www vs non-www, what’s the difference?

Some websites show www before the URL name and some do not. What is the difference? For the small business website, no difference exists between configuring your website with www or non-www i.e. www.GoGonzalez.com vs. GoGonzalez.com.

Once you make your choice, technical steps can be made to ensure that every visitor travels down that path. If www is set, then force visitors to the “www” version and make sure they cannot browse the site using non-www.

You may be asking, “Why do I need to force everyone on to one version of the URL?”. All search engines, applications, browsers, and the entire “world wide web” for that matter see these 2 versions as distinct sites; on a purely technical level. The key is to pick one version and stick with it; be consistent. 

Please note, the version of the URL that you use does not affect search engine ranking. However, having access to the website with both www and non-www can and will affect search engine ranking.

The technical Case for www

There is a technical case for www, but strictly for a large website with high traffic. The benefit of having your website URL include www is for cookie handling. We are not going into detail in this article. Information on the topic of cookie handling will come at a later date.

The gist of configuring your URL with the www prefix has to do with the hierarchical nature of cookies. For example, when you use www.GoGonzalez.com, you can restrict cookies for subdomains.

To a much smaller degree, there is a payload benefit for using non-www. For every server request on a page load, the request is sent with 3 fewer characters. That may not seem like a lot, but consider that a single page has many images, stylesheets, Javascript, and calls to other resources. A single page may make several hundred requests.

The image below is an inspection of page-load of abc.com in a web browser. A single call to abc.com is making 136 requests in this instance as shown on the bottom left of this inspection, see illustration A, Inspection of request to abc.com. 

abc.com inspector image

Illustration A. Inspection of request to abc.com


For most websites with low to moderate traffic, www vs non-www is purely a preference. Make sure to stick with one version to gain the maximum benefits for search optimization. However, for websites with significant traffic and those that need to use restrictive cookies, there is more to consider.

Website development goes far beyond pretty pages and hyperlinks. There are structural and technical considerations that impact organic traffic and accessibility. The configuration of www vs non-www is just one example. Maximizing good traffic is a critical part of marketing. Improper web design can limit your potential. For advertising and web design… Go Gonzalez.