Do you like your domain name with or without www? Like me, you may have noticed that the famous www URL prefix is disappearing from our internet browsers – a way to reduce the length of URLs and make them more readable …
One site, two URLs: notion of favorite domain
Whether you type example.com or www.example.com is strictly the same!
Wait. 1 page, 2 different URLs? Hmm, it turns out that this is going to be taken up by search engines as duplicate content… Yes, I recently learned that a site could be indexed under 2 different URLs, and that for that it could receive a penalty in the Results Pages.
This is where the notion of ” favorite domain ” (or ” canonical domain“) Comes in: It’s about telling search engines (ie Google here) which version of URL you want them to use for your site in their results. And if you take the risk of leaving that aside, then the crawlers and other crawlers will come to treat the versions with or without www of the domain as different pages. This can lead to major indexing problems or even a lack of indexing of your site if the domain is new …
Likewise, knowing that in all cases one of the versions of URL will be highlighted compared to its twin, it may not be the one on which you worked on your netlinking – too bad because you will lose the fruit of your job…
How to tell Google which URL to consider
Now that we know that this favorite domain story impacts both the indexing and positioning of your site, let’s take the necessary steps to avoid unnecessary hassle. In this case the only way to resolve this issue is to go through the Google “Webmaster Tools”.
Log in to your account. The first thing to do is to tell Google that you are the owner of the 2 versions of the domain, since it explains that ” usually both versions lead to the same page, but this is not always the case“. This can be done easily since you are supposed to already be recognized as the owner of one of these versions – so all you have to do is click on “add site”, enter the other version of URL and click on “Next”. Note that you will have to go through the verification process again if you have removed the folder, meta tag or DNS record.
When the 2nd version of URL has been validated you can go to select your favorite domain. To do this, go to the Webmaster Tools home page and click on one of the 2 URLs appearing next to the overviews of your site. There, choose in the left menu the Configuration option, then Settings. You will therefore find the possibility of selecting your favorite domain simply by checking one of the URLs and then clicking on Validate.
That’s done! Keep in mind, however, that changes can take a little while for the crawlers to take effect – that’s normal. And finally you can follow this last tip from the Google team (but not least): ” If you’ve defined a favorite domain, you can use a 301 redirect to redirect traffic from the other domain, so other search engines and other users know which version you prefer.“.
Source: official recommendations on favorite domains in Google’s “Webmaster Tools”, available here.