In this Ask Hoz session, I’m going to be answering the question what is the best URL structure to use in Google Search Console? Is it HTTPS or HTTP or www?
This is actually a very good question. I’m wondering whether this question about the best domain version to use was asked in the context of gaining some kind of SEO advantage. In other words, what domain version is best to use for SEO purposes.
To understand how this may affect you, let’s take a look at the reason for having a preferred domain name to set in Google Search Console in the first place.
www vs non www Difference or www vs http in the URL
The reason that Google wants you to specify a URL, or a version of your domain, is so that Google ‘knows’ under which URL your content should be indexed.
This is important because search engines see different versions of a domain name. For example, your HTTP web address is different to your HTTP address and different again to your www address.
In effect, you have three versions of your domain name. Let’s say for example that you publish an article on your blog or on your website and it’s called article 1.
If you don’t specify a domain name, what happens is that search engines see that article on various domains.
To make this example easier to follow, let’s assume that you don’t have SSL (so you don’t have a HTTPS address).
When you publish article1, search engines see:
We think of this as one and the same address because it’s one domain name. But in the eyes of a search engine, these are two separate locations.
And here’s why this is a problem: this means that means article1 appears under two locations, which means that this is duplicate content.
This is the reason why you need to specify (via Google Search Console) what version of your domain name is your preferred domain name.
If you choose, for example, the www version of your domain name, then Google knows that this is the address to index, or at least to give priority to.
Essentially there is no difference between www and non www domains. Which one you choose as your best URL structure down to your preference. The reason for having to choose one is a technical one.
In a nutshell: specifying a preferred domain will help you avoid duplicate content issues.
What Domain Version is Best for SEO?
In practice, using the HTTPS version of your domain should give you a small advantage when it comes to ranking in the SERPs (search engine result pages) considering that Google stated a few years back that they would give preferential ranking at least in mobile search results to domain names that have SSL.
In practice it makes sense. SSL encryption is a trust signal and it protects your visitor’s data, so it has to be a win for Google.
So whilst technically you’re only choosing a version of your domain to let Google know what to index, in practice if you use HTTPS you could get a small advantage on the SEO side of things.
Regardless of anything else, SSL is an advantage when it comes to conversion, so I personally go for the HTTPS option every time.
Remember to Match Your Chosen Best URL Structure in Google Analytics
Once you set your preferred domain version in Google Search Console, remember to then do the same in your Google Analytics dashboard (set your property URL to the same) so that you have consistency across your Google properties.
To do this:
- hit the admin wheel at the bottom left of the screen
- go to Property Settings (middle column)
- Set the Default URL to whatever you decided was your best URL structure in Google Search Console
And that’s it!
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