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SEO Website Audit

Can Google Follow Non-www Links?

August 27, 2008

Dear Jill,

To begin, I love your website. Very informative. On to my question. I am creating a site map for my website and have run into a problem.

For purposes of discussion, let's say my main URL is I have a plethora of links in my site for indexing purposes between pages. The page links all go to their respective pages properly, but are linked to (without the www part).

So, long story short, a person can follow these links without a problem and get to the page they clicked on, but can Google follow these links?

I am unsure as and might be considered different URLs.

Looking forward to your thoughts.


++Jill's Response++

Hi Levi,

Google can and does follow both www links and non-www links in your website. They used to often see them as distinct URLs, and would often index both versions, which is not good.

That said, for the past 6 to 9 months or so, Google seemed to have figured out that the www version and the non-www version of URLs are the same pages on most websites.

While I haven't seen others online mention this much, I noticed this when every website I reviewed in this past year has not had a problem with Google seeing the www and the non-www as different. This is indeed a big switch from past years when it seemed to be a problem.

To be sure that Google (and the other search engines) index only one version of your URLs, you can have your server people redirect the non-www version to the www version. That's still good practice, regardless of how Google currently sees things.

I wrote about this previously here as well: 

Redirecting Non-www to www Version

Hope this helps!

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Company.

If you learned from this article, be sure to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so you can be the first to receive similar articles in the future!

Post Comment

 suzukik said:
According to the previous post, you didn't seem to 301 redirect non-www to www at your site since it was not necessary.
But you do now.
 Jill said:
Hi Suzukik,

The developers must do that as a matter of course once we put up our new site with the new CMS. I didn't even realize we were doing that now!

As I mentioned, it is good practice.

 AjiNIMC said:
Do a 301, it will take care of it. Also you can go to Google webmaster console and mention your preference there as www. It will also help your site.

These issues fall under canonicalization where technical www and non-www are two different locations whereas most of us are using it to be same.

I am sure google has a way to find out that they are same. if I was a Google programmer, i would have compared both the content and see if it is same, it both are same then I will consider nonwww and www to be same. Google is smarter than me, so expect that they are talking care of it but better to be smart at your level by doing 301 than expecting big G to do its part. Also there are many search engines working on basic rules of Search Engines.

Best of Luck!
 Rob Willox said:
I would agree with AjiNIMC that Google may well be smarter than most of us and realise they are the same but it's a matter of consistency.

It is better to take the time to standardise your link structure both internally and external links to one or other form as Google state on Webmaster Central:-

The preferred domain is the one that you would like to be used to index your site's pages (sometimes this is referred to as the canonical domain). Links may point to your site using both the www and non-www versions of the URL (for instance, and The preferred domain is the version that you want to be used for your site in the search results.

Once you tell us your preferred domain name, it may help us determine the PageRank for your site more accurately.

If Google is still recommending you choose the form you prefer it's in your interest to take note by both setting it in Webmaster Central and ensuring external links are consistent. It's often many small changes over time that make a difference.
 Jill said:
All that is very true, but part of the point of my article was to mention that from all signs and everything that I've seen when researching sites for the past 6-9 months is that Google does indeed see them as the same these days, unlike a few years ago.
 WorkingTraffic said:
BTW you can specifically tell Google which is your preferred or canonical name using "Webmaster Tools" is possible but unlikely that the previous problem with seeing www and non www as different domains has been resolved for many websites becuase of this ?

Just a thought...anyway you should specify your preferred url in webmaster tools since it is available to you.

 Jill said:
Nope, that's not it because the websites I've check don't use webmaster tools.
 GetInNepal said:
Hi, I am in process of crating and starting my website.
Nice to read all those comments and I understood that we should pick the url that you want and use that url consistently across your entire site. But can you please tell me which one is better practice? Redirect non www to www or redirect www to non www in good SEO practice?
 Jill said:
Neither is better than the other for search engines.