To www or Not to www – Is that the Question? SEO and Green Websites!

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Once upon a time,, way back in Nineteen-Forgotten, there was a need for WWW, Those little four characters (do not forget the dot!) were added not as a romantic way to show people it was a website on the World Wide Web. It was actually added for a practical DNS reason most people under 40 don’t know, in-addr.arpa. Today we call it reverse DNS. You see, back then we had not learned how to forward and reverse DNS to the primary Zone. Today we do, so today the www. is just a waste of energy, space and time.

For those wanting to be more green, www. increases the carbon footprint of your website!
I happened across a webpage called “To www or Not to www — That is the Question“. First Craig Buckler gives some “history” on why we use the www. which is a work of fiction and completely inaccurate. Back in Nineteen-Forgotten we were a bunch of tech geeks, and did things merely for technical reasons.

He stated…

In the dim and distant days at the dawn of the web, those publishing a URL on offline media would add the ‘www’ prefix. It informed everyone you’d moved into the twenty-first century and owned a piece of prime real estate on the World Wide Web.

Well, I am a living eyewitness to those days, and they are not so dim, nor distant for me. It just did not happen that way!

Anyway Craig goes on to say that it is a MUST to choose www. or not www. for SEO reasons. I 100% agree with that statement!

He then gives his example of a three line ,htaccess to solve this problem.

Remove the www.  (Note: Do NOT use this code!)
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^mydomain.com [NC] RewriteRule ^/?(.*)$ http://mydomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Which would NOT WORK so good if you had a 52 domain MultiSite WordPress! Unless all your domain names were “mydomain.com”. Plus he should have put a back-slash before the dot in the RewriteCond! This is called escaping the character and it makes the dot become literal.

If I used this code for my sites, alantait.com and alantait.net, they would both end up at mydomain.com! A domain name seller Craig seems to be trying to promote!

Additional Wrong Redirect Codes

So I Googled no www and got this page…

http://css-tricks.com/snippets/htaccess/www-no-www/

Which flatly stated…

You should really be doing one or the other. For consistency, as well as SEO’s, sake.

Then they give these codes…

Force the www.  (Note: Do NOT use this code!)
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^your-site.com [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.your-site.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Remove the www.   (Note: Do NOT use this code!)
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^your-site.com$ [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://your-site.com/$1 [L,R=301]

What? No one escapes the dot in the RewriteCond any more?

These of course would (not) work good! It would work good for pushing my alantait.com and my alantait.net traffic (and all other traffic on on a WordPress MultiSite, with 50 other domains) to the duplicate content of your-site.com and www.your-site.com (which obviously does not give a hoot about SEO!).

Back To Craig

Lets go back and finish up our critique on Craig’s webpage (please note, I do not know Craig!). Craig goes on to say…

The question is: which should you choose?

Those in the pro-www camp point out that ‘www’ has not been deprecated. It’s unambiguous, technically accurate and distinguishes the address from similar URLs for FTP, mail or other data types.

The anti-www camp point out that it’s simply not necessary. No one’s confused. URLs are shorter, easier to read and quicker to type.

“Ahh”, says the pro-www lobby, “you’re just being vain”.
“Well”, responds the anti-group, “you’re being finicky and my website looks far better than yours”.
“Does not”, shouts pro, “Your site smells.”
And so on.

My opinion: it doesn’t matter. Pick one and stick with it. Some word combinations look better with the www, some look better without. Ultimately, it’s your personal branding preference and few people will notice or care.

Just remember that your site should load regardless of the URL and redirect when necessary. If you’re breaking that rule, go and stand in the naughty corner and consider the consequences of your actions.

Craig is a Director of OptimalWorks Ltd, a UK consultancy dedicated to building award-winning websites implementing standards, accessibility, SEO, and best-practice techniques.

I really enjoyed reading this… It was light, and witty and a great piece of comity fiction.  In my opinion, with 40 years of experience, it does matter!

NO WWW Does Matter!

I have managed to make a living building and correcting websites for the largest part of my life.  So let’s just assume that after 40 years of writing computer codes, I must know what I am doing because I have not starved to death!

Now consider these things…

The HUMAN Factor

Today I am doing SEO on a website called angbarato..com which is written by a guy named Ben who is teaching himself PHP and HTML5. He is doing a fantastic job of it too! But like any student or newbie, he makes some common mistakes.

Consider that you register a domain name. Let’s say, example.com! (The domain name reserved for examples and documentation like this!) Now, you quickly notice that you paid for example.com. You did not pay for www.example.com separately. You paid for example.com.

Sp you start coding your website, example.com. The first thing you do is build a link to your home page. If you were me you would just use the attribute=value pair href=”/” in your a tag. But being new and eager to use your domain name you write:

<a href="http://example.com/>Home</a>

You have just coded your first error, because you set up your .htaccess to add the www. Human error in coding is toward the non-www. There for when I did a W3C Link Validation almost every link had a 301 redirect!

Link SEO

Back to my student Ben…

  • L) http://angbarato.com/
  • P) http://www.angbarato.com/
  • L) http://angbarato.com/index.php
  • P) http://www.angbarato.com/index.php
  • L) http://angbarato.com/visitors.php
  • P) http://www.angbarato.com/visitors.php
  • L) http://angbarato.com/privacy-policy.php
  • P) http://www.angbarato.com/privacy-policy.php

In the above, the lines marked L) represent the links on his website. The lines marked with a P) are the pages they are redirected to. His .htaccess redirects everything to www. but his links point to non-www. In other words, he must do a 301 redirect on every internal link of his website. This slows things down and effects you SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Position.

WWW = wrong-Wrong-WRONG

I told Ben that WWW = wrong-Wrong-WRONG and that when he saw www. in his code (especially on an internal link) that he should delete it.

Since naturally he wants to type, without the www. (by human nature), this works for better SEO.

Without Will Work!

If you try to reverse this, to always add the www. – you will quickly notice that it will not work. Human nature is against you.

You can see the www. characters and remove it.  Likewise, using a quality text editor like Geany (my recommendation!), you can quickly do a document search for something like www.angbarato.com.  Or even do a document, or session, or selection, “Replace” looking for www.angbarato.com and replacing it with angbarato.com.  You can do this replacement as often as you like, and it will always come out correctly for you.

Note: Please do not tell me that I spelled “Won’t Work Write” wrong – I checked it with my spell checker!

WWW. Won’t Work Write

Trying to do the opposite will give you sleepless nights.  Looking for www. is easy enough, but trying to find what is not there, is much harder!  You cannot see the no www.!!  Likewise, try replacing angbarato.com with www.angbarato.com and you are going to end up with www.www.andbarato.com and www.www.www.angbarato.com, as you do this more often.  It becomes a nightmare!

Error SEO

Remember that SEO depends on having quality, error free, valid code.  Human errors will definitely count against your SEO so by NOT using the www. you reduce the likely hood of human errors – and you will increase you chance for better SEO and better SERP Position.

SEO .htaccess

So here is my THREE LINE code for .htaccess SEO.

Remove the www.   Please: USE this Code!
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.+)$ [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

Unlike the three line .htaccess codes above, the code I wrote does not require any editing or modification to work. Just copy and paste it into your .htaccess file. I have noticed that the website

Green Websites

Many Websites today are claiming to be environmentally friendly, “Green Websites!” Many Hosting Companies are buying green energy credits and using renewable power like wind energy. That is responsibility! But have you considered the carbon footprint of your website? Is your website really green?

Are Google and Facebook Green?

Google came to understand that the final </html> tag was not needed (tags close automatically at the EOF (end of file mark), so for a time they deleted it!  Why? Well, much of the cost of doing business for Google is paying for bandwidth.  Bytes sent and received.  Saving a few bytes per page for Google is huge!  Think in terms of hard drives full of data!  Google was trying to be more green (and save money at the same time!

Of course they forgot that standards matter also, and the </html> tag is used by other programs who cannot always read the EOF marker (think Google Analytics!).  Therefore, Google added back the </html> tag because it is standards compliant and because it really is needed!

Facebook never went down that road, but they still are not green.

WWW. Is NOT Needed!

Search the Internet on this topic and you will see that most real experts come to the conclusion that… “Ultimately people seem to decide based on entrenched taste rather than actual usability or technical arguments.” – Martijn Koster

There are some people who have concerns for CNAME and Email problems. However, both Amazon and Heroku (two of the largest) have workarounds for this! That means they are not real problems – just some people make them into problems!

No less than Matt Cutts spoke up on the subject in a post called SEO advice: url canonicalization and said…

Q: So how do I make sure that Google picks the url that I want?

A: One thing that helps is to pick the url that you want and use that url consistently across your entire site. For example, don’t make half of your links go to http://example.com/ and the other half go to http://www.example.com/ . Instead, pick the url you prefer and always use that format for your internal links.

In other words, with or without the www. in today’s world is the same.  However, he does go on to say that what you use on your website, you should also make 301 redirects to what you choose.  In other words, if you use no-www on your links, then 301 redirect any www traffic to no-www.

WWW. Is NOT Green!

In light of what Google did with the </html> tag…

Now consider the www. – four bytes that are passed with EVERY request (and usually more than once!).  For example, deleting the </html> on only once per page.  Deleting the www. is per resource.  Consider your external .css style sheets, external .js JavaScript files too.  How about image files like .jpg, .gif and .png?  In fact ALL files you are going to transmit those .www characters, both ways (to and from the server) and often more than once!  Files like sound, mpg, and formats like .pdf, all must have those extra four characters added, going many ways!  The fact is…

WWW.  Is Anti-Green

So the next time you see a website that claims to be green, but uses the www. – just refer them to this page!

Every time you transmit that www. you use more bandwidth.  That means more capacity needs to be built, more power will need to be used also.  This expands your websites carbon footprint.

Green-WWW-Network

What we need is a Green-WWW-Network!

If you do not care about the Earth…

Go Green! Remove the www. Get Better SEO and Conserve Resources!     Please: USE this Code!
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.+)$ [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

Don’t Go Green, Force the www. Get Better SEO, but Waste Resources!   (Note: Do NOT use this code!)
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

Updates

Update: This is now built into WordPress through the “canonical URLs” feature, just go to the General Settings page and remove “www” from the blog and WP URLs.

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