Sites that include the ‘www’ are becoming less common these days, but that’s not surprising. In the early days of web searches the ‘www’ helped distinguish a website’s domain versus key phrases. Remember the old “Find us using AOL keyword X” commercials? Now that the internet is a staple in most people’s daily lives, saying or writing ‘www’ is superfluous.

I personally prefer going without ‘www’ for this reason, as I feel it serves no purpose.

Regardless, especially if at some point you have your website redone or move the hosting, make sure whatever choice you’ve made stays consistent. If your site used to be www.your-site.com and you redesign it using just your-site.com, it can wreak havoc on your indexing with search engines, and even break backlinks you’ve accumulated. For indexing, this is because search engines like Google look at www.your-site.com and your-site.com as two distinct domains, i.e. one is not equal to the other.

“But if I use forwarding it’ll be okay, right?”

Sort of yes, but mostly no. Here’s why. If your site used to be www.your-site.com and you’re now forwarding that to your-name.com, it’s true that anyone visiting your old URL will be forwarded to the new one. However, URLs of pages and blog posts that have been indexed are still tied to your www.your-site.com/ domain, so unless you meticulously set up forwarding for every URL you ever had, it’s not going to translate.

What happens in this case is that the ranking for your old domain will wilt as search engines begin to see them as “page not found”, and you’ll be effectively starting over in your indexing efforts under the new domain. Submitting a new sitemap to Google/Bing/Yahoo under the new URL can help ease some of this pain if you find yourself in this position, as it will help the structure of all URLs on your site be re-indexed more quickly.

If you were using analytics or reporting software tied to the old domain, it may also begin giving erroneous reports about a URL that isn’t active anymore. You may see errors such as:

Notice: due to an issue with your website structure we were only able to crawl the home page of your website. This issue may affect search engine crawlers and could be damaging to your SEO. We suggest that you look into this issue ASAP. (Bright Local)

This is because when crawlers visit the old domain they are forwarded to the new one, which counts as valid, but there is no actual content that continues beyond the main domain for the old (and now inactive) domain.

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