One of the hottest debates between search engine optimization professionals is the topic of whether subdomains or subdirectories are better for search engine optimization (SEO). As new website content is a critical part of content marketing - what is the best way to handle new web pages, such as a blog, using a subdomain or a subdirectory? This is often a confusing question for most marketers.
In fact, the challenge is that there’s no correct answer - it’s a close call either way.
To truly understand whether your organization should host its blog (or any other part of your website) on a subdirectory or a subdomain, you first need to understand exactly what the two terms mean and how they differ.
With that in mind, this blog will take a look at what subdomains and subdirectories actually are, what the advantages and disadvantages of using them are for your SEO strategy and which one is the true winner of this never-ending debate. Are you ready?
What are subdomains and subdirectory?
What is a subdomain?
A subdomain acts as an extension of your domain name, which in turn allows you to establish specific content types that are distinct from your company’s main domain. Subdomains are typically created to help organize your website, and improve the user experience (UX) of navigating to different sections of your website.
An example of a subdomain would be blog.thebritagency.com or info.thebritagency.com.
What is a subdirectory?
While a subdirectory is similar to a subdomain in that it allows you to create categories of content, the main difference is that a subdirectory is housed on the same server. This is the most typical type of page on a website and is used to organize site content in a user-friendly way.
An example of a subdirectory would be thebritagency.com/inbound-marketing/blog.
Why would you use a subdomain over a subdirectory?
Making the choice between a subdomain or subdirectory is often a question of hierarchy. Subdomains are typically used if you have sections on your website that are extensive enough to have their own distinct hierarchy like a blog.
Subdomains are generally used for blogs, ecommerce stores, events and support pages in which large amounts of content are used.
Subdomains vs. Subdirectory for SEO
Seems fairly straightforward so far right, so why is there such a heated debate when it comes to your SEO strategy?
Well, when search engines index web pages, they consider your websites main domain and your subdirectory as separate entities. This has caused huge divides in the search engine optimization community, with some claiming that subdomains are more SEO-friendly and others claiming the opposite.
Taking that into account, let’s take a look at some of the SEO advantages and disadvantages of both subdomains and subdirectories.
The advantages of subdomains for SEO
- Subdomains can make it easier for users to navigate your website, particularly if you have complex website hierarchies.
- Subdomains are great if you have products/services that essentially operate as a separate business or brand.
The disadvantages of subdomains for SEO
- Since subdomains are considered separate entities from your main domain, you may not inherit the link authority you have built on your main website.
- Main domains and subdomains may compete against each other if you are using the same keywords.
The advantages of subdirectory for SEO
- Your focus will be all on one site, meaning you can focus your link building efforts on a single domain.
- It provides easier tracking in Google Analytics.
The disadvantages of subdirectory for SEO
- The number of pages your URL contains increases with a subdirectory setup, this could reduce ranking of other pages since content authority will be shared.
- Subdirectories that go too deep can be cumbersome for both visitors and search engines to navigate - ideally you should only have one or two sub levels. If you need more than this then you should consider a subdomain.
Conclusion: Which is better for SEO?
The truth is, neither subdomains or subdirectories are better for SEO. In fact, Google itself says that it crawls, indexes and ranks subdomains and subdirectories in exactly the same way and it is getting better at assigning the proper domain authority to all forms of domains.
Take a look at this video from Google Webmasters Trends Analyst John Mueller. He comments that subdomains do not hurt website rankings, and that Google is now smart enough to view a subdomain as being connected to your main website domain and you will be given SEO credits for it.
Whether you choose the subdomain or subdirectory route, it’s unlikely that it will have a significant impact on your SEO. Your choice should be led by your website’s specific and unique needs and how you want to structure your site hierarchy.
Are you more confused after reading this blog, or simply have any questions about what we wrote here? Please contact The Brit Agency today. Our team of inbound marketing experts would be more than happy to answer your questions.