When establishing a new section on your website, such as a blog or an e-commerce store, one of the critical decisions you’ll need to make is whether to use a subdomain or a subdirectory. This decision can significantly impact your site’s SEO, and experts often have differing opinions on the matter. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of each option, helping you make an informed decision based on your specific circumstances.
To start, let’s clarify the structure of a subdomain and a subdirectory:
- Subdirectory: www.example.com/blog/ – “blog” is a subfolder. In this, we place all blogs, e-commerce, and other pages located in the subfolder of the website.
- Subdomain: blog.example.com – here “blog” is a subdomain of example.com. You can create a different subdomain for a different section of the website.
Subdomain vs. Subdirectory for SEO
Before we delve into the SEO implications, it’s essential to understand what a subdomain is and how it can enhance the user experience. As we explained above, a subdomain for a domain will look something like kart.example.com. Here are a few key points to consider:
- You can easily set different designs for separate subdomains on your website.
- Subdomains are preferred when you want to differentiate between two critical sections of your website, such as running a blog and an e-commerce store simultaneously.
- Subdomains allow you to host different sections of your website on separate servers, enhancing your website’s security.
- Different language websites can use subdomains.
What is a subdirectory or subfolder?
In a domain name like example.com, the section that comes after the domain name is a subdirectory. For instance, in example.com/blog/, ‘example.com’ is the domain name, and ‘/blog/’ is the subdirectory.
You can create as many subfolders as you need under the main domain. You can even create super subfolders within a subfolder, leading to a multi-layered structure. However, this can result in longer permalinks and potentially confusing structures. To avoid this, it’s advisable to limit the number of subfolder layers and establish a clear structure for your website. This approach benefits both you and search engines.
Subdirectories are considered best for SEO, as they build the E-A-T score of the website and pass higher authority PageRank under the same domain. But at the same time, the following are limitations of subfolders:
- The overall design of your website may remain the same across all subfolders.
- Using subfolders can make your website quite large and potentially more challenging to manage.
- For a multilingual website, categorizing subfolders can become complicated.
Subdomain vs. Subfolders, which one is better for SEO?
Which one is better for the SEO of your website? Should you go with a subdomain or subdirectory? We have already discussed the primary differences between subdomain and subdirectory. Now, we’ll talk about the SEO of both types of configuration.
The question of whether a subdomain or a subdirectory is better for SEO is a hotly debated topic among SEO professionals. Some argue in favor of subdomains, while others advocate for subdirectories. In reality, the best choice can depend on your specific situation.
Let’s consider an e-commerce website hosted at example.com.You’re planning to revamp the website and add a blog to address user queries and boost engagement. You have two options for incorporating the blog: example.com/blog/ (a subdirectory) or blog.example.com (a subdomain). So, which one should you choose?
If you opt for a subfolder (example.com/blog) for the blog section, it’s possible that the e-commerce pages, if they have thin content, could negatively impact the overall SEO of your blog. However, if your e-commerce pages are well-optimized, using a subfolder could enhance the SEO of your entire website.
When to use a subdomain?
Search engines treat subdomains as separate domains and properties. This means that each subdomain has its own authority, although you can pass authority between them through interlinking.
Consider a scenario where your blog primarily focuses on technology, but you wish to expand into the educational niche. In this case, you have two options: you can either create a subfolder under your existing domain or establish a new subdomain.
If you choose to use a subfolder, it might be easier to rank new articles in search results due to the existing domain authority. However, this could potentially lead to confusion for search engines if the content significantly deviates from your established niche.
On the other hand, if your blog has already earned quality backlinks from high Domain Authority (DA) websites like Wikipedia and YouTube, creating a subfolder for the new niche could be beneficial. The existing backlinks could help boost the authority of your new content, aiding in its search engine ranking.
I am not saying that you can not create a multi-niche website. You can create one, but keep its structure clean for every section and get related backlinks to each section. So that readers and search engines can understand your website’s content.
Here are few points you can consider:
- Website Structure and Content: If the content you’re adding is a core part of your site and closely related to the content on your main domain, a subdirectory can be a good choice. This is because search engines like Google view subdirectories as part of the same website, so the SEO “juice” from your main site will help boost the content in the subdirectory. On the other hand, if the content is significantly different or targeted to a different audience, a subdomain can be a better choice as it’s treated as a separate site.
- Authority and Link Equity: Subdirectories typically benefit from the domain authority of the main site, which can help new content rank faster. Subdomains are often treated as separate entities by search engines, so they may not benefit from the main domain’s authority. This can make it harder for content on a subdomain to rank, but it also means that any negative SEO on the subdomain won’t affect the main domain.
- Geotargeting: If you’re targeting different geographical regions with different content, subdomains can be a good choice. You can set geotargeting for each subdomain in Google Search Console. In the subdirectory you may need to change the website’s structure to achieve this.
- Branding and User Perception: Subdomains can be useful for branding purposes, especially if you want a particular section of your site to be perceived as distinct from the rest. However, users may view content on a subdomain as less trustworthy or less related to the main site.
- Security Solution: When you create multiple sections under an e-commerce website, there may be a risk of attack on the whole website. An e-commerce website may contain users’ debit or credit card details and other personal details.
When to use a subdirectory or subfolder?
Google treats subdirectories as a part of the main domain. So the domain authority passes through all subdirectories and subfolders. You can pass page authority from one page to another by internal linking to increase the PageRank.
Many websites use subfolders for different language content. You can do that for the same niche content in a different language.
If the content in a subfolder gets an external backlink, then it passes its authority to all other subfolders. And also enhance the EAT score of the domain.
This comprehensive guide has hopefully shed light on when to use a subdomain versus a subdirectory, and which option is better from an SEO perspective. The decision ultimately depends on your specific circumstances and goals.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below.