If you’ve ever noticed that some websites have URLs that begin with “www” while others do not, you may be wondering if there’s a difference between the two. The short answer is no, there is no difference in terms of functionality. However, from an SEO perspective, it’s generally recommended to choose one format over the other and stick with it for all of your URLs.
In this article, we’ll explain how to use .htaccess to redirect non-WWW URLs to WWW URLs (or vice versa) and ensure that all of your site’s URLs are consistent.
Step 1: Determine Your Preferred URL Format
Before you can set up a redirect in .htaccess, you need to determine whether you want your site’s URLs to include “www” or not. This is a matter of personal preference, but keep in mind that it’s generally easier to set up and maintain SSL certificates (which are used for HTTPS encryption) on domains that include “www”.
Once you’ve decided on your preferred URL format, you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Create a Backup of Your .htaccess File
Before making any changes to your .htaccess file, it’s always a good idea to create a backup of the current version. This will ensure that you have a copy of the file in case something goes wrong during the editing process.
To create a backup, simply log in to your web hosting account, locate the .htaccess file, and make a copy of it. You can either download the file to your computer or create a new version of the file with a different name (e.g. .htaccess_backup.txt).
cp .htaccess .htaccess_backup.txt
Step 3: Add the Redirect Code
Once you have a backup of your .htaccess file, it’s time to open it up and start making changes. You can do this using any text editor, such as Notepad, TextEdit, or Sublime Text.
To locate the .htaccess file, you’ll need to log in to your website’s file manager or FTP client. The file is typically located in the root directory of your website (i.e. the same directory where your index.html or index.php file is located).
Redirect non-WWW URLs to WWW URL
To set up a redirect in .htaccess, you’ll need to use the “RewriteEngine” and “RewriteRule” commands. Here’s the basic syntax for redirecting non-WWW URLs to WWW URLs:
In this example, the “RewriteEngine On” command enables the Apache mod_rewrite module, which allows you to rewrite URLs.
The “RewriteCond” command checks to see if the HTTP_HOST variable (which contains the website’s domain name) begins with “www”. If it does not, the “RewriteRule” command redirects the user to the same URL with “www” added to the beginning.
Redirect WWW URLs to non-WWW URL
If you want to redirect WWW URLs to non-WWW URLs instead, simply swap the two versions of the domain name in the code:
Step 4: Save and Test
Once you’ve added your redirect code to the .htaccess file, it’s time to save the changes and test them out. To do this, simply save the file and upload it to your website’s root directory (replacing the existing .htaccess file if prompted).
Next, open up a web browser and enter your website’s URL without “www” (or with “www”, if you’re redirecting in the opposite direction). If the redirect has been set up correctly, you should be automatically redirected to the new version of the URL.
If the redirect doesn’t seem to be working, double-check your .htaccess file to make sure there are no typos or syntax errors. You can also try clearing your browser’s cache and cookies and testing the URL again.
Step 5: Monitor Your Site’s Analytics
After implementing the redirect, it’s important to monitor your website’s analytics to ensure that the redirect is working as intended. Look for any changes in traffic patterns, bounce rates, or other key metrics that might indicate a problem with the redirect.
If you notice any issues, double-check your .htaccess file and make any necessary changes. You can also contact your web hosting provider or a professional developer for assistance.
Redirecting non-WWW URLs to WWW URLs (or vice versa) is a simple but important step for maintaining a consistent and SEO-friendly website. By using .htaccess to set up the redirect, you can ensure that your site’s URLs are always consistent and easy to remember for both users and search engines.
Just remember to create a backup of your .htaccess file before making any changes, test the redirect thoroughly, and monitor your site’s analytics to ensure that everything is working as intended. With a little bit of effort and attention to detail, you can set up a redirect that will benefit your website for years to come.