Subdomains Vs. Subdirectories: How Each Impacts SEO

August 15, 2020
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One of the big debates we’ve seen marketers go through is choosing between subdomains vs. subdirectories, and how each will impact their SEO. It might be something you’re considering now, or possibly something you haven’t thought about yet. 

Today, we’ll look at both options to help gain a better understanding of the relevant pros and cons of each. Knowing the differences between the two will help you make a clear decision about the more appropriate choice for your site. 

Subdomain Vs. Subdirectory 

First, it’s important to highlight the major difference between subdomains and subdirectories. 

Essentially, a subdomain organizes your website in a way that allows you to create specific content types that are unique from your root domain. By comparison, a subdirectory is simply a pathway within your site. You could go as far as to say that subdomains and subdirectories are different strategies for constructing root domains with new features. 

A good example of a subdomain is blog.buildyoursite.com whereas a subdirectory would look like buildyoursite.com/blog. Usually, a subdomain can be very handy for instances where you need to keep certain sections separate such as the support page or the blog section.  

When it comes to SEO, Google Webmaster’s Trends Analyst John Muller highlights that subdomains don’t minimize the site’s ranking, as Google understands that the domain and subdomain are coming from the same source. Google also claims that it crawls and ranks subdomains and subdirectories in the same manner as well. 

Let’s take a closer look at some instances where you’d be more likely to use subdomains. 

How To Use Subdomains 

Outlined below are some instances where it might make more sense to opt for subdomains: 

  • Ecommerce: If you’ve decided to build a store on your site, it might make it more accessible and easily identifiable if it were set as a subdomain 
  • Support Page: There are instances where it makes more sense to keep your support page separate because of how your site is structured. For example, Google uses a separate subdomain: support.Google.com, rather than Google.com/support. It’s because Google is a huge and diverse platform, so they want to keep these two lines separate from each other 
  • Blog: If you want to create a stronger niche authority, it’s a good idea to have your blog as a subdomain. Many site owners go for this option, especially if their content is vast enough to deserve its hierarchy 
  • Region: If you decide to serve several different regions, opting for a subdomain can be a good idea as well, especially if your sites are in multiple languages 
  • Organizing Events: Lastly, if your brand tends to host many events, it’s a good idea to keep that part of your site as a subdomain too 

How Do Subdomain And Subdirectories Impact SEO 

Beyond establishing the difference between the two structures, it’s important to comprehend that the choice between subdomains and subdirectories directly impacts SEO. Accordingly, you need to know what to consider before selecting between the two options. 

As previously mentioned, Google has said that its crawlers can easily recognize subdomains as extensions of a parent’s domains. However, some SEO experts tend to argue this point and claim that subdomains don’t have the same authority when it comes to receiving backlinks from the root domain. 

There may be some truth in it since subdomains are considered separate from the root domain. Therefore, there may be a chance that it won’t have the same link authority as when using subdirectories.  

Other experts say that subdomains make it easier to navigate your site since everything is more organized. Overall, organized sites have a more favored user experience which ultimately increases engagement rates. 

When deciding on the better strategy to employ, you’ll need to consider your site’s layout. If you don’t have large-scale verticals on your platform, then you may decide against using subdomains, given you’d want as many links as possible leading back to the main site. 

Bottom Line  

To sum it all up, both options come with their pros and cons. Yet, when it comes to choosing between subdomains and subdirectories, you’ll need to first understand your site’s layout. 

If you want to add a lot of events, focus on different regions, build an eCommerce store, or feature extensive verticals, then using subdomains is the best choice. In other instances where you’d want everything to lead back to the main domain or you if you have a small-scale blog, subdirectories will ultimately be the better direction. 

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