Does the inclusion or exclusion of the www in a URL affect organic search rankings?
Some SEO professionals have claimed that domains using a www rank higher than domains not using a www, or vice versa.
In this chapter, we’ll determine if using or excluding www in your domain is a Google ranking factor.
The Claim: WWW/Non-WWW In A URL Is A Ranking Factor
Would https://www.example.com rank higher than https://example.com (or vice versa) based solely on the use (or lack thereof) of the www?
To determine this, we must first define what the www portion of a URL represents.
Let’s look at the following URLs:
- https://example.com/page.html – An HTML page on the root domain.
- https://example.com/folder/page.html – An HTML page in a subfolder/subdirectory.
- https://www.example.com/page.html – An HTML page under the www subdomain.
- https://store.example.com/page.html – An HTML page under the store subdomain.
Now that we know www is viewed as a subdomain, let’s see what Google has to say about the use of subdomains and subdirectories.
The Evidence Against WWW Or Non-WWW As A Ranking Factor
In 2005, Google published an article on the Google Search Central Blog about www vs non-www for developers.
The author doesn’t indicate whether Google has a preference; only that webmasters should choose one or the other.
Since then, Google has confirmed that the www subdomain does not affect rankings.
In 2017, a Twitter user asked if Google prefers www or non-www for SEO.
John Mueller, Google Search Advocate, confirmed that www is a brand preference with minimal SEO implications.
In 2018, during a Google Webmaster Central Office Hours, someone asked if there is a difference between subdomains and subdirectories for Google.
According to Mueller, “In general, we see these the same.”
In 2019, Mueller explained canonical URLs on the Google Search Central Blog:
“Sometimes a web page can be reached by using more than one URL. In such cases, Google tries to determine the best URL to display in search and to use in other ways. We call this the ‘canonical URL.’ There are ways site owners can help us better determine what should be the canonical URLs for their content.”
He goes on to explain how you can use Google Search Console to determine which URL Google has chosen.
If you prefer the non-www version of your website, and Google has chosen a page on the www version, you can follow the directions on consolidating duplicate URLs, updated in 2021.
In 2020, Mozilla updated a guide for webmasters on choosing the www or the non-www version of their domain.
They also conclude that it doesn’t matter which version of your site you choose, so long as you stick with that version as the canonical URL.
They go on to explain how you can set your canonical URLs.
Use of WWW vs. non-WWW as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Without word from Google or research proving that a domain with or without the www ranks better, we have to conclude that this is unlikely a ranking factor.
The key to success with www or non-www is to choose one and stay consistent.
Featured Image: Robin Biong/Search Engine Journal