Does Switching the Canonical Domain from ‘www’ to Non-‘www’ Affect SERP, and How Do DNS Records Play a Role?




Setting up a website involves numerous technical decisions, and among them, the domain’s DNS (Domain Name System) configuration stands prominent. This digital phonebook of the internet, translating domain names to IP addresses, requires careful consideration. A burning question many webmasters face is: will changing the canonical domain from ‘www’ to its non-‘www’ variant influence my SERP (Search Engine Results Page) rankings? Further, does defining this ‘www’ subdomain with an A or CNAME DNS record type have consequences on these rankings?

1. The Canonical Shift: ‘www’ to Non-‘www’

When you decide to make the ‘www’ version or the non-‘www’ version of your domain canonical, you’re essentially telling search engines which version you prefer to be indexed. Shifting between these can lead to temporary fluctuations in your SERP rankings as search engines adjust to this change. Proper implementation is critical to ensure a smooth transition.

2. DNS Basics: A and CNAME Records

Before diving deeper, let’s outline A and CNAME records:

3. Why ‘www’ Often Uses CNAME

Many sites configure their ‘www’ domain as a CNAME pointing to the root domain. This ensures that if the IP of the root domain changes (e.g., switching hosting providers), the ‘www’ version still resolves correctly.

4. SERP Implications of A vs. CNAME

From an SEO perspective, whether you use an A record or a CNAME for your ‘www’ doesn’t directly impact SERP rankings. However, the slight latency introduced by the CNAME resolution process (it might require an extra DNS query) is worth noting. While minuscule, in an era where site speed can influence rankings, every millisecond counts.

5. Ensuring SERP Stability

If you decide to change the canonical version of your domain, it’s vital to use 301 redirects to guide search engines and users from the old version to the new one. This ensures the preservation of link equity, minimizing potential disruptions in SERP performance.

6. Considerations with CDNs and Managed Platforms

Platforms like Shopify, Wix, or CDNs may necessitate CNAME records. When using these services, ensure that any shift in the canonical domain is communicated and handled properly to prevent potential SERP disruptions.

7. To Conclude

Switching your canonical preference between ‘www’ and non-‘www’ demands caution and proper implementation to safeguard your SERP rankings. While the choice between A and CNAME records isn’t a direct ranking factor, understanding their implications on site performance and SERP is crucial for informed decision-making.