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Search Engine Marketing

February 9, 2009

Here’s Why You Should Use WWW in Your URL

by Praveen Rajan

I recently stumbled on an article by Gobala Krishnan on the question of whether to use “www” in the URL. As he puts it, consistency is what’s important.

But I also wanted to know how other successful websites handled this.

9 of the Largest Websites in the World Default to www.domain.com

I started by pulling up the top 10 websites as ranked by Compete.com:

top-10-websites-january-2009

Then, I tested each website to see (a) where it would end up if I keyed in the domain name with and without a “www”, and (b) how Google indexed their first result.

Here’s what I found:

  1. google.com → www.google.com
  2. yahoo.com → www.yahoo.com
  3. msn.com → www.msn.com
  4. live.com → www.live.com
  5. ebay.com → www.ebay.com
  6. youtube.com → www.youtube.com
  7. amazon.com → www.amazon.com
  8. facebook.com → www.facebook.com
  9. wikipedia.org → www.wikipedia.org & wikipedia.org (no redirection, although www.wikipedia.org is the default URL indexed by Google)
  10. myspace.com → www.myspace.com

9 of the top 10 websites in the world default to a “www” URL!

These websites redirected requests for domain.com to www.domain.com. They also had their “www” URL indexed in their first search result on Google.

google-search-www-in-url

In the Offline World, Left-to-Right Matters

If you’ve spent some time marketing offline (e.g. print, billboards, t-shirts, etc), then you will know how important it is to capture a customer’s attention quickly. Split-second decisions matter a lot.

The human-brain is trained to process the things we read, from left to right. The faster we are able to detect a visual cue, the easier it is for us to identify what it is. Humans tend to always take the path of least resistance.

So which of the following examples would your brain identify as a “website” in the shortest time possible?

www-in-url-reading-pattern

In unstructured tests that we conducted, we asked participants to choose between the two examples above. We realized that 7 out of every 10 users identified www.domain.com as a website.

In the first example, your brain would have to read from left to right, and you would probably only notice it’s a “website” after hitting the “.com”. This serves as a visual cue.

Now, if we were to use www.marketingly.com, you’d be able to immediately identify that this is a website. The visual cue “www” is apparent right away.

If you were driving past a billboard, you only have a matter of seconds to pick up the website URL. Your brain is wired in such a way that it searches for visual cues that it is used to.

Given the enormous publicity of “www” in the mass media, why not capitalize on it? The “average joe” will be able to understand it better. After all, most people still key in the “www” into their web browsers.

Be Consistent, but Not Fool Hardy

There’s no harm if you choose not to use “www”, but you will lose traffic if you don’t cater for it. We’ve seen many websites that entertain requests for domain.com, but don’t redirect the request for www.domain.com. Read these tips on redirection for: CPanel, Dreamhost and Google Webmaster Tools.

Here are some things to consider for your URL strategy:

  • What if it’s a long URL? In Adwords, you can only use up to 35 characters for your display URL. If necessary, remove the “www”, but ensure that your landing page is served by it
  • What if you’ve spent years on domain.com? If you’ve been building tonnes of links with domain.com, then just stick with it. Just remember to serve “www” and update your preferred domain in Google Webmaster Tools

Just remember that it pays to be consistent with your choice of URL. If you’ve decided to use the “www”, then stick with it in all your marketing efforts, such as Adwords and blog comments.

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