Does Your Web Site Have Multiple Personality Disorder? Better Hope Google Doesn’t Think So…

Millions of people out there are throwing away half their search engine rankings by way of a small web site misconfiguration and a basic but widespread misunderstanding of how search engines work.

This is because some people prefer to send everyone their web address in the form of MyReallyCoolWebsite.com, since it looks less techie. Others use www.MyReallyCoolWebsite.com.

And most web hosts will set you up so that BOTH of these will work, and take visitors to your site.

But is there really a difference?

As search engines see the world, these are TWO different sites!

is NOT the same as

Which means that in some cases you get HALF the search engine value to one, and HALF the search engine value to the other. Not to mention the duplicate content between the two sites – having 2 sites with identical content is BAD for your search engine rankings.

Should you use the WWW in your web site URL or not?

Ok, the question of the hour…. which one should you go with? As search engines go, it doesn’t really matter. It only really matters in how you promote your site.

Why we prefer to use the www.MyReallyCoolWebsite.com

Your readers and friends can easily spot a web address that begins with www, so you never have to begin it with .

Picture your web site address on a billboard by the side of the road. Someone driving by has about as much attention span on your site as a visitor cruising your site or someone looking at your site address in an email.

The www at the beginning tells EVERYONE at a glance that they’re looking at your web address. Without that, you’re not drawing their eyes to your address, so they’re less likely to go to your site.

How do you tell Google what your REAL web address is?

You can tell Google what your real web address is through Google Webmaster Tools.

Login to Google Webmaster Tools with your Google account, and tell Google that both your web addresses are actually the same site. You can also specify which one is your preference – www or non-www.

After logging in to Google Webmaster Tools, go to:

   Diagnostic — Tools — Preferred domain

That’s all there is to it.

How do you tell the other search engines your REAL web address?

The easiest way to make sure all search engines (and all your visitors) are going to your preferred web address, is to configure your web server to redirect all traffic to your chosen domain.

If you’re running the Apache web server (most everyone is), this change is very easily made to your .htaccess file, in the root directory of your web site directory structure. If you’re running WordPress, you already have this file – so all you need to do is find it, download it, make a backup copy, edit up, and re-upload it. And say a little prayer.

WARNING: You can break your site very easily by having anything incorrect in your .htaccess file.

It’s crucial to back up your .htaccess file before making any changes to it.

How to change your .htaccess file

Here’s what this section of the .htaccess file looks like after adding this server redirect command.

For this example, replace MyReallyCoolWebsite.com with whatever your actual domain is.

# BEGIN WordPress
RewriteEngine On
# redirect domain.com to www.domain.com
RewriteCond %{HTTP_Host} ^MyReallyCoolWebsite.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ [R=301,L]

RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

Don’t forget to redirect individual post URLs, not just your main web site home page

Note that there are other simpler ways to add a redirect command to your .htaccess file, but this option above is more powerful.

In addition to redirecting your www and non-www addresses to the same place, this configuration will also redirect specific articles on your site to your new address. This is very important. Without this, even if your main home page is redirected to your new address, any links from other sites to specific pages on your site can break.

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