Yesterday via Facebook, Holly Hoffman asked us: “Are there any SEO pros or cons to having the www. or not? Some sites do and some don’t.” Today’s video addresses that and talks a bit about the canonicalization mess many websites find themselves in.
The question, ultimately, is about which version of your URL do you want to give people. In every single case, whatever you do choose, both versions need to take you to the same place. So if I were to decide to drop the www. from ImageFreedom.com, I’d want to make sure that www.imagefreedom.com still sends users to the same place, which includes sending Google to the same place.
The problem arrises when you don’t have your .htaccess file properly setup to forward you to either all www. or all without the dubs. People then link to your website both ways and Google sees the two different ways of getting to your site as two different sites entirely. This is understandably bad.
What happens is, Google gives you X authority to the version with the www. and Y authority to version without, and you divide your authority across these two URL’s. They are the same singular page of course, but setup wrong so that Google gets confused and thinks they are different.
The solution to this the rel canonical tag.
Example: <link ref=”canonical” href=”http://www.imagefreedom.com/” />
This line of code goes in your website header, and you choose the URL you want that page to represent. This goes for more than just your homepage, you want each of your websites pages to have a canonical tag with the proper URL placed in that href section.
Now that you have canonical tags in place, anyone linking to your website, as long as the link takes you to the page, will tell Google that even though the link is for one variation of the URL, what you want them to remember is the one you provided in your canonical tag.
A lot of SEO is very simple, I smile often when I see a quick fix for a client that I know is going to improve their rankings in a short period because they had one little thing setup wrong. The canonical tag or improper canonicalization is one such low hanging fruit fix and I recommend it’s use on every site you build!