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If you try and go to our website without typing the www. You get a page not found error. In my case it goes to a Yahoo 404 page where the website you typed is not even shown in the search results.

My question is how important is it that customers cannot type this manually? I guess that google etc will just spider the www version and so it will show in the search results in the same manner. Also what is the reason why some websites can be found without the www and some not?

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Everytime I go to a domain.tld page that does not resolve I immediately despise the company much more than a few seconds ago. –  AttackingHobo Jun 14 '11 at 16:05

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

It matters. Every site should resolve with and without the 'www' because:

  • Some people will type your URL into their address bar. It's unfair to expect them to remember whether they need the 'www' or not, and not everyone will think to try the alternative if they hit an error page first.
  • Others will link to your site by typing the URL and may omit the 'www', creating a broken link.

Your 'marketing people' should pick either 'www.yoursite.com' or 'yoursite.com' and redirect the other version accordingly. They might like to read the advice here to decide if they want the 'www' or not: When should I use a www subdomain?

To get the 'www' part working, they might have to add an 'A' record for the 'www' subdomain to the site's DNS records. The process differs slightly with different domain registrars, so you should tell them to contact the company they purchased the domain from to ask for help setting up the 'www' subdomain to point to the main site. (Many registrars have help pages that talk you through it.)

Redirecting the 'www' version to the non-www version (or vice-versa) differs slightly depending upon what server the website is hosted on. One of the most common servers is called Apache, and they can follow the advice listed on this post to automatically redirect visitors from one version of the domain to the other.

Finally, they should also sign up to use Google Webmaster Tools and set the preferred domain that appears in Google search results to include or omit the 'www'.

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The easiest fix for this is to have a CNAME record added to the DNS...

mycompany.com      CNAME  www.mycompany.com
www.mycompany.com  A      xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx

In the above, the A record means www.mycompany.com resolves directly to the IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx and the CNAME record means mycompany.com is an 'alias' for www.mycompany.com

If you do it this way then if the IP address for www.mycompany.com is ever changed, the CNAME will still remain valid.

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You'd be quite foolish to make the same website available via website.com and www.website.com as this will seriously affect your search engine rankings as it would be classed as split content.

As far as I'm concerned, the best way to do it is either have only the www.website.com resolve or if you really must use the website.com, have 301 redirects set up to point to the www.

In your case you probably should use the 301 redirects the other way around.

Making website.com available in that way also opens up a new can of worms when considering * records in your dns records as well.

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So if i'm reading this right, you are claiming that making www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com both resolve will negatively affect your search engine rankings? That doesn't sound right, do you have a source for this? –  kubi Jun 14 '11 at 14:06
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@kubi: He's saying that duplicating content across two domains is not a good idea. –  SLaks Jun 14 '11 at 14:09
    
@SLaks Even 301 redirects? Even if it does negatively affect your search rankings, I can't imagine that it would be worth blocking some percentage of users from reaching your site. –  kubi Jun 14 '11 at 14:31
    
@kubi: Redirects are fine. (And that's what James is recommending) –  SLaks Jun 14 '11 at 14:31
    
... because the percentage of users who will know to try adding/removing the "www" will be effectively 0%. The vast majority of people will just assume (rightly so) that your site is broken and move on. –  kubi Jun 14 '11 at 14:32

If a website doesn't work without the www then I try it with, and some browsers automatically retry with a www if it fails without. If every link that points to your site uses the www then search engine spiders will find it.

However I think it looks unprofessional if it doesn't work without. The reason for using the www goes back to the beginnings of the internet when you had your ftp server at ftp.example.com and your www server at www.example.com (and other things now gone). I guess the www started being dropped for reasons of space on advertising and so people didn't have to type so much. It's never been needed at all.

You could have a website where example.com and www.example.com are completely different websites, but that would confuse people so you never see it.

Although you don't ask it, the way to get your site to work with and without is to use redirects so that it works both ways. What sort of server have you got?

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To be honest I don't know any details about the web hosting, it is all handled my our marketing people but I wanted to get some facts before I go and talk to them about it! –  Matt Wilko Jun 14 '11 at 8:18

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