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google suddenly points to domain.com instead of www.domain.com

 6:16 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yesterday our position on some keywords dropped. Not a lot, but it dropped.

In checking things out, we noticed that google no longer points to www.domain.com for us, now (after many many years) they suddenly point to domain.com, with no subdomain.

So I have a few questions, hopefully somebody has answers, or at least opinions.

Could this be related? A couple of weeks ago I was working on a staging subdomain, looking in the logs and found google was crawling it. I don't know how google found this subdomain, but it did, so I put robots.txt disallow all.

Should I do anything specific? I am thinking to check httpd.conf and make sure the www.domain is first in the vhosts, so if google does crawl by ip, that it will get the right domain. Also, I am thinking to contact google. Are these good ideas?

Thanks for any help.




 8:12 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

You can just use Webmaster tools and select www.domain.com as the preferred and Google will ignore the domain.com. It is located in preference.


 8:18 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well a little more than that. First of all, you want to make a decision on which you want to use. (Take into account whatever good backlinks you have - are they linking to www or non-www? And whatever you pick should be reflected in any other branding you use, from ads to business cards to the side of a truck, or wherever you publish your site address. Pick one and stick with it)

Then you want to make sure that only ONE of them goes into the search engines, so, for example, if you pick www, then you need to make sure the non-www version properly redirects to www - thus if I type in yourdomain.com/about.html it will automatically show as www.yourdomain.com/about.html in the address bar. How you do that depends on what kind of server you're sitting on; for apache it's a fairly simple redirect in .htaccess.

THEN you can go into Google Webmaster Tools and tell them which version you want to use, but as part of that process, they'll ask you to verify both the www and the non-www before they establish a set preference (that's because technically, www and non-www are two different sets of urls, in theory, could be controlled by two different entities - although they usually aren't, but Google is just making sure)

Then you just sit back and wait for Google to sort it out. Depending on how many URLS you have, could be a couple weeks or a few months.


 8:30 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Check these two searches before you do anything.

site:example.com -inurl:www


Change to 100 results per page (add &num=100 to the end of the google search URL) and click though all the results pages to see where the real end of the listings is.

Set up a proper canonical redirect from non-www to www (or vice versa).


 9:39 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the replies, and Hi Meg!

I followed the directions to set up google webmaster tools.

Is the 301 .htaccess necessary? Google seems to indicate it is optional.

If so, I found this on stack overflow, it looks complex. I know regex, but I never learned htaccess syntax.

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

Anybody venture to say if that is correct?

thanks for all the replies.


 9:54 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

I found a thread that specifies the rewrite rule. I didn't even know there was an .htaccess forum here.

So my remaining question: is it necessary?


 10:25 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Setting options in WMT signals only to Google which URL version you prefer.

It does not signal anything to other searchengines, or to users, and it does not stop further links being built to the "wrong" URL.

Setting the .htaccess rules signals to all users and all searchengines which one is "right".

A more robust ruleset...

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

Using www URLs is usually preferred, but remove www\. from BOTH parts if you need to redirect to non-www.


 10:50 pm on Apr 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

(or to sum up - *yes* it's necessary)

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