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I'm trying to use Google Webmaster Tools correctly: I don't use the www in my website's URL, but just noticed that I must have entered the www when I originally added my site to Webmaster Tools a few months ago, because they have most of my site indexed with the www included.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is if I should create another website profile without the www included in the URL. Is Google viewing both versions as two different websites? Am I hurting myself by not using the www?

How do they handle adding the verification file when both versions are really the same site? The verification file will be in the same spot on the server for either version. If I was to use the same verification file when creating a new profile for the non www version, what would happen?

Also what is weird is that I have a sitemap created for my site, but Webmaster Tools says that there isn't one available. I created it with Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin.

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did u submit the sitemap in ur GWMT configuration? –  Prasad Aug 10 '13 at 7:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

First you should address how search engines crawl your site and avoid duplicate content issues by making sure you have the www subdomain (www.example.com) redirecting to your root domain (example.com).

The most efficient way to do this is to create a DNS record - see the first example here on how. You should also use your web server's configuration to redirect the www subdomain to the root domain.

After you're sure you have the above redirection working (DNS changes might take up to 72 hours to propagate), the next thing you should do is to specify your preferred domain as the root domain in Google Webmaster Tools under Site Settings -> Preferred domain, as indicated here.

After that, Google will follow any links with www in them as http://example.com, and will display them accordingly as well. Note that it may take some time for pages to reflect the preferred domain update.

Given the above, the answers to your questions are then:

I guess what I'm trying to ask is if I should create another website profile without the "www" included in the url. Is Google viewing both versions as two different websites? Am I hurting myself by not using the www?

No, Google views the www subdomain as part of the same site as the root domain. See this for more on that.

How do they handle adding the verification file when both versions are really the same site?

Once you have the www subdomain redirecting to the root domain, you likely will not have to verify the root domain, as stated here:

Generally, once you have verified one version of the domain, we can easily verify the other using the original verification method. However, if you've removed the file, meta tag, or DNS record, you'll need to repeat the verification steps.

(Source above from Google)

Also what is weird is that I have a sitemap created for my site, but webmaster tools says that there isn't one available.

Once you have the above redirection and preferred domain set up, submit your sitemap using Google Webmaster tools as covered here.

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+1: Good answer ;-). –  Zistoloen Aug 10 '13 at 9:05
    
@Zistoloen Thanks, and thanks for the edits too :-) –  dan Aug 10 '13 at 9:12
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+1. One minor clarification: creating a CNAME does not create a redirect, the OP will probably want to create a server side redirect as well –  Tim Fountain Aug 10 '13 at 11:02
    
"No, Google views the www subdomain as part of the same site as the root domain." - whilst this is true, I don't believe this is a reason why you shouldn't add both non-www and www as separate sites in GWT. That article primarily deals with a change in how internal links are recorded. What about external links to the www site? AFAIK these are not seen as external to the non-www site. In fact, it has been recommended you should add both. See John Mueller's more recent answer on this question: webmasters.stackexchange.com/a/29742/1243 –  w3d Aug 10 '13 at 11:06
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Wow, thank you for all the great responses and answers everyone! –  Anthony Myers Aug 10 '13 at 16:21

You should register your site twice in Google Webmaster Tools. Once without the www and once with it. The two often show different errors and different pages indexed. It is useful to know all about your site, not just what you can see with one or the other.

You should then choose one or the other to be the canonical site. Make it so that users have to have the www, or can't have the www. It really is your choice, see http://no-www.org/ and http://www.yes-www.org/

One way to tell Google which version you want indexed is to set it in Webmaster Tools under "Site Settings" from the gear icon:

preferred domain

Another way would be to use 301 permananent redirects from one version to the other.

A third way would be to put a meta rel canonical tag on each page that tells Google what the preferred URL of that page is.

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Ok, so here's another one then. If we do have both versions as separate sites within my GWT account, what do I mark the "preferred domain" option as for the "WWW" version of the site? Should I leave the "Don't set a preferred domain" checkbox checked? –  Anthony Myers Aug 10 '13 at 16:28
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Set it to the same thing in both of them. –  Stephen Ostermiller Aug 10 '13 at 16:36

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