www vs non-www and http vs https for SEO

April 2016

When learning about SEO, you have probably read that you should only use www or non-www and only http or https. This begs the question: What does "only" even mean? Does it mean in all your blogs and PR events you must link consistently to https://www.example.com or is a forward from http://example.com to https://www.example.com good enough? My research for this suggests that a forward is enough and you do not need to worry, as long as you register all the versions of your site in the Google Search Console.

Nowadays if you have a somewhat potent webapp, you probably need users to login and therefore you need SSL (https). Whether you use www or non-www doesn't matter as long as you are consistent. Quora.com redirects to www and stackoverflow redirects to non-www, so you have examples of two sites that are good at SEO with different settings.

Now lets say we want to setup our www https page. What we can't do is a 301 permanent redirect on the registrar, since they can't redirect https non-www. So we will have to write the redirects on our own servers. So in the end we will have:

A record: @ pointing to <my_IP>
CNAME alias: www pointing to @

while the redirects non-www to www and http to https happen on the server. Here is an example for how to redirect from http to https using nginx.

Interested in web development?

Learn to Write Clean Code

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (Robert C. Martin)