Are You Losing Google Page Rank Because You Forgot the WWW?

Written by  July 2, 2007

There are many reasons why you should remain consistent with your naming conventions on the Internet, especially when it comes to your domain name.

One reason is for the dreaded “duplicate content” hit you might take with a site that is indexed with both the “www” and the “non-www” form of the domain name. Another, and the one I will focus on here is the fact that you could be cheating yourself out of higher Page Rank from Google by actually “splitting it across two domains”.

What do I mean by “splitting” Google Page Rank?

Google Page RankFirst off, let me explain in short what Page Rank really is. “Page Rank” really is a measure of the incoming links to your website. Also understand that just “getting links” is not going to necessarily increase your Page Rank. The links must contain relevant content to what you offer in order to give you the most benefit. Naturally speaking then, it would make sense that the more relevant links you have coming to your website (from other similar sites), the higher your Page Rank will be.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let me present you with the following.

Have you ever noticed that when you go to your site using a url like http://www.yoursite.com (with the “www”) you see your Google Page Rank as one number (out of 10) and when you view your site as http://yoursite.com (without the “www”) you see a different Page Rank number (out of 10)?

Or, have you ever performed a Google search for your site as follows on http://www.yoursite.com and on http://yoursite.com and noticed that you are indexed by Google under both the “www” variation and the “non-www” variation?

If so, you are a victim of Canonical naming conventions at work, and you could be losing Page Rank because of it.

Why is this important and what does it all mean? Well, it’s important because if you want to follow better Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices, and get maximum benefit of your possible total Page Rank, then you need to pay attention to the way your site is indexed.

What does it mean? I’ll give you an example of what it can mean to you (for illustrative purposes only.) If your site has a possible (or potential) total Page Rank of 6 out of 10, and you are indexed with both the “www” and the “non-www” form of your domain name, then your Page Rank could be split to just 3 out of 10!

Much different than a 6 out of 10 right?

So how could it be just 3 out of 10 when its full potential is 6? Well remember, in our example, Google has you indexed as “2 different domains” (by Canonical naming conventions) even though you are the same website. Google has to allocate the incoming links to your site and give them a Page Rank accordingly so it “splits the links” across the two different domains. This split is not always “50 / 50”, but in our example I use that for ease of understanding.

It takes the portion of the links that point to your site’s “www” form (www.yoursite.com) and gives them a portion of the total Page Rank. It then takes the remaining links that point to the “non-www” form (yoursite.com) of your domain name and allocates them a Page Rank. This example assumes that 50% of the incoming links point to one domain form, and 50% to the other form.

Now does it make more sense? Google took the possible “6 out of 10” Page Rank and split it into two equal halves of “3 for one domain”, and “3 for the other domain form”.

The result — instead of having a Page Rank “6 out of 10”, you now have a Page Rank “3 out of 10”.

You can’t control how others link to you (the “www” vs. “non-www” form of your domain — although you can try), but you can control what happens once they arrive at your site.

So you know you are a victim, what can you do to fix it?

In a previous post I talked very briefly about how I used a 301 redirect to move content from my old site to this; then new, domain.

You can use the same concept to redirect requests from your “non-www” domain to your “www” domain and vice versa. Just be consistent with which version you choose.

Quickly, let me show you one more example to demonstrate what the proper setup for your site gets you. In this case, I’ll use my domain (zencartoptimization.com).

The following are two examples that get you the same “common” end result.

Click on http://www.zencartoptimization.com/ (a new window will open). What do you see in the address bar of your browser? You should see the “www” version of the domain name.

Now, click on http://zencartoptimization.com/ (a new window will again open). What do you see this time in your address bar? Right! You again should see the “www” version of the domain name even though the link points to the “non-www” version!

So now we have “Canonical naming” consistency and our Google Page Rank will be combined into one final value.

Now, try the same thing for your own site. Type it with the “www” and without the “www”. See what end result you get.

If you do not get a consistent result (either both “www” url’s in the end or both “non-www” url’s in the end — whichever route you choose,) then you may want to consider adding a few lines of code to your .htaccess file (make sure it is located in your website’s root directory) to correct the situation.

Dynamic 301 Redirects Correct the www/non-www Canonical Issue

If you use the www version use this code

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomainhere(.*)
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomainhere.com/$1 [R=301,L]

If you are using the Zen Cart Search Engine Friendly URLS Contribution, this still can be added as well (it’s not automatically included in the module, you have to add it yourself). In that case, you simply add the following to the bottom section of the .htaccess file that came with the module install.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomainhere(.*)
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomainhere.com/$1 [R=301,L]

The code above will 301 redirect the non-www version to the www version. Remember to replace “yourdomainhere” with your own domain name.

If you use the non-www version use this code

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yourdomainhere.(.*)
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomainhere.com/$1 [R=301,L]

The code above will 301 redirect the www version to the non-www version. Remember to replace “yourdomainhere” with your own domain name.

So now you should know why it is important to be consistent in your naming conventions. A slight oversight could be costing your Zen store valuable Page Rank.

Got a different method to achieve the same effect? Let me know.

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Comments

15 Responses to “Are You Losing Google Page Rank Because You Forgot the WWW?”

  1. pethO on July 8th, 2007 9:32 am

    Thx very much for the idea :), i personally wasn’t able to use this .htaccess method because on my server .htaccess is disabled for performance issues, so i had to do it differently. Maybe somebody else could have similar problems, so i’ll share it here.
    I used php redirecting instead of .htaccess. All that was needed is to put a few lines into index.php:

    if($_SERVER[“HTTP_HOST”]!=”www.yourhost.com”)
    {
    header(“HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently”);
    header(“Location:http://www.yourhost.com“.($_SERVER[“QUERY_STRING”] ? ‘/index.php?’.$_SERVER[“QUERY_STRING”] : ”));
    exit;
    }

    seems to be working for classical zencart, probably will need some tweaks for URL rewriting SEO contributions of zencart. Hope it helps somebody ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. econcepts on July 8th, 2007 11:34 am

    Yes, due to server issues, you may or may not be able to use this method. The VAST majority of hosts will allow a .htaccess file. If your’s doesn’t, you may want to consider looking for another that does (just for the pure fact that you can control a LOT with the .htaccess file.)

    But, in the event that you are unable to use the .htaccess file method, here is a link to a Google search on sites with a lot of different options for creating 301 redirects using various programming languages.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=301+re-direct&btnG=Google+Search

  3. scanreg on July 15th, 2007 7:55 am

    If your site has a possible (or potential) total Page Rank of 6 out of 10, and you are indexed with both the โ€œwwwโ€ and the โ€œnon-wwwโ€ form of your domain name, then your Page Rank could be split to just 3 out of 10!

    One of my sites has a PR 4 for the www version and a Pr 4 for the non-www version.

    I just implemented the 301 redirect (thanks for this), and it seems to be working okay.

    1. Are you saying that Google will eventually catch up to the new 301 and combine the non-www and www versions to up to a PR 8 ??

    2. How long do you think it might be for this to take place?

    3. Do you think this will affect the Yahoo listings, too?

    Many thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. econcepts on July 15th, 2007 8:15 am


    1. Are you saying that Google will eventually catch up to the new 301 and combine the non-www and www versions to up to a PR 8 ??

    I am saying that Google will combine both urls and all “incoming links” to those urls into 1 “total”. It does not mean that you will automatically rise to a PR8.

    It does mean that your page rank will rise faster, but how high? Well, that depends on the quality of link coming into your site. If the links coming into the “non-www” form of the site equal a “4” at best, and those combine with the links for the “www” form of the domain name; which also is at a best PR4, then your PR will remain a 4 overall.

    But, it will rise faster as you get more quality incoming links.

    My use of “doubling” the two numbers was for illustration only, however, it is possible that after Google catches up, your rank will increase. It all depends on the quality of the links coming in.

    2. How long do you think it might be for this to take place?

    There is no telling. With how fast search engines change their algorithms, you just don’t know.

    3. Do you think this will affect the Yahoo listings, too?

    This is specific to Google. I am not sure how it would affect any other listings, but it always helps to have consistency in your domain naming conventions.

  5. motti on July 25th, 2007 10:42 am

    I try that on my site and it doesn’t seam to work. any idea what am i doing wrong , or not doing
    I just create forum on my /forum and it is also same issue their with the www

    Please advice

    Thank you

  6. Lance on July 25th, 2007 2:16 pm

    Are you saying that Google will eventually catch up to the new 301 and combine the non-www and www versions to up to a PR 8?

    PageRank is logarithmic, from what I understand. The number and quality of links it takes to rise from a PR5 to a PR6 is much greater than, say, from a PR3 to a PR4.

  7. econcepts on July 25th, 2007 2:18 pm

    motti,

    You may want to check that your hosting company allows the use of the .htaccess file. Most do, but some don’t.

    Also, make sure you have everything listed exactly as is, named the file exactly “.htaccess” and then uploaded to the root of your website (or store root, which ever you prefer).

    Finally, make sure your host allows the use of mod re-write commands, and that the engine is installed for you to use (this is something you would have to check with your host on).

    If you need more information on how to use the .htaccess file, you can perform a Google Search on “www / non www .htaccess redirect” or something similar. Or even just “.htaccess file use”. Those should yield some results that may assist in understanding how to use it.

    Good luck!

  8. motti on July 25th, 2007 6:41 pm

    Thank you for the quick response.

    I have called my hosting and they fixed it, most likely I pasted it wrong.

    Thank you for the Great info on your site.

  9. AJ on August 22nd, 2007 11:52 pm

    Well, I have not seen a zen cart with higher than 3 PR, maybe there are some out there. Let me ask you a question and do not take it personally, you are preaching on how to rank high with google and all that stuff but this site (your site have a 0 PR), is it in the zen cart or is it in the SEO of the zen cart? Thanks.

    AJ

  10. econcepts on August 23rd, 2007 7:14 am

    Well, I have not seen a zen cart with higher than 3 PR, maybe there are some out there. Let me ask you a question and do not take it personally, you are preaching on how to rank high with google and all that stuff but this site (your site have a 0 PR), is it in the zen cart or is it in the SEO of the zen cart? Thanks.

    Great point AJ, and no offense taken.

    Here is the answer (I think once I go over it, it will make more sense):

    First understand that Page Rank is not a measure of how “high” you rank in search engines. It is only a measure of the number of incoming links to the site.

    In fact, Page Rank plays a very small role in determining how high you actually rank (in position) in a search engine. You can have a Page rank “0” (or no page rank at all, which is what you get even before Google assigns you a Page Rank of “0”) and still rank in the number one position in search engines.

    This site is a perfect example of that. Perform some searches, and you’ll find that this site ranks very well for a large number of terms and phrases (some not so “out of the ordinary”). It gets quite a good amount of natural search traffic due to the higher rankings. Even before it was assigned the PR of “0” it still had very good natural search traffic and nice rankings.

    To find out more information on what Page Rank really is a measure of, you can also perform searches on that term (or something similar). A large list of sites will come up that talk about Page Rank, and it’s relation to search engine positioning.

    Don’t get me wrong. Page Rank does play a role in your position, it is just not as important a role as some would like to think. That is why I mention in this article that you want to make sure you are not “splitting” it across multiple sites.

    It carries little weight on its own. By splitting it, you almost make it worthless.

    As far as not seeing a Zen Cart with a Page Rank higher than 3, that would not be out of the question. Remember, if Page Rank is a measure of how many incoming links a site has, then it would make sense that more than likely, most Zen Cart sites have very few one way incoming links (trading links with other sites won’t help … doing that basically causes them to negate each other).

    So this means someone would have to find a Zen Cart e-commerce site so important that they link to it without asking you to link back to them. This is a one way link. How many people actually would do that? Sure, it happens, but how often?

    Now, here is an example of a Zen Cart site that has a Page Rank of 4.
    http://www.alpinevalleycoffee.com/

    The ranking in the search engines has not changed that much for the site from the time it had a “0” PR and the time it achieved a 4. The Page Rank continues to increase, but the ranking has moved very little (this site already ranks pretty well for a number of terms, and gets a good amount of traffic from natural search.)

    If you want to achieve Higher Page Rank for any site (this includes Zen Cart driven sites) then you need to start looking for ways to get more “one way” incoming links. This can take time, and is in how you actively perform SEO for your site (not how the site performs it for you).

    So, hopefully this answers any questions you may have. It can sound quite complex at times, but the main point to keep in mind is you do not need a high Page Rank to actually “be listed higher (in position)” in the search engines (even Google).

  11. scanreg on June 22nd, 2008 7:27 am

    My findings are that after I implemented the 301 my page rank dropped from a 5 to a 3 on one site, yep, for real.

    From what i can tell, it seems that all the non-www links were ‘discounted’, not added, thus they seem to have become irrelevant – my site PR still has not recovered and using the 301 appears to be the worst thing I’ve ever done as far as I can see. It seems as if the 301 told Goog to skip over the non-www links when calculating PR.

    Anyway, that’s been my experience so far. I’m sure webmeisters might disagree, but if there’s one thing I wish I could undo, it’s using the 301, sorry

  12. Eric Leuenberger on June 29th, 2008 3:10 pm

    Scanreg,

    Keep in mind that the 301 Redirect is a well known SEO practice that all search engines not only endorse, but encourage you to use.

    A large number of factors can contribute to your loss in page rank. I am not an SEO guru by any means, but I would venture to say the loss in page rank you saw was not directly attributed to the 301 redirects.

    Hope that helps a bit.

  13. Tom on July 10th, 2008 4:51 pm

    hi, what if in zen cart i’ve set the base url to be mysite.com, without the www
    google has already picked up on 643 of these. i’ve checked using site:mysite.com

    when I check using
    site:www.mysite.com
    Google onlyu lists 2

    should I still use the 301 redirect in your article above or should a re-write it so that it changes the www to the non-www?

  14. iman on November 1st, 2009 10:31 am

    nice tips, i have searching for this info and i got it here, many thanks to you ;p

  15. baby modeling agencies in nyc on January 12th, 2010 2:52 am

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