I have reviewed a lot of websites based on search engine optimization (SEO) and web development. I analyze the websites and let people know what to change, add or do better so the websites will perform better (regarding search engine rankings, website traffic, user experience, conversions, sales, etc.).
One of the first things I check when reviewing a website is whether there is a 301 redirect from the non-www version of the domain to the www version of the domain. Because it’s very common that this is not properly set up and it’s fairly simple to fix, so it’s a quick win to help your website rank higher in search engine results :)
That is, I check to see when I go to http://example.com if there is a permanent redirect (the technical term is “301 redirect”) to http://www.example.com. If I can browse the website on both http://example.com and http://www.example.com we have a problem. Search engines (such as Google) and social networks (like Facebook and Twitter) might look at these domains (URLs) as two different websites.
The problems you want to avoid
One of the issues with your web pages having two (slightly) different paths (URLs) is duplicate content (the same content appearing on multiple different web addresses). Google doesn’t like duplicate content and it can hurt your search engine rankings.
Another issue with your web pages being on two different web addresses is that people might be linking to different web addresses. Because the number (and quality) of websites linking to you is a factor in search engine rankings you want to combine these numbers to a unified location (one web address).
Helps with social media marketing
This is also a factor in social media marketing because the number of people sharing your web address (link) could have an affect on how viral your blog post (or other content) will become – that is, how likely more and more people will share it.
People might be more inclined to share your article if they see (based on the number displayed on the social share buttons) that a lot of other people have already shared it (it’s one form of social proof that this is good material). That’s why we want to pool these shares together instead of spreading them across multiple URLs.
Setting up this kind of 301 redirect could also help your content get more attention on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook looks at how popular a certain web page (link) is (how many Likes/shares/comments it has) when deciding what to show in the News Feed (the front page of Facebook). Therefore it’s important not to spread the number of Likes across different versions of the URL.
Twitter sends people recommended tweets (“Here’s what’s trending on Twitter this week.”) and having one URL for the same blog post makes it easier for Twitter to notice when your content is popular.
How to fix this common mistake
If you are comfortable with it you can configure the redirect settings yourself. You can find rewrite instructions for Apache servers here and HTTP redirect (with query string/parameters) instructions for IIS7 servers here. Google even has a page about 301 redirects.
But usually you would contact your hosting provider and ask them to set up the 301 redirects for you. Just ask them to set up a 301 redirect (permanent redirect) for your non-www URLs to your www URLs (so http://example.com/ will redirect to http://www.example.com/). Also ask them to make sure it works for all the pages on your domain (so http://example.com/about/ will redirect to http://www.example.com/about/) and that it works with query strings/parameters too (so http://example.com/news/?article=7913 will redirect to http://www.example.com/news/?article=7913).
Another thing to look out for
Another tip: You’ll want to look out for 302 redirects (temporary redirects). I often see websites set up with 302 redirects, but that doesn’t help you as much as 301 redirects. 302 redirects don’t pass the same SEO value as 301 redirects. Unless there is a good reason, you should always use a 301 redirect (permanent) instead of a 302 redirect (temporary).
You can use this HTTP Header Check tool to see if there is a 301 or 302 redirect on your website. You would put in http://example.com/ (and press “submit”) and look at the first line that is returned to see if it says “HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently” and then it would say “Location => http://www.example.com/”. If you see that the 301 redirect should be set up correctly.
Whom do you know who could benefit from knowing about this common mistake and how to fix it? If you like this article please share it with your friends. Thank you :) If you would like to be notified of new articles from us you can subscribe to our newsletter.