a naked URL — in this case, users will also see that www is a part of your domain name. It’s not necessarily bad, just something to bear in mind when making the www or non-www choice.

  13. Dear Svetlana Shchehel…
    Currently, I’m running a News Website…

    I’m a big fan of NON-WWW…

    What if I use Cloudflare like reverse proxy CDN…?

    They can provide CDN for Root Domain.

    Another issue you mentioned is about Cookies…

    I’m unfamiliar with this… but, what if I’m using Clodflare, That secure almost all attacks… sooo… what do you really think?

    Svetlana Shchehel, I was getting Good traffic… but After 2020 dec 3 core update, my site ranking is down…

    I was using the naked domain before and now…

    NOW, I’m trying to fix everything I missed…

    if you NOT Heared about QUIC. CLOUD

    kindly do a check, they are a new company, have some extra features than Cloudflare, also works like cloudflare…

    I’m eagerly waiting for your answer…


    1. Thank you for your comment. If I understand you right, you are worried that running a non-www website could have affected your rankings. Let me assure you this should not be the case. As I suggest in this post, going non-www can cause some difficulties when setting up a CDN and some cookies issues which I described in a respective chapter. Regarding your choice of a CDN, you can use whichever one you like as long as your DNS provider offers a workaround to map your root domain to a CDN. If you were able to use Cloudflare CDN in the past your website being non-www, obviously your DNS provider must have such a feature.

    1. Thank you for sharing this with us. Something to bear in mind when choosing the www vs non-www camp.

  14. I must be missing something, but Google says this info was obsolete as of 2019 when they moved to the new Search Console. There is no longer an option inside Search Console to setup a preferred domain, yet you still have this as one of your recommendations in the Marketing Plan as of June 2021. Is this still relevant or not? If so, why does Google say it isn’t?

    1. Thank you for your question, Shane. You’re right GSC no longer has the Preferred Domain setting. At the same time, it doesn’t mean there’s no longer such thing as a preferred domain. and are still two different websites, and it’s still a good practice to set up a redirect to make it clear which of the two website versions is your main one. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with duplicate page — you can learn more about this problem from this post ( Besides, choosing a preferred domain is important for optimizing link juice flow and for a number of technical reasons.

      That is true that Google can decide on its own which of the versions to rank, but you may not always be happy with the choices Google makes. That is why in the post you linked to below, Google clearly states that “you can still tell us your preference in multiple ways” and lists all the available options redirects included. And this is exactly what SEO pros do.

  15. Bye Bye Preferred Domain setting

  16. Hello Svetlana, what a generous post. Thanks!
    But, I still got questions. What do you mean when you say “as long as you do not want CDN or sub domains, non www is ok”? What is CDN and what is subdomain?
    I am looking at publishing a website that provides online physical therapy services for clients globally. I am yet to get my domain. Does my business need a CDN? a subdomain?
    Sorry for the lame questions!

    1. Hello, Scion. I’m happy to answer your questions. CDN stands for Content Delivery Network — websites that serve users from all over the globe use CDNs to ensure users get the same top-notch experience regardless of their location. For example, if your website is hosted on a server that is located in US, users from Australia may get a slow-loading website. But with a CDN, your Australian website visitor will be using an Australian server and will get the same flawless experience as US visitors. You said that you hope to serve clients globally, so at some point, you may need a CDN. If you go non-www, it may be harder for you to set things up — I explain this in detail in the Hadling loads of data sections of the post.
      Regarding the subdomains, you can learn more about this topic from this post — In short, or are the subdomains of The risks associated with going non-www when having subdomains are laid out in the Taming website cookies section.

  17. “Wikipedia, Amazon, and Facebook stick to this conventional format”, wikipedia is using non-www for all the articles that we the people read, but the parent page is using www. I personally prefer non-www, the site addrress/name is just simple & POPPED when displayed on google search result.

  18. Our entire website 301’s to the www version, but the site designer set the canonical to the non www version, and the sitemap is non www as well. Is that set up confusing to search engines?

    1. Thank you for your question, Paul. The rule of thumb is that you stick to one version of your website (www or non-www) and present it in a similar way to both users and search engines. So, in your case, setting a canonical to the non-www version doesn’t make sense because this directive is opposite to what you have declared when redirected to the www version. Moreover, you are right that having a sitemap on the non-www version is confusing for search engines as you are expected to have it on your preferred site version (www in your case).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Articles
SEO Insights
35 Google SERP features you should monitor for better SEO
Aug 31, 2021 29 min read

In this article, we will explain 35 elements that make up a SERP and help you monitor what elements Google displays for the queries you track. Start optimizing your website content for SERP features to drive more customers and increase brand awareness.

Maria Yefimenko
SEO Insights
Dofollow vs nofollow links and their value for SEO
Aug 30, 2021 16 min read

By default, links are followed, which means that search engines can crawl, index, and take them into consideration when distributing rankings. Sometimes, you don’t need to endorse the page you’re citing, and there’s when nofollow comes in handy. In this article, we discuss how dofollow and nofollow values matter in SEO, whether in the context of backlink profiles or internal linking.

Anastasia Osypenko