The first thing to understand here is that in earlier days of the Internet, there were other options for traffic to see things other than the World Wide Web (where the WWW comes from) like gopher. When you had a domain you can set what traffic went where so world wide web traffic would go to www.yoursite.com Gopher traffic would go to gopher.yoursite.com and e-mail in its earliest days went to mail.yoursite.com. Now that most of that is obselete and traffic flows through a primary place on your site, it’s becoming confusing for people to understand the subtle differences of this and how it can negatively effect SEO of your site going forward.
Each of these were known as a subdomain. A subdomain is what comes before the first period in your site. SUBDOMAIN.yoursite.com It was a way to have different content in different places.
Many times I see this used for real estate sites to separate portions of the site. For example, realestatesearch.yoursite.com or an agents page on a real estate brokerage site such as ericstegemann.yoursite.com
The important thing to understand is that each of these Google considers different from the main domain. So ericstegemann.yoursite.com is not the 100% same thing in Google’s mind as www.yoursite.com or just yoursite.com
Is Your Site Forked?
Therefore, when you build your site, for SEO it’s best if you use all one subdomain or no subdomain at all. That way Google doesn’t go through a process we call Forking your site. Much like a fork in a road, forking your site means that Google has decided to index some of the pages on your site using the www and some without (and some cases using other subdomains if you have them or even the IP address of your site if you have your own.) It has to make the decision to go down indexing your content on different paths.
Assuming the content is identically the same on your www as no www, site forking is bad for many reasons. First of all your search engine optimization is based around many different factors, but much being how much and what content you have on your site. If your site is indexed in both ways some of your content will get the credit on the www and some on the non-www. Google will not index the same information once on each site, it picks one for each, usually based on where it saw the information first. Therefore splitting up the total value of your site. In addition, Google probably sees some of your content on the WWW version and the non-www being the same. So you have duplicate content issues on your sites.
So What Should I Use? The WWW or no WWW
In my observational opinion, more people tend (due to 10 years of being taught to do it this way) to type the www before any site they visit. Therefore even if they know google.com works, they will still type www.google.com . Therefore in our opinion, we ALWAYS use the www when setting up a real estate brokerage or agent website. The standard should be what most people will use. But, some will ask, why does it matter ? Why should you use the WWW just because that’s what people type in?
The answer to that is based around how you set your site to send people from www to no www.
How Can I Fix This?
Many hosting companies allow you to set when you first setup your site whether you want your site to use www or no www, then automatically forward the traffic from one to the other. One of the hosts we use is Dreamhost, in the setup panel it offers the below option:
Check with your hosting provider to see if they have this option.
How Does Adding The WWW Automatically Work?
You may have heard of a redirect or a 301 redirect being used for a site before. It’s a process by which when someone visits one site you actually send them somewhere else. Many Realtors have domains sitting around and they probably just forward them to their main website, this is doing what’s called a 301 redirect. It’s the process by which your domain that’s being redirected tells the visitors Internet Browser that this page is been permanently redirected somewhere else (the 301 is computer code to say it’s permanent).
So your website host, when selecting an option like above is setting that 301 for you from yoursite.com to www.yoursite.com. The important thing to know is that when you do a 301 redirect some of the SEO that you have to the page the user originally went to is lost when it bounces to the new site. Google therefore might visit yoursite.com and see it really needs to go to www.yoursite.com . If you are using no www, and most people type in www, and the links into your site are with the www, then each time Google goes through there you lose, albeit small, a bit of credit for each of those. Therefore, using what most people will use, the www, makes every bit of SEO flow to your site.
Recap WWW vs NO WWW
If you have a site make sure you’ve either asked your website provider or host if they have it set to forward from no www. to www. You can simply test this by visiting both pages of your site in your url bar and see if whatever you typed stays. Therefore look to see if you type in www.yoursite.com, after it loads does your URL bar still say www.yoursite.com? Now do the same thing for just yoursite.com, after loading does it now say www.yoursite.com? If so, it’s setup correctly, if not, please contact your hosting or website vendor.