Rub-A-Dub-Dub-Dub, Count All The Men In Your Tub


By: Drew McManus

One item often overlooked when setting up a Google Analytics account is whether or not to include the www or non-www version of the URL as the preferred domain. Preceding the domain name in a URL, www (pronounced “dub-dub-dub”) can inadvertently turn into a thorn in your side by way of inaccurate metrics if you haven’t one version or the other for your preferred domain.

Parts of a URL

Fortunately, this is super easy to put in place but it will require you to make adjustments in both your Google Analytics (GA) and Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) accounts.

Before you get started, you’ll want to confirm with your current web host which version is set up as the primary domain name. We won’t go into a discussion about which version is better and for now, rest assured that you can’t make a wrong choice (hint: check your analytics to see which version site visitors use most often) Whichever option is in place, you should have the opposite set up as a redirect; i.e. www redirects users to the non-www version and vice versa.

Google Analytics Settings

Step 1
STEP 1) Navigate to Admin > Property Settings
Step 2
STEP 2) Check the value entered into the “Default URL” field and make sure the domain name matches the version you’re using for your primary domain per your web provider/ web host’s confirmation.

Note: if you don’t already have your GA account connected to your GWT account, you’re missing out. You can verify if you have the accounts connected from the same admin panel, just scroll to the bottom of the page and look for the “Webmaster Tools Settings” section. If you don’t have a version set for enabled views, you can make that change here.

Google Webmaster Settings

If you don’t already have both www and non-www versions of your site set up in GWT, you’ll want to do that before getting started. Keep in mind, if you need to add one of those versions, you’ll need to complete GWT’s verification process and to that end, having access to your website’s sFTP /FTP to add the verification file (my preferred method) will make life much easier. Conversely, you can ask your web provider/host to do this for you but that will add some time to the process.

www and non-www versions for Google Webmaster

Note: if you have both www and non-www versions set up in GWT, you’ll want to perform the following steps at both.

Step 3
STEP 3) From the GWT “Search Console Page” (the page you typically see after logging in), open your site to manage.
Step 4
STEP 4) At the top of the page, you’ll see the “Preferred Domain” section, check the needed option. To that end, I don’t recommend opting for the “Don’t set a preferred domain” selection, although not a show-stopper, you’ll be better off selecting the option that matches whatever your web provider/host has set up as your primary domain name.

That’s it, pencils down.

In the end, the good news here is if you ever need to update your primary domain to use either www or non-www, you can always go back and edit these settings accordingly.

Drew McManus
Drew McManus
In addition to my consulting business, I'm also the Principal of Venture Industries Online but don’t let that title fool you into thinking I'm just a tech geek. I bring 20+ years of global broad-based arts consulting experience to the table to help clients break the cycle of choosing one-size-fits-none solutions and instead, deliver options allowing them to get ahead of the tech curve instead of trying to catch up by going slower. With the vision of legacy support strategy and the delights of creative insights, my mission is to deliver a sophisticated next generation technology designed especially for the field of performing arts. The first step in that journey began in 2010 when The Venture Platform was released, a purpose-designed managed website development solution designed especially for arts organizations and artists. For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, lead a team of intrepid arts pros to hack the arts, lead an arts business incubator, and love a good coffee drink.
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