How to Set Your Preferred Domain and Double the Power of Your Backlinks

  • March 9th 2013
  • by Marvin Russell
How to Set Your Preferred Domain and Double the Power of Your Backlinks

Setting your preferred domain is a simple SEO tip that every website owner should know, and every SEO should know how to do. Following this simple tip can even double the power of your link building efforts. However, not following this SEO tip could cut those efforts in half.

3 reasons why you should set your preferred domain:

1. The Panda Update
A large reason for the Panda update was for Google to rid their search results of duplicate content. Google sees and as two different web pages. This could be perceived as duplicate content. So setting your preferred domain (www or no www) will let Google know which domain they should crawl and index.

2. Double the Power of your Backlinks
If Google thinks the www and non www version of a web page are different pages, then there is a strong possibility that being inconsistent with the preferred domain you build links to could hurt your link building efforts.

“…if you specify your preferred domain as and we find a link to your site that is formatted as, we follow that link as instead.”

~ Google on Preferred domain (www or non-www)

For example, let’s say your preferred domain is not set, and half the time you link to and the other half you link to There is a strong possibility that Google may think you’re linking to two different web pages, therefore cutting your link building efforts in half. Why take that chance? Now, Google does try to canonicalize matching domains, but they don’t guarantee it, as Matt Cutts’ explains below.

3. Personal Preference
I don’t know about you but I always set my preferred domain to no www. In my opinion, why say www if you don’t have to? www doesn’t roll off the tongue very well. In fact, many people just say dub, dub dub. So I don’t think I’m alone here.

How to Set Your Preferred Domain in 2 Easy Steps

Step 1. 301 Redirect
Open up your .htaccess file and add the following code. Don’t forget to change to your actual domain.

If you prefer no www like me then add this:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

If you prefer to use www then add this:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^(.*)\.YourDomain\.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

Step 2. Set Your Webmaster tools
Open up your webmaster tools and click “Settings” right below “Configuration”. To the right look for the “Preferred Domain” and select which domain you prefer. Make sure it’s consistent with your preference in step 1.


If you get an error, chances are you need to verify that you own both www and non www versions of your site (silly right?). To verify, simply add the other version of your site (www or non www) to webmaster tools and verify. Tip: try using the same verification code that you used to verify your first domain. That way you’re just one click from verification.

Want more? Too bad that’s all there is to it. If I left something out, scream at me below.



  • most of my links are non www. what should i set as my preferred domain?


      Hi Joshua,

      Matt Cutts does say that when link building, either type of link (to a www or non www) will be just as effective as long as you set your preferred domain using the instructions above.

      So I would pick www or non www and set it. On the safe side i would also recommend setting it to which ever you have more links to. (just as a precaution)


      • Although in Google Webmaster tools i see it already set as www. But because this is a blog hosted on wordpress platform, and the hosting company someone installed the script at the root. When i look at my SERPs, they are all without the www.

        Does that matter?

  • i have already asked few people that all my backlinks to my blog http://iphonage are like this, but in google
    webmasters tool by default my preferred domain is set to
    Should i change it to non-wwww? How would this impact? as i have around
    60 domains and ips linking to non-www version and only few ips and
    domains linking to wwww version. Please guide


      It won’t negatively impact it. Google understands what you are doing. Just pick one.

  • Rashid

    i dont know how to set preferd domain for

    • rashid

      in web master tools i have setup it but dont know how to set my preferd domain on my server ( web hosting) of my site

      • SEO GROUP

        htaccess (see above)

  • A (possibly stupid) question. I prefer the non www domain ( so I set this as preferred domain in webmaster tools. I was then asked to verify ownership of the www domian which I did. My question is do I then also set the preferred domain in the webmaster tools for the www site ( to the non www domain (

    • Marvin Russell

      I don’t think you have to. If it let’s you, do so. Also set your htaccess to be extra sure.

  • Sly

    Will it harm my ranking if I change my preferred url from www to non www at a later date?


      Later date than from launch? Please elaborate on your question:)

      • Simon

        I’ve had a few websites set to non www for some years and others set to www. I want to standardise them. Will changing them now affect rank?

        • SEO GROUP

          Probably not. Matt Cutts can clearly detect things like this and the change is not significant enough to cause a rank issue, such as a new domain name and 301 redirecting it.

          You should be fine (Nothing is ever guaranteed)

  • egallery

    where can i find htaccess file for my blog ?

    • Via FTP. It may be hidden. Change you settings. Trying using filezilla

      • egallery

        But sir i am using Google blogger.

        • You can’t access it then. Move to wordpress and use your own domain. Just update it in Webmaster tools. It should work fine. But htaccess would seal the deal.

  • AnnaK

    I reversed the usage of my primary domain with one of subdomains (301 redirect). Do I need to change preferred domain to my new primary domain in my webmaster? If the answer is “yes” how do I do it? Your response will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • Ashish Garg

    where i can find my .htaccess file… ? My domain is

    • In your root folder. Sometimes it’s hidden. Use FTP, but you must have experience.

      • Ashish Garg

        m a fresher….how to use ftp ??

        • MoogleStiltzkin

          *slap you >->;

  • Mukesh

    Hello Sir, as you said in step 2, I verify non-www version of my site. Now my question is. do i keep www version in webmaster tool or simply delete that version?

    • I have same question with @Mukesh. Because that would mean that we have www and non-www for each domain?

      • usagi

        Same question here and haven´t found the answer on internet yet.
        If my prefered domain is not using www. and I have verified both, what should I do with the http://www.version of my site? Delete the site on webmastertools?

        • Hi Usagi,

          If you …

          1. verified both domains (www and non www) in Webmaster tools, and
          2. you have set the preferred domain, and
          3. you are sure Google indexed the preferred domain properly. (Just check Google’s index to be sure the right one is verified.)

          …then you can remove the non preferred domain, or keep it. It doesn’t matter. Personally I would delete it.

          • usagi

            thank you Marvin. I´ll do it and come back ^^

  • SeanO

    This is something we have just done on
    MiniMovers it made a huge difference in rankings.

  • Man With a Van

    Hi! Thanks for your post! But I have a question! I run a man and van company and recently started learning SEO. Now on “Majesticseo” I have report (please see picture inclosed) which shows 3 variation of my domain with a different number of external backlinks? The question is: Is there difference between http://www or non http:// version? Does google split my wibsite into 3 version of different websites? Do I need a code something like this:

    RewriteEngine On

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^$ [OR]

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^$

    RewriteRule (.*)$$1 [R=301,L]


    • Matthew Barrand

      Hi Tony, I just wondered …did you accommodate all 3 versions in your 301 redirects?

  • James

    I changed to a preferred domain. Someone or somehow my website got indexed with garbage non existent sub-domains in Google that was pointing to my main domain…. I think it causes duplicate content in Google. Not Sure. Do you know a way to de-index these bad subdomains? Thanks

  • John


    strange, I use the code for non-www to www correctly, but afterward when I go to my site it will go to

    What am I doing wrong here?

  • Chris

    Do we have to make the .htaccess 301 redirect change for WordPress websites as well? I read when you change your URL via WP General Settings from NON WWW to WWW or vice versa. Nothing else needs to be changed? Please advise, Thank you :)

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  • Raj

    Good, Great tips. Thanks

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  • I was wondering. If I set the prefered domain. Can I simply forget about the other one in webmasters` tools? Or would that be helpful to lets say upload sitemaps and so on even to the non-prefered domain in webmasters interface?

  • acesoftech

    Dear Marvin,

    Your explanation is excellent.

    Oh! I was working on my website in Google webmaster for and got confused which version should I keep. After reading your article, I came to know that its better to keep non-www version.


  • This is my site: , i have made many good quality links for my site but webmaster is not updating my links. It’s not updating links since months. I asked in Google forum about this and they said you need to verify non www version of your site. And don’t know how to do it.

  • I am good with your article and i this without www is working now.

    • Nitin Malik

      i did not get reset technologies what you want to say

      • Hi Nitin thanks for your reply, actually i made spelling mistake and now i had corrected. hope you get my point

  • Sarah Wild

    Hi, I am trying to go to one domain, (1 x www & 1 no-www). I need to verify my www domain on google but I can only find the non-www in my ftp. Am I missing something? Thanks

  • Nice post. Well for me if you still do not set preferred domain Google can still catch the reputation of a website whether a website opens with or without www. I see many websites ranking well that open in both www and non-www.

    • Of course, but SEO is like a detailed recipe. Sure you can leave the pinch of salt out, but it may taste a little different.

  • Ian

    Thanks for the helpful article.

    Do both versions of the web page need to be fully configured in Web Master Tools?

  • Manika Saha

    Hello.. I am in trouble. I have added my site as on webmaster.
    and don’t know how missed to set preferred domain. now I can not see any
    data on my webmasters tool. can you please tell how can I change that?
    For that I have to delete site and add it again or I can edit that? I
    have done 301 redirection. I would like to prefer my site as a please help!

  • Good Notes on www. and non-www. Though I’m having a hard time figuring domains not on redirects.

    What if the old site is and the new is I didn’t redirect the old site but I have a 404 information guiding them to the new site. Should I point also my on google set domain and change to on my google site settings? Or How do I go about it.

  • Hello
    I am using non-www domain for my blog on blogspot, do i need to set the preferred domain. If yes, then how could i do this, since GWT says “Restricted to root level domains only”. If not, then what domain is preferred automatically(i made a blog with non-www version)

  • How is “link juice” affected if people that link to you don’t use what you choose as the preferred domain? So if I choose non www but most half of the links that others give me on their site use www how does that affect my “link juice”?

  • Harris

    I set my preferred domain on google webmaster tool, but it’s again showing both www and non www versions of site on google. I have a managed wordpress hosting on godaddy. And they said you cannot access to your htacess file because there is no any option in managed hosting. Then i applied the second way and changed the preferred domain to www on WBT but unfortunateli it’s again showing both results. My Site is new and there’s not much traffic. I just want to ask can i show just only www version of site on google.

    • Liz

      …I’ve never been hosted with GoDaddy, but for the record: managed hosting should allow .htaccess editing. A managed host who doesn’t allow it seems so, so pointless. (And I am kind of a host now, so…)

  • tampasounds

    Google is broken
    I have added all 3 versions of my site in search console. In site settings i have set the preferred domain for each of those to the non www version. I have set my htaccess as described and tested it successfully. Google has still managed to index 2030 pages for my little 56 page website…Now what ?

  • gkworlds

    As per your instruction I set my site as & its working fine on google search engine.Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Matt Cassarino

    Thanks for this helpful tutorial. I was able to set my preferred domain in Google Search Console only after adding both versions of my site: and — which is kind of annoying seeing two instances of my site there. It’s as if Search Console is treating them as different sites, e.g. allowing me to submit sitemaps for each. I was hoping that once I selected my preferred domain (the www. version) the non-www. version would go away. Any suggestions?

    • Submit and manage your preferred domain. Remove the other one or leave it alone. I hope that helps :)

  • This was super helpful, thank you!!!

  • Domain names have to be chosen with a lot of care. Having a .com domain do help the business to grow as it is the most preferred domain among user.

    Apart from simply buying the .com one, it is always advisable to buy the .net, .biz, .org and other top-level domain variations of your domain name. That prevents other businesses from purchasing them and creating confusion for your customers or site visitors. And it makes it more likely that another site could out-rank your site for your domain name.

  • Thanks for sharing this great post. My own problem is that when ever i search on google it brings results,but when www is added to it, nothing is found… how can i fix this?

  • Josh

    Question, we just set up SSL https, which is unsupported by my platform (apparently) without the www. I changed my preferred URL to www. I already set up a search console before and had my preferred url without the www. Now that i have to switch back…do i need to upload my sitemap to the other search console website and treat it as if i was doing it from there all along?

    • I had this happen before. It sucks switching multiple times. Be patience with Google, they will eventually index the right pages again. I would use webmaster tools and your htaccess file to tell google what’s going on. Not sure about the sitemap, but it should not hurt.

  • After reading this post i was able to rectify my problem…. Thanks Marvin…..

  • Absolutely awesome article. It greatly helped me decide to go with the non www version of my website . Thank you kindly for the great knowledge.

  • Christopher Gearhart

    Once I update my preference (www.) how long does it take to show up in search results? My issue is an old site – – if you search “Paumac Tubing” Goggle lists the domain without the www, some clients are saying the site does not open…???

  • Asbah Adil

    Dear Marvin…Thanks for such a valuable post..!!.. Here I want to ask you that I own a website and regularly use this url for link generation or back-links without using non www version that is even a single time. Is it compulsory for me choose a preferred domain because I never use a non www. version??

    • It’s better if you set a preferred domain and only link to that one. It may or may not hurt you if you don’t do this.

      • Asbah Adil

        Thanks Marwin..for your response to the query regarding my website

  • rayan

    When I am selecting the “Display url as www” version its showing like this…

    Anyone please help me !!!

    • Jason Ma

      I think you have to verify the version without the www ( Pretty much add that as a new site, and verify ownership like you did with the www version. Then you should be able to change the preferred domain. This is because WMT reads both versions as separate entities, so it needs to know that you own both. I had the same problem and this was how I fixed my site.

  • Marijke Blake

    Hi, Thanks for this very useful information. I changed the settings on my .htaccess file and on Google Console. Never knew that this affected my ranking on Google. Setting up a website is the easy part. The difficult part comes afterwards (so many different aspects to consider). My site is (hope that I’m allowed to mention this).

  • link please

  • I wants to redirect to but not any option to set preffred domain , help me out

    • Mohamed Hanif

      Use .htaccess second metric file to redirect

  • Jorge Muchacuar
  • thanks recently i migrated from http to https. now i want to check whether all 3 is redirecting to main url or not. I mean both versions of HTTP and Https WWW.

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  • REB Jhaspher


    This topic is great but i have problem applying it to my WordPress website on GoDaddy. I tried to add the code on .htaccess file but when i save it and tried to test my website url it got error that says to many redirect until it .com instead of .co. My website is, I want it to redirect to Do you i need to buy new domain name? How can I solve this problem? Thank you

  • Triangle Towing

    Awesome post. Is there a way to verify the redirect is working? I am redirecting to Both URLS work and google allowed me to prefer the non-www version, however I was wondering if I should see the URL change in the browser when i try to access the WWW version?

  • Andres CJ


    Great post, thank you for the info. I have a question. My website didn’t have redirects so the two versions (www and non-www) were indexed by Google. I changed the redirection from to some weeks ago.
    Few days after doing that the ranked non-www pages disappear and the www versions appeared but 80 positions below in the ranking. Weeks have passed now but those ranking have just oscillated without clear signing of recovery.
    Do you have an idea how long it could take to recover the ranking?

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    It’s been 1 yr since I finally resigned from my last work and it was a best decision i made in my life… I started freelancing from comfort of my house, for this company I found on-line, several hours each day, and my income now is much bigger then it was on my office work… My last month check was for 9 thousand bucks… Awesome thing about this job is that i have more free time with my family…

  • Suman Jaipal

    Nice post,
    Clear steps, I did it for my site, now google searching fine.

  • tammy.jackson

    One yr have passed since I decided to quit my previous work and it was a best decision i made in my life… I started freelancing online, over a site I stumbled upon online, several hrs a day, and I make much more than i did on my previous job… Payment i got for last month was for Nine thousand bucks… Awesome thing about this job is that i have more time with my kids…

  • malik shahruk

    I have verified ownership of both .my website is hosted on aws ec2 ubuntu server and dns managed by Cloudflare. I have edited .htaccess file many time by googling yet no luck. i want to redirect to as it is my preferred domain. Please help me with this asap. i have used below code in my .htaccess file

    # BEGIN WordPress

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]
    RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]
    RewriteRule ^index.php$ – [L]
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

    # END WordPress

    # Wordfence WAF

    Require all denied

    Order deny,allow
    Deny from all

    “.htaccess” [dos] 50L, 1113C

  • manohar

    you are providing awesome information, thank you so much for updating this much of information it is very use full to my website

  • Nnamdi Nwankwo

    Hi, I really got some useful insight from your article. Until now, I was never keen to setting my preferred domain name, but I see reasons why I should and I have to my 2 websites, www. and

    I also added the other 3 versions of my website since I recently added SSL and I hope that it will not hurt my websites’s ranking? Particularly the has been suffering a setback in indexing and ranking because I foolishly made a mistake in my webmaster tool and it took me almost 2 years to find out, but I have rectified that now. I hope that Google will rank it quickly as it long over due for real traffic.

    If you do get back to me regards to this I will really appreciate.


  • tolu
  • Seth Anurag

    Insightful, simple and effective ! I was able to do it in 5 mins. ! Great.

  • It is very simple

  • gyan

    Nice and simple way of explaining but still there is problem while Preferring domain – Part of the process of setting a preferred domain is to verify that you own Please verify, although i have verified already