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In researching the best practice for adding sites to the Search Console, I've often seen it suggested to add separate properties for different versions of the same website. Even in Google's own documentation it states:

"Similarly, if your site has http:// and https:// versions, you should add each as a separate site."

I've seen the same suggested for www/non-www. So if a site is accessible at all the variations of http/s and www/non-www we should have four properties.

But what if the site is only accessible at one variant? i.e. https and www are forced via htaccess, so only https://www.example.com can ever be accessed - should we still add all the variants?

In essence, the problem is that I don't know why Google wants us to do this, so I can't work out if it'll be ok just to have one instance.

marked as duplicate by MrWhite, John Conde Aug 4 '15 at 23:48

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  • Google asks you to do this so that they know about all versions of your site even if there is nothing to see. It just helps Google with internal stuff. That is why the recommendation. – closetnoc Aug 4 '15 at 22:46
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The only time I would see a real benefit in adding any variants to a domain for GWT (a.k.a. Google Webmaster Tools) is if there is unique data as a result from accessing that domain, or if that domain was active in the past and changes were recently made.

If you're just building a site at let's say http://example.com and you never published any content at https://example.com or http://www.example.com or the like, then I'd only have http://example.com listed in GWT and the rest of the variants not listed.

If you decided to rename the official domain of the site, say from http://example.com to http://www.example.com then keep both versions live in GWT and watch the crawling stats as well as the indexing to make sure http://www.example.com has the traffic. Once http://example.com in GWT reports no traffic or very little traffic, then you can safely remove it and leave http://www.example.com in.

Also, make sure you visit site settings for both domains and maximize the crawl rate for googlebot to make the job go faster.

  • Excellent! Thanks. Two follow ups: 1) In the example of site being renamed, should the sitemap in the old version still refer to the old page structure? So the site was example, the sitemap in there has the links as example, but when crawled googlebot will 301'd to the newer example version? and 2 0 – dennislees Aug 4 '15 at 20:55
  • Excellent, thanks. Just a couple of quick follow ups. 1 ) Would a site or site version have to be completely new? We made the switch to always-on https a few years ago and there are hardly any instances of http:// pages in the index. Would this be justification to not have a property for this version of the site? Or is it better to play safe? and 2 ) Just to confirm, in the sitemap for an older version of a site, should the URLs be in the older structure? i.e example.com sitemap refers to example.com URLs and new sitemap refers to www.example.com URLs? – dennislees Aug 4 '15 at 21:08
  • 1.) Content wise, changes don't have to be made. Its just important to have content at one URL. 2.) I wouldn't worry about submitting sitemaps that apply to the old URL. Just make sure the new URL has a sitemap that contains references to the new and correct URLs and avoid listing URLs that result in a redirect or failure when an access is attempted. – Mike Aug 4 '15 at 23:13

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