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To WWW or not to WWW – SEO Canonicalisation

Tuesday, 5 July 2011 | By Wai Hong Fong
One of the common problems we encounter while browsing the web or doing SEO audits is websites having two versions, a www version and a non-www one.


A simple way to test is to go to www.yourcompany.com.au and yourcompany.com.au (without the www), and see if the URL in the address bar changes. Ideally, one should automatically change to the other.


For example, if you go to smartcompany.com.au, it will automatically change to www.smartcompany.com.au. If your website doesn’t do this, then it is very likely you have a problem with what is referred to as SEO canonicalisation.


Basically, this means that there is a strong chance that Google is looking and indexing two versions of your website. This occurs because it treats the www and non-www version as two separate entities.


The implication of this is twofold. Firstly, you may not be getting the full benefit of links pointing back to your web pages because some of them may be going to a www version and some to the non-www one. This dilutes the value of the links you are getting and will affect how well your pages rank on Google.


Secondly, if Google finds the same content on your pages for the www and non-www version, you end up with what is also known as a duplicate content penalty.


This means that one of these pages may actually be discounted by Google for having the same or very similar content to the other.


So how can we fix this? We first have to decide whether we want the www or non-www version of the site to be the standard. I personally prefer the www version since this is what most people are used to.


Then, talk to your developer to implement a 301 redirect of all non-www pages to their www versions or vice versa. Once fixed, this problem can bring significant lost SEO value back to your website.