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  • To www. Or Not to www. --- Google PageRank Observations
    Copyright 2003, Bill Platt

    I came to the web with an itch to build content, and I needed 
    to understand the technology utilized to build the Internet. 
    Early on, I confronted the question about whether it was 
    necessary to use the www. in my website URL. It really began 
    to be a concern to me when I began to advertise my domain and 
    I was limited to a certain number of lines and characters in my 
    advertising. Although the www. only comprised four characters, 
    those four characters sometimes made a significant difference 
    in allowing me to have enough space to say what I wanted to 
    Most every website on the planet advertises their website with 
    the www. included in the URL. I wondered if dropping the www. 
    would create a problem with people finding my site. The answer 
    is that it depends on your web server configuration.
    Putting it in simple terms, a web server is put together in 
    the same fashion as your own computer. Both have a set of 
    directories, subdirectories and files which let you remain 
    somewhat organized. The only difference between your computer 
    and a webserver is the type of software that is loaded onto 
    the webserver. 
    A webserver simply consists of software designed to allow 
    external users to access the computer through a specific 
    doorway in the system called a *port*. 
    The webserver software handles all requests coming into the 
    computer for information. 
    All folders that represent different domains on the webserver 
    are generally marked off with the www_ in the name of the 
    folder. This reminds the system administrator that the folder 
    is directly accessible from the Internet. 
    The www_ designation is not needed by the webserver --- it is 
    needed by the human operators.
    Domain pointers are like shortcuts on your desktop. They are 
    only files which point to another location on your computer. 
    Clicking those shortcuts start new programs without your 
    having to search for the actual program. 
    Most webservers are set up to utilize these pointers to allow 
    someone to direct access another folder on the webserver.
    For example, on my server I have a folder called *double-eagles* 
    which is the home for another one of my domains. If you click 
    the link http://double-eagles.com , that is actually a domain 
    pointer directing your browser to open the folder 
    The same process applies to the use of subdomains, such 
    as URL's that utilize the www. For example, the URL 
    http://archives.thePhantomWriters.com points to a directory on 
    my server called http://thePhantomWriters.com/free_content
    If you cannot access your domain name without using the www. 
    prefix, then you should contact your webhost to get this feature 
    enabled. The choice of using the www. or not should be made by 
    your visitors, not your webhosting provider.
    All day long when I surf, I type in the URL name without the 
    www. included in the URL. I am often still surprised to see 
    top name domains from whom you cannot access the non-www. 
    presentation of their website! 
    Can you imagine what would happen if someone put yourdomain.com 
    into their browser and they received a Cannot Find Server error?
    *Bye-bye visitor... Wish we could have been introduced.*
    Search engine spiders are known to frown upon websites who 
    introduce the exact same content under two different domain 
    names. The search engine administrators generally view this 
    as an attempt to gain an unfair advantage in their results. 
    In fact, at one time I had read on the Google website that 
    providing mirror websites could lead to your site being banned 
    from their database.
    The common knowledge has always been that the search engines 
    generally count only the www_ version or the non-www_ version 
    of a website. They do not list both in their results as they 
    understand that both versions are the same website.
    So, for the last two years I have made available the www_ 
    version for my visitors, but only advertised the non-www_ 
    version of the site. 
    About one week ago, I installed two new tracking tools on my 
    system to help me to guage the success of my advertising. Those 
    two tools are:
    - Google PageRank Toolbar -
    - Alexa Toolbar -
    Both require using a Windows operating system and Internet 
    Explorer 5.0 or better for a browser, but both are exceptional 
    tools if you are a webmaster who cares about tracking your 
    traffic results.
    Somehow, I managed to hit my domain with both the www_ prefix 
    and without. The first time I did this, I simply assumed that 
    my Google PageRank was bouncing from day to day with wide 
    swings. The second time I had done it, I realized that Google 
    was seeing the two URL's as two websites!
    The PageRank for the URL I advertise (non-www.) is currently a 
    5/10, and the PageRank for the URL I do not advertise (www.) 
    holds a value of 2/10!
    The Alexa toolbar sees both as the same page and records the 
    data for my domain the same in both cases. 
    The difference between the two rankings is that the www. version 
    has no links pointing to it. The non-www. version has 30 Google 
    links pointing to it.
    It is important to note here that under the current guidelines 
    of Google, a website must have a PageRank of at least 4/10 in 
    order to be listed in Google's search results. Therefore, 
    although there are hundreds of websites pointing to my website, 
    only those with a PageRank of at least 4/10 will actually show 
    up in the calculations for both Google PageRank and the Alexa 
    results --- which utilizes the Google search results in their 
    own rating systems.
    I need to make sure that I can get my URL on more sites with 
    at least a 4/10 Google PageRank. 
    The number of links pointing to a website do make a significant 
    difference in the PageRank of the website.
    If my only goal is to build my own PageRank or to get better 
    results in Google, I don't need to submit my information to 
    a website that does not have a PageRank of 4/10 or higher.
    Putting my URL in my resource box and attaching it to a 
    free-reprint article really can get my URL into hundreds of 
    websites, some of whom will have a good Google PageRank.
    And finally, I hope that people who use the Google toolbar who 
    visit my website come through to the non-www. version of my 
    website --- or else they might just think that my website has 
    no real value in the eyes of Google.

    Bill Platt owns http://thePhantomWriters.com . Do you need free content for your website or ezine? Our archives deliver more than 350 free-reprint articles available for your use. http://content.thePhantomWriters.com . Do you write your own articles? Let us distribute them for you to our network of 6000+ publishers & webmasters http://thePhantomWriters.com/distribution

    This article was originally written: September, 2003

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