My client's site 301 redirects example.com to www.example.com However, Google Search Console is saying that example.com is the canonical version of the homepage.

The homepage is performing terribly (if you search for the site, it shows the terms and conditions as the main page!), and whilst I had assumed the site must have a penalty for historical dodgy back-links, I'm now thinking it is actually an issue with what Google are choosing as canonical.

If you search for text taken from the homepage, the non-www version is indexed for it, even though that page does not actually exist. Click the link and you are redirected, as expected.

I've not had to do any SEO for a while, and I see that preferred domain setting is no longer a thing in the console, as I had initially assumed that the client had just set up the wrong domain there.

There was a broken link to an old sitemap in the console, which I have deleted in the off-chance Google was using a cached version of that which included non-www links. I have only just done this, so I don't know if that will fix the issue.

Is there anywhere else where Google may be being told to make the non-www version canonical?

The only other fix I can think of is to set the homepage to have a canonical meta tag, but it makes no sense to me that Google would not be doing this by default when only one page exists. Also, the non-www doesn't have the same content (it has no content), so it isn't a duplicate content issue where a canonical tag may make sense.

As I say, the site has had some dodgy link building in the past, so if anyone has had similar side effects from a penalty, please do say, as I haven't entirely ruled that out for bad performance (despite a lot of disavowal work). The console lists no penalties.

Update: I just looked at Bing and Duck Duck Go, and they are both indexing the correct version. It is just a Google issue.

  • Has the naked domain always redirect to www or was it the other way around at some point? Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 18:38
  • Wayback Machine suggests it has always redirected, though I can't be 100% sure. There aren't any genuine backlinks pointing to the non-www version, just some of those domain analysis bot-generated ones.
    – RichardB
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


Every page should have a canonical tag. Don't wait for google being smart => It is not.

(A canonical tag prevent from negative seo by injecting parameter)

Here if you have multiple links to the former version (without www) google has multiple reason to think that the previous url is the right one.

So your solution is to provide a self canonical for the home. Instead, you can wait and google will finally take the right one as canonical but I guess you don't want to take that kind of risk.

  • 1
    As far as I can tell, the non-www version has never existed and there aren't any web links pointing to it. Also, Google say that a 301 is a valid (if not ideal) way to make a page canonical - developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/crawling/…. It looks like the Adwords team may have used a non-www link, and that is the only place that I can find it, though they updated that 3 weeks ago and it hasn't fixed it yet (and it doesn't make much sense that Google would use that as a signal).
    – RichardB
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 15:39
  • I am going to try a canonical tag to signal a bit more which is the right one, but the cause still seems a mystery.
    – RichardB
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 15:39

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