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I have a client site running under the root domain, e.g. without www: http://example.com.

However, the client requested that URLs be shown with WWW on the Google search results page. The actual URL used when accessing the website should still not show the WWW.

I have gone and updated the settings accordingly in Google Webmaster Tools, as outlined here:

https://stackoverflow.com/a/5963681/278840

This has been done around 2-3 months ago, yet Google still shows the results without the WWW.

Does it really take that long for this change to propagate across the SERP, or is there something else that I have to change?

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...the client requested that URLs be shown with WWW on the Google search results page. The actual URL used when accessing the website should still not show the WWW.

That's completely backward and is never going to work. If you are redirecting all traffic to the bare domain (without www) then that is the URL that's going to be shown in the SERPs, regardless of what you "try" to tell Google in the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) property.

In setting the preferred domain as www and redirecting to the bare domain you are creating a conflict that Google must now resolve. Google is not going to return a redirected URL in the SERPs (other than maybe a site: search).

You need to decide what the canonical URL should be; with www or without (or something else entirely). Then use the canonical URL everywhere.

  • Nice catch! I missed the inconsistency. – closetnoc Sep 3 '16 at 0:02
  • Thanks for the reply. I thought that since Google allowed me to "choose" how the URLs on the SERPs should be displayed, this would be possible. But I guess your explanation makes sense. I am still a bit curious for which scenario this setting in the GWT is intended, if not mine? Could you give an example? – Louis B. Sep 3 '16 at 8:29
  • As with many webmaster-like settings when it comes to indexing (eg. rel="canonical", XML sitemap, etc.) they are only advisory, not authoriative. There are other factors (such as external redirects) that determine the final outcome. A redirect is a v.strong signal and can't be ignored. This particular setting in GSC (formerly GWT) would be relevant if you had not implemented a redirect (it might not even be possible to implement a redirect on some hosting environments). This setting in GSC would then control what URL shows in the SERPs and the URL that is used to access your site. – MrWhite Sep 3 '16 at 10:06

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