Preferred Domain Settings in Google Webmaster Tools
The Preferred Domain (with WWW or without WWW) setting option in Google Webmaster Tools allows the webmasters to set how their domain is to be shown in the search results, that is with www or without www. Webmasters should understand a simple concept that anything before the domain name is a sub-domain including www. Hence, the sites https://www.webnots.com and https://webnots.com are not same for search engines.
How to Set a Preferred Domain?
- Login to your Google Webmaster Tools account and select the site you want to set a preferred domain.
- Go to “Site Settings” option available under the Gear Box Icon located at top right corner.
- Preferred domain section has three options to choose from:
- Don’t set a Preferred Domain
- Display URLs with WWW
- Display URLs without WWW
You must add and verify both www and non-www versions of your site in order to set a preferred domain. If both versions are pointing to the same server (this is a normal scenario) then once you verify one version, the second version will get auto verified by just adding to the Webmaster Tools. Otherwise you need to verify it two times as a two different sites.
Once you change your preferred domain settings it may take considerable time for Google to display correct URLs in the search results. The URLs belonging to the non-preferred domain will be still showing in the searches till the time Google refreshes the indexing of those pages. This is the reason you may be seeing both www and non-www versions of your URLs in the searches once you set your preferred domain.
Impact of Setting a Preferred Domain
Setting s preferred domain is not an optional choice for webmasters since it has an impact on following thins:
- Search Results Display
- Link popularity of your site’s URLs
- Search engine ranking
- Site Indexing
Displaying Search Results
The URLs showing in the Google search results will follow your preferred domain setting in Google Webmaster Tools. If you are intended to use any sub-domains like blog.webnots.com then it is recommended to use the www version for your main domain. If you don’t set any preferred domain Google will decide what version is to be shown in the searches.
Inbound Link Popularity
It is highly possible that the links pointing your site may use http://www.yoursite.com or http://yoursite.com. If you do not set any preferred domain then Google will count these two links as separate links and hence you may lose your inbound link popularity. When you set your preferred domain as www or non-www Google will consider all links pointing your site as per your preferred domain settings regardless of whether it consists of www or not. This helps to improve the link popularity of your site and you may not need to worry about you’re the version of your inbound links at all.
Search Engine Ranking
As the link popularity and link count are having high weightage on search engine ranking of your pages, by not setting a preferred domain your pages may be ranked low in the search results.
As mentioned above Google will index http://www.yoursite.com and http://yoursite.com as a two different sites. If you see no data for your site in Google Webmaster Tools the possibility is that the other version of your site is indexed by Google. Hence you need to add both www and a non-www version of your site in order to ensure which version is indexed by Google.