You looked at the URL bar of your browser, and you began to wonder. It was one of the moments when everyday items that you always took for granted sparked your curiosity.
Why does this website not have a “www” in front of the domain name while the other one does? What is the significance of the triple Ws? Does it matter whether or not your website uses the “www?” Will it hurt SEO if you are not using it, or is it the other way around? Is it too late to add it if your site has been up and running for some time? Those and tons of other similar questions are popping up in your mind.
You gasped and wondered whether you were wrong all along.
What If My Domain Is Naked?
Let’s start with a bit of terminology. There are two kinds of basic website URL: the ones with WWW and the ones without, often referred to as the “naked domain.”
Then we’ll continue to the main question: “Should you or shouldn’t you use WWW in your domain?” The answer that most web practitioners will give you is: “It’s a matter of personal preferences.” That’s the more elaborate way of saying “It’s up to you.”
And from the SEO perspective, it would not make a difference whether your site uses “www” or naked domain.
The important thing to remember is that you stick to it. Whether or not you decide to use “www,” you must stand by your decision until the end to avoid problems with redirection and SEO indexing.
That being said, there are technical advantages of using “www,” especially for domains that receive millions of hits per day.
First Advantage: Failing Servers Issues
One of the problems that domain hosting providers often stumble into is failing servers. When this happens, the sites hosted on those servers will experience downtime. To avoid any interruption on the visitor side, the providers need to be able to redirect all the traffic to healthy servers while they are fixing the problem.
Since one of the factors that will negatively influence a hosting reputation is the downtime, the host has to keep it to a minimum.
However, the redirection process is set up using DNS CNAME records, and unfortunately, a naked domain can’t have a CNAME record.
For sites with small traffic, this should not be a big problem because the failing server should be fixed before the next visitor comes. But sites with thousands of visitors or more per day will definitely feel the hit. Hard.
Second Reason: Cookies and Caching
The second reason why you should never let your domain be naked is cookies and caching.
In Internet terms a cookie is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user’s web browser while the user is browsing that website. One of the usages of cookies is to make a website/web service “remember” a user during his/her browsing sessions so they don’t need to keep on logging in between the pages.
Caching, on the other hand, is a process of temporarily storing the web documents such as HTML pages and images as static data to reduce bandwidth usage, server load, and perceived lag.
The common practice to speed up website performance is to serve static content from a sub-domain such as “xxx.domain.com.” The “www” in your domain will create the subdomain needed to store both the cookies and the static content.
Without the “www,” the cookies will be sent to all sub-domains, slowing down access to static content, and might break the caching process.
If you are adamant to keep a naked domain (like Twitter), the only way to solve the problem is to buy a second domain just to store the static content.
But there are times when you will want to send cookies to all of your sub-domains, for example, if you want to use a single sign-on across various services on different sub-domains of your site.
In short, you could get by living your naked domain life without running into any problems – at least until your site outgrows its ability to overlook the problems. But your future life will get less problematic if you just use the “www” trailing.
Adding WWW to Your WordPress Blog
Now, let’s deal with the process of adding “www” to your domain.
For a (Relatively) Brand New Site
If your site is already using “www,” congratulations. You can skip this section and live happily ever after. If you have a (relatively) brand new WordPress site with no or little content and the domain is still naked, you could dress it up with the “www” in a snap.
First, log in to the admin area of your WordPress site, and go to the “Settings -> General” menu from the sidebar.
After that, scroll down to the “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” fields. Add “www” in front of the domain name (between the “http://” and the “domain” name). Then scroll down to the bottom and click save.
Your settings will be saved, and you will need to log in again to continue working with your WordPress.
For an Established Site
If your site is already established with tons of content, it’s highly advisable to stick with the current name format and to not change your domain by adding or removing the “www.” Otherwise you will have to redirect all of your existing content to the new pattern. For example, if one of your articles’ old URL is “http://yoursite.com/article,” you would need to redirect it to “http://www.yoursite.com/article.”
That’s just one. What if you have hundreds of them?an
The second reason to stick with the current name configuration is if you have an established site that is SEO. It’s true that the “www” doesn’t really influence SEO, but that statement is valid within the sense of deciding whether or not to use “www” in the early days. If you already have tons of content, the search engines have already indexed your content using the existing URL, and changing them will reset all of your hard work to zero.
If you really, really need to add the “www” because the safety of the world depends on it, the easiest way to go about it is to use the help of plugins such as Better Search Replace or Easy 301 Redirect to mass migrate the old URLs to the new ones.
But that, my friend, is another story for another time.