Avoid this massive problem with your website’s URL

I ran across a beautiful brand new website launched yesterday for Divorce Lawyers in Chicago.  The branding is strong, it embraces local imagery, the phone number is in the header etc.  All in all a beautiful site.  But underneath, lies a massive technical problem:  the non www version of the site doesn’t exist.

Here’s what the homepage looks like – www.divorcelawyerchicago.com

www version

And here’s what it looks like without the www – divorcelawyerchicago.com

non www JPG

Whoops!

What Should Happen

Ideally, your site is set up so that anyone typing in the non www or the www version goes to the exact same URL – i.e. the site automatically redirects from one to the other.  Although there has been much debate over which is preferred, the big picture is that there should be only one.  The redirect is very easy to implement with common platforms (like WordPress.)  Watch what happens when we try to load the non www version of this site:

HKM www redirect

 

Try it for your own site. – just type in your domain with and without the www – only one version should load.  Note that being able to load both versions (i.e. www.mysite.com and mysite.com)  is NOT an appropriate result – as this duplicates your entire site – another SEO no no.  I call this the MOFO Error after the Morrison Foerster website which had this problem for years and years.

How To Fix It

This is  very easy problem to avoid BEFORE you launch your site.  You should set your preferred domain in Google Webmaster Tools (Google instructions here).  WordPress setup includes handling of the www vs non www as does the WordPress Yoast plugin.  You can also contact your host to handle this directly.