The subdomain vs subdirectory war has been raging for as long as SEO has come into existence, and it doesn’t seem to come to a closing shortly. If you are building a new website, redesigning your site, or carrying out a migration, you will wonder which structure to follow for search engine optimisation. Since the subdomain vs subdirectory combat has become one of the biggest feuds of SEO, you might be unsure of the right choice and how your choice will impact the SEO.
So, let’s find out the difference between the subdomain and subdirectory and which is better for SEO and why! From finding out Google’s stance on the topic to exploring which option is better for hosting a blog, we will answer all your questions regarding subdomains vs subdirectories by diving deep into the technical considerations of SEO.
How does Site Structure Influences SEO?
The organisation of the data and information available on your blog/website to make it readily available for search engines and visitors is dependent on your site structure. Whether you have a pre-planned structure or go with the flow as you add content, your website’s structure can hugely influence your users’ experience. A well-planned and executed site structure will ensure that your users can access required data and content effortlessly while improving your SEO significantly.
The hierarchy of your website content must be clear as crystal. The relation of pages with each other must be very lucid. This clarity will allow Google to index your website, which will directly influence the performance of your website in searches. Moreover, a well-executed site will also enable more internal linking prospects, which is significant for a better website ranking.
Subdirectory vs Subdomain
A subdirectory is a way of organising your website through a pathway that is inherent to your website. A subdomain, on the other hand, sections the website and arranges content types that are identifiably distinct compared to your root domain. Simply put, a subdirectory follows your root domain while the subdomain precedes it in a URL.
Before going into the details of which is better for your SEO, let’s see what sets them apart.
What Is a Subdirectory?
A subdirectory resides under your website’s primary domain and has relevant content. Think of it like a filing cabinet in which folders are used to organise paperwork categories. A subdirectory is also referred to as a subfolder. When you see a URL, a subdirectory follows the root domain. For instance, if you take the example of the Hubspot website, you will visit the subdirectory links will be as follows:
Main domain: www.hubspot.com
What Is a Subdomain?
The principal address of your website is called the domain. A subdomain is a subsection of this domain. The subdomains are used for separating the sections from the main domain by the site owners. You can think of a subdomain as separate folders in its cabinet. Every folder has its cabinet as each subdomain is a separate website with spate analytics and content management, etc. nothing is nested into other. Rather, everything is standing right next to one another.
If we follow the Hubspot example using subdomains, then the URL will be:
Main domain: www.hubspot.com
The subdomains of websites are treated as different websites by Google. The connection between subdomains and the main domain will hugely depend on the interlinking scheme used by the site owner to connect the two.
The Subdomain vs Subdirectory SEO Feud
The subdomain vs subdirectory feud has been going on for quite some time now, so what do you say we try to settle the score by giving our own two cents on the topic? But let’s dive into exploring what Google says about it, shall we?
The Google Perspective
The senior webmaster trends analyst at Google, John Mueller, believes that Google is OK with subdirectories and subdomains. He suggests the site owners use whatever setup suits their motives and plans the best in the long run. Mueller considers this question completely irrelevant when it comes to the algorithms of Google search. He believes that both are processed by the search bots identically.
However, the SEO circles don’t hold the same view. They believe that subdirectories and subdomains are treated differently by Google search as opposed to Mueller’s statement based on various case studies.
Is the claim by Google true, or is it a conspiracy by Google to mislead the SEOs? We will need to dive deeper to determine which one is better or whether both work for SEO in the same way.
Subdomains and SEO
Here we are again trying to clear away the misconceptions by talking about resources, context, and implementations instead of just pointing fingers.
Subdomains and Context
Splitting site content into subdomains significantly influences your site’s ranking and indexing. For example, splitting your blog from your primary domain is very different compared to sectioning your content that is distinct from your primary business. Like Disney has divided their web into videos.disney.com, cars.disney.com etc., subdomains for targeting specific audiences. Simply moving your blog to a subdomain doesn’t mean the same results, as it will influence the organic traffic and the ranking differently. Learn more about global SEO here.
Implementation is Crucial
Different developers use different ways to implement subdirectories and subdomains. Factors like keyword cannibalisation, domain authority, link equity, and technical practices influence the SEO results significantly, irrespective of your site structure. So, implementation matters a lot when it comes to SEO.
Resources, Resources, Resources!
Although Google indexes subdirectories and subdomains the same way, resources can play a massive role in making your SEO strategy a hit. A business can achieve its SEO goals using subdomains by implementing the structure and strategically splitting the content. Moreover, the SEO strategy plays a significant role, so allocating the right budget for its upgradation and maintenance can take your business a long way.
While a subdomain can be great for your site’s SEO, it will require a lot of effort and a dedicated person to manage it. This is because the domain authority of a subdomain doesn’t trickle down automatically from your root domain, like subdirectories. You will even have to pay extra for the subscriptions and tools for each domain name, as each subdomain is counted as a different website. So, you will have to weigh in all these factors before going in for this website structure.
Businesses that follow the subdomain structure and still get outstanding SEO results are exceptions. Their SEO being a hit could be because of plenty of other reasons instead of their site structure. For instance, Disney already has endless resources that can boost the visibility of their subdomains for better SEO, so the site structure becomes irrelevant here. They can easily maintain and gauge their domains using their massive tech budget. So, in this case, Disney is using their unlimited resources to make the subdomains work, which isn’t the case with every business. So, you need to gauge the above factors while considering which structure would work for your business SEO.
Subdirectories – The right choice for SEO
We recommend you use subdirectories for structuring your website for outstanding results and SEO. When you structure your website using subdirectories, it supports your SEO in many different ways:
Third parties like SEMRush and Moz Quantify the authority of websites using the domain authority score metric. The domain authority metric is a trailing one rather than a ranking one. Being a trailing metric, domain authority can only measure the potential of your site and whether it will rank higher or lower compared to your competitors in search engine results.
It is a ranking factor of the search engine, which follows the concept that values and authority can be passed from one page to the next using links. Whether a link would pass the equity or not is determined by the quality of the reference site and its topical relevance to the linking page content. If you have links from authoritative domains on your site, then Google will consider your site content of good quality, which will boost your authority in your niche.
How Subdirectories use Domain Authority and Link Equity
When you use subdirectories as your website structure, the link equity and your keywords get concentrated on a single domain. Since you’re ranking factors will be focused on your primary domain, these accumulated signals will make Google interpret your domain as more helpful for the searchers and yield better rankings in the search engine. On the other hand, if you spread out your keywords and link equity on various domains, it will dilute your authority, and hence you will have to spend more resources and effort for your subdomains to rank higher in search engines.
Bonus Points for Subdirectories
Another reason we recommend using subdirectories as your website structure is that you will have accurate links for the search listings. Whenever someone searches for a keyword in Google, they list all the essential links in the search results so that the users can jump directly to their required pages in the shortest time. As this site links, show subdirectories in the results of Google, which will help you make your listing credible as well as prominent in the results. Hence subdirectory structure brings your site to attention for branding and enhancing click-through rates, which means bonus points for the subdirectories.
Getting site links
No magic potion can help you add site links to enhance your search results. However, having a clear website structure where pages can easily relate and link to each other Would be helpful for Google this camp your site and pull through side links from your search listing.
Google says they only show site links for the search engine results that they consider helpful for the users. They say that the site whose structure allows Google’s algorithms to search site links easily has a greater chance of being shown. Site links cannot be controlled. They are picked by the algorithm of Google automatically. For instance, if you link your site to some of your subdomains and Google thinks that your subdomains are more relevant than your primary domain, then your subdomains appear in site links. This might confuse your searchers, who might question your site’s credibility. In this case, your subdomains will become a direct competition for your main pages for traffic, which isn’t the ideal situation.
Why and When Should Use a Subdomain?
One of the crucial questions regarding the subdomain vs subdirectory debate is if subdirectories are better for SEO, then why bother with the subdomains at all?
The answer is that, in some cases, subdomains are the better option. For example, suppose your organisation has a lot of online content that hosting it all on a single website is impossible. In that case, you must spread it across subdomains to make it easier for the users to search and find what they are looking for much faster. Take the example of the Disney website here. They have massive data and hence choose the subdomains to break it down for the users. Each subdomain is treated as a separate website by Google, and the onus of keeping all of them connected is on Disney itself.
Other reasons for using subdomains may include the following:
Most organisations choose subdomains for hosting their blogs, especially when they plan on running different content campaigns. Subdomains are very helpful in building up authority in different niches.
Multiple Geographic Regions
Businesses operating in multiple geographic regions choose subdomains to separate their organisation by region.
When companies have e-stores and other products and services, they prefer to host their stores in subdomains, making it easier for the consumers.
Giant corporations like Microsoft, apple etc., have many events in different locations. They create subdomains for their events rather than subdirectories which makes absolute sense.
In short, if you are a massive organisation and don’t have an issue with the resources, then having and managing a subdomain is best for your SEO.
Final verdict on subdomains versus subdirectories
If you do not have a convincing business reason for creating subdomains for your site, subdirectories will serve you much better when it comes to your SEO strategy. Because a single root domain can help you in the following ways:
- Gather and concentrate the link authority
- Focus on the cumulative keyword gains
- Keeps the overhead lower
- Communicate are sound website structure to Google
In short, subdirectories are easier for everyone, whether it’s Google visitors or yourself. It’s a win-win for everyone. If you are thinking about changing the structure of your website or need any help with the SEO, You can learn from the experts by logging onto https://seo.london/ NOW!
Last Updated in 2022-12-28T10:34:47+00:00 by Lukasz Zelezny