So why is this bad? It’s bad because you are inadvertently hurting your own ability to rank well on Google (the practice of SEO or search engine optimization). This is so because you’ve likely been building up links from other websites to both versions of your website. And that means each page of your site has a duplicate version. This is more than likely hurting your rankings on Google for each of your pages because rather than getting all of those links applied to a single version, they’re split:
Let’s say you have a blogger create a link to one of your pages as http://www.example.com/great-content.html and an online publication sends some of it’s visitors to the same content by linking to http://example.com/great-content.html. In this example, both versions of the “/great-content.html” page have received an external link.
So, if all else is equal between your web pages and a competitor’s, from an SEO perspective (keyword in URL, Title Tag, Meta Description Tag, Image Alt Tag, H1 Tag, Content, etc.), the pages with the most links might get the edge. I want to be clear – this is really only problematic from an SEO perspective – adding links to your website from another website will still reward you with traffic. Here’s another quick example:
If you’re competitor has seven (7) external links (linking root domains), your www. version has five (5), and your non-www. version has four (4). Your competitor would likely rank higher than either of the two versions you’ve presented to Google, as they have more external links. If you solved your canonicalization problem, however, and your linking root domains were combined – it would give you nine (9), and you would probably outrank your competitor.
While this is fairly simple to remedy, you’ll first need to determine whether you have the problem. To do this, open a browser, and type in your domain – first with and then without the www. After typing in each version, note whether the address remains in the corresponding format. So, if you type www.example.com (www. version) and hit return, does the address remain www.example.com after the website displays? If so, try just example.com (non-www. version) and hit return, if the site paints in your browser window and the address remains example.com without the www., you’ve got a canonicalization issue. If you have this issue, you’ll need to make a choice between versions – it’s usually the version with the most inbound links that should be preserved. Once you know, you’ll need to redirect the losing version to the winning version. That’s it! Let me know if you have issues getting this done – as always you can reach out to me at email@example.com.
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NetSuite Consultant Reveals Quick Test That May Improve SEO by John-Scott Dixon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.