Which is Better For SEO, HTTP or WWW?

Published Nov 29, 2013 by James Parsons in SEO
Estimated read time of 4 minutes and 8 seconds4 1
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WWW or Non-WWW

One important part about engaging in search engine optimization is ensuring your website can easily be read by search engine robots and users alike. Though search engines are far more sophisticated and proficient than they were several years ago, they still are not fully able to understand a website like a user can. SEO is important to assist these engines so they can learn about the page and how users may find it useful when searching for the subject.

Common Arguments

Despite having a good reputation for success, there are far too many people who look at these techniques and argue against them. After all, who would design a search engine that requires a specific set of rules and principles to properly index a website? Would it not be best to design a search engine that is capable of parsing through all kinds of imperfect code while still being able to return relevant results? Otherwise, only those that have experts “optimizing” the sites will get results.

There are a few problems with that line of thinking. Imagine uploading a picture of your dog. Humans may look at this as a “small black dog, possibly a Labrador, fetching a ball in the backyard.” Even the best search engine would scan this photo and not be able to understand it that deeply. Search engine optimization would provide some clues to nudge the engine to better understand the photo and what it means.

By understanding what search engines are and are not capable of, you can better learn how to build and format your content such that the engine can properly digest what you are trying to feed it (such as using alt tags). Without engaging in this technique, your website may as well not exist; it is invisible to a search engine.

When it comes to optimizing your domain name, which factors are most important, and how much focus should you put on them?

Using WWW Versus Non-WWW

Wordpress General Settings - Changing URL

One thing that many website owners debate when it comes to optimizing a website for search engine optimization purposes is whether or not the “www” portion of a domain is truly necessary. In order to determine this, it is important to understand the different parts of a domain. For the purposes of this dissection, consider http://www.domain.tld as the example domain.

The “http” portion is the protocol that is used to communicate between browser and server, or the set of rules that both follow. The “//” indicates that there is intent to contact the server. The “www” is the name of the server that listens to the message sent through the http protocol, and it could be anything other than just “www.” Finally, the domain is the name of the website while the “.tld” is the top level domain, which can be “.com,” “.net” or any number of other domains.

When it comes to search engine optimization, “www” is not a necessary factor. Most people can likely recall websites that both feature it and those that omit it outright. When linking to a website in professional content, it is wise to include the “www” for a more professional appearance as the omission can look more “casual,” but you’ll want to ensure that both “http://domain.tld” and “http://www.domain.tld” point to the same website.

To do this, you’ll need access to your .htaccess file. Ensure the following is written into the file, replacing the example URL with your own:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www.domain.tld$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.domain.tld%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]
Rankability

When you’re looking to decide on a domain name to name your website, combine the lessons you have learned with domaining, SEO and branding. One good approach to take is generic + term; that is, use the keyword you want to implement and add another word to it.

Many companies have succeeded well with this approach, such as Travelocity, TripAdvisor and SEOBook. It works because the user is forced to acknowledge the keyword with the link. In addition, while exact match domains are not as valued as they used to be, Google still appreciates and prefers domains with the keyword in it. Not only that, but there is unique branding with this approach.

These sorts of URLs are capable of ranking high and are more likely to be linked through other content. They are generic enough such that they can rank high for the keyword in question, but they still have just enough branding in it so that users will remember the name in the future.

Picking a Keyword Domain

gvb-all-kws-domains-serps

When designing a new website, the domain name is perhaps the first and most important decision you will need to make. Not only does this choice impact how the website succeeds, it actually makes its own impact when it comes to search engine optimization. For many years, marketers and SEO experts have purchased domains that used keywords in order to rank higher on search engines like Google and increase CTRs. Is this still a viable option for website owners?

Many strategists used to purchase domains that match the keyword phrase exactly. For example, if the strategist was interested in ranking high for the keyword phrase “buy brown pills,” then he might order the BuyBrownPills.com domain.

There were two advantages for this technique at the time: Not only did it help ranking to have the keyword phrase right in the domain, it would encourage others to use that same phrase when posting a link to the website. However, recent Google updates have greatly diminished the efficiency of these domains.

According to a study by High Position, the average ranking of an exact match domain went from about 13.4 to 26.6 since the update. Because of this change in trend, several experts believe this domain technique will eventually become less efficient as time goes on; Google has already passed many updates limiting the power that Exact Match Domains have. While this does not mean that you should completely abandon the concept, it does suggest it should not be your primary factor.

Brandable Domain

Though a matching domain has benefits, the most important thing to consider is how you can brand that domain. This is important, and the domain is the foundation on which you build the brand as users find this, remember it and use it to identify your brand. With search engines, this domain is the major means of figuring out a link’s identity.

Though some marketers say that SEO is about links and keywords, the truth is Google likes brands. In fact, Eric Schmidt, the CEO, has said that brands are not the problem but the solution as they are used to sort the cesspool.

As far as domains that have multiple terms separated with hyphens, such as buy-brown-pills.com, this is not recommended; these have no value for branding and therefore have little value for SEO. Even being able to break the top ten, you will still need to drive home a sale with a single visit since nobody will remember a generic and less than credible domain.

Having a brand offers distinction in a market that is so crowded. Not only that, but it is easier to link a brand that a user will take seriously. Having a keyword-keyword-keyword-keyword.com domain appears to be spam and will not instill trust in any user. Nobody will link this in their own content in the fear of cheapening its value.

Written by James Parsons

James Parsons

James Parsons is a blogger and marketer, and is the business development manager at AudienceBloom.com. When he isn’t writing at his personal blog, he is working on his next big project.

  • Miles F.

    I prefer no-www myself, but it’s good to know that it doesn’t matter from an SEO standpoint. I like having the decision based on my domain name and the length, for aesthetic reasons

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